On Varos, a planet in the constellation of Cetes, the public torture of the rebel Jondar is taking place and being broadcast throughout the planet. Varosians Arak and Etta watch the proceedings from their room. Arak complains that they never show anything new to watch. In addition to the lack of new programming, the two must also deal with food rationing. And that night will be a punch-in vote ordered by the Governor, and voting is mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is repairing the TARDIS console. Peri complains that the Doctor has caused three electrical fires, a power failure, nearly collided with a storm of asteroids, got lost in the TARDIS corridors twice, wiped the memory banks of the flight computer, jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold, and burned her "cold dinner", all since the time-travellers left Telos (Attack of the Cybermen). Minutes later, the TARDIS unexpectedly stops, stalled in the middle of deep space. And the Doctor can do nothing to fix it.
Sil, the Mentor representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation, is negotiating with the Governor over the price of Varos’ Zeiton-7 ore. Their discussion, like many others, ends in stalemate. For many years, the Galatron Mining Corporation has swindled Varos by paying far less for the ore than its market value. And to make matters worse, the Chief Officer is in league with Sil. The Governor moves on to conduct the night’s vote. He addresses the people asking for their vote on if they should hold out longer for a fair price on the ore. The Governor loses and is forced to endure Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment. The process slowly kills the target and this is the third time his recommendations have failed to pass. The guard Bax recommends that the Governor execute Jondar to please the citizens so he can recuperate before the next vote.
Peri locates the TARDIS manual and presents it to the Doctor who quickly dismisses it. He knows perfectly well what has caused their dilemma. The transitional elements within the TARDIS have stopped producing orbital energy and they need Zeiton-7 ore to realign the power systems. And as the Doctor explains, Zeiton-7 is exceptionally rare and only comes from one planet: Varos. The Doctor manages to repair the TARDIS enough to travel to Varos and arrives right before the execution of Jondar is to take place.