The episode opens with some guy wandering around an old-timey house. We discover he's an undertaker when he comforts a young man who is standing over the dead body of his old aunt or something. The undertaker gives the young man a moment to himself and that's when his aunt comes back to life, kills him, and then escapes from the funeral home.
WE'VE GOT ZOMBIES, Y'ALL.
The undertaker, whose name is Mr. Sneed, orders his assistant or maid or something, Gwyneth (not GOOP Gwyneth, but Gwen Cooper from Torchwood only not really never mind, but anyway, I'll be calling her GOOP) to go find the zombie lady. Meanwhile, the Doctor is telling Rose they're going to 1860 and, with her help, he lands the TARDIS. They fall to the floor (they need to work on the landing) and giggle because they are BFF.
Was it good for you?
The Doctor tells Rose to change clothes because she'll cause a riot in what she's wearing, it being 1860 and all. Remind me to come back to this next season, when the 10th Doctor lets Rose run around Queen Victoria wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Oops, spoilers. Anyway, Rose comes out in a fancy, old-fashioned dress and is mad because the Doctor is in the same old clothes. "I changed my jumper!" he insists.
Mr. Sneed and GOOP are out looking for the dead lady. GOOP uses "the sight" (SHE'S GOT THE SHINNING) to find out that the lady is going to see a great man...
Charles Dickens, y'all! Sorry, I'll stop doing that. Dickens is bitching about having to spend Christmas all alone WAH WAH pull it together, Ebenezer. Anyway, he goes onstage and begins reciting A Christmas Carol. The old zombie lady is in the audience and soon begins to, like, glow, which causes Dickens to freak out because I guess he doesn't get a lot of glowing people in his audiences. Everyone in the theater starts screaming and runs away, which of course prompts the Doctor to run toward the source of the screaming.
The Doctor and Rose run in, as do Mr. Sneed and GOOP. A ghost (or whatever) flies out of the old lady's body, so now she is really most sincerely dead. Mr. Sneed and GOOP take the body so Rose runs after them. She yells at them and they drug and kidnap her to make her shut up. The Doctor sees them loading Rose into their coach and commandeers another coach to chase them. It turns out the coach belongs to Charles Dickens, so the Doctor invites him along, which is really nice of him. Also! In case you were wondering, coach chases are way more boring than car chases.
They chase the other coach back to the funeral parlor, where Mr. Sneed has locked Rose up with a couple of dead bodies. RUDE. The dead bodies wake up and things look grim. The Doctor gets there in time, though, and rescues her (that's what he does), Dickens trailing behind him. Rose is all, "Hi, who's your friend?" and the Doctor is like, "Charles Dickens" and Rose is like, "...ok" and the Doctor is all, "Can I keep him?" and Rose says, "Only if you promise to clean up after him if he wees in the TARDIS."
The Doctor introduces himself to the ghost-inhabited dead bodies, because he is way more polite to zombies than I would be. They say they're from The Rift but leave the bodies before they can find out more. Mr. Sneed explains that about three months ago, dead people started waking up and I guess Torchwood doesn't exist yet, right? Because they would be all over this shit. Anyway, Dickens is totally Agent Scullying all over the place and the Doctor tells him to shut up, something I bet Mulder wishes he could have done at least once an episode. To Scully. Not to Dickens.
The Doctor explains that The Rift is a weak point in space and time WHICH DUH everyone knows that. Dickens wanders off by himself which seems like a smart thing to do in a funeral home where dead people are waking up all by themselves. The Doctor finds him and apologizes for telling him to shut up (pfft, Mulder never would have apologized) and Dickens says he cannot accept that there's an entirely different, nonsensical world out there, a world completely unlike the world he's used to. That's how I feel about Twihards.
Vampires! Don't! SPARKLE!
Rose and GOOP bond over boys and hating school and Rose discovers that GOOP has "the sight" when GOOP guesses that Rose's dad is dead. GOOP freaks out a bit at what she sees in Rose's head and mentions "big bad wolf," which is important, remember that. BIG BAD WOLF. Just keep it in mind because it's going to break your heart.
The Doctor comes in and guesses that GOOP's power has gotten stronger, that her power comes from living on The Rift, and that she's the key (Dawn?) so the answer to all of their problems is to have a seance.
Dickens is pissed (GOD, SHUT UP, SCULLY) but reluctantly participates. Some ghosty things appear and say they are called the Gelth. Their bodies were destroyed by the Time War, so the Doctor feels super guilty. The Gelth want the group to open The Rift so they can come through and live in the dead bodies. The Doctor is all, "sure, why not?" and Rose is like, "no, that's wrong!" and everyone else is like, "wait, the ghosts are aliens?" Because the ghosts are aliens.
GOOP wants to help because she thinks The Gelth are angels, so they all go down to the morgue, because I guess that's where The Rift is the strongest. GOOP stands on top of The Rift to create the bridge and the Gelth all spew out of her mouth because OK sure. It turns out there are a ton of them, which they totally lied about, and, as they come through, they inhabit all the bodies in the morgue. The bodies turn into creepy zombies and want to kill everyone so they can then inhabit those dead bodies because zombies are greedy assholes.
No way TUMS is gonna fix that shit.
Dickens runs away like a bitch and Rose and the Doctor are trapped in the morgue with the zombies. Things look pretty bleak. Rose is all, "I can't die, right? Because I haven't been born yet," and the Doctor says, "oh, right, sorry, yeah, you can totally die, my bad," but Rose understands time travel about as well as Hurley so I still don't think she gets it.
Rose and the Doctor grasp hands and vow to go out fighting. It's a nice moment between the two but, before they can make out (kidding, that's next season...ZING), Dickens comes back. He says they need to fill the room with gas so the Gelth will be sucked out of the dead bodies. This is logical, just trust me. So they turn up the gas in the room and the Gelth fly out of the bodies. The Gelth are just flying around the morgue all wily-nily and everyone who is alive is choking on all the gas and ghost-aliens in the air.
GOOP says she can't send them back but she can hold them in place while the others escape. They all run away, she lights a match, and BOOM no more Gelth. Or GOOP, for that matter. Rose is sad and the Doctor explains that GOOP was dead the minute she stepped on The Rift, which I think was supposed to make Rose feel better.
Come and knock on our door, we've been waiting for you, where the kisses are hers and his and his, three's company, toooooooo
They find the TARDIS and, as the Doctor and Rose leave, Dickens says he's going to go back to London. He Scrooged himself and wants to reconnect with his family. Dickens asks the Doctor who he is, and the Doctor replies that he's just a friend, passing through. Dickens is then all, "soooo, how long do my books last?" and is pretty psyched when the Doctor says they last forever because DUH WOULDN'T YOU BE? Anyway, the Doctor and Rose get on the TARDIS and the Doctor tells Rose that Dickens will be dead soon because he's just full of good news tonight.
Dickens doesn't know he'll be dead soon, though, so he laughs as the TARDIS disappears in front of his very eyes, probably because he's all high from the gas, and shouts, "God bless us, everyone!" I'm charmed in spite of myself.
Next time! A UFO crashes into Big Ben! Harriet Jones! Farting aliens!