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Professor Elliot has set up his laboratory in a old stone tower on the isolated Scottish island of Burray, and has calculated that the recently discovered Planet X will pass closest to the Earth in a matter of days, possibly bringing dangerous consequences. Having promised his old friend, newspaper reporter Lawrence, first crack at any big story he discovers, the elderly Elliot invites him to the island. Days later Lawrence arrives at the laboratory but is dismayed to find Dr. Mears, a brilliant but devious scientist, is assisting his friend. That night, while Elliot maintains watch over the approaching planet, his young and lovely daughter Enid takes Lawrence on a romantic stroll through the foggy moor, and the two stumble upon a large atmospheric probe and immediately return to the laboratory with it. Elliot, observing that the object's metal is lighter, stronger and harder than steel, concludes it is from outer space. Meanwhile Mears ponders out loud about how he could profit from discovering the formula for such a metal. Later as Enid is returning from the local village, where she dropped Lawrence for the evening, her car has a flat. She is forced to walk back to the tower alone and discovers a large spaceship softly buzzing and blinking in the middle of the moor. Looking through the ship's window, she finds an alien face peering out. Scared for her life, Enid flees to the tower and reports the incident to Elliot. The two return to the site, where a laser shines from atop the ship into Elliot's eyes, causing him to fall into a zombie-like state. Enid manages to order him to return to the tower and the next day Elliot, recovered from the paralysis of his will, explains the night's incidents to Lawrence and theorizes that these occurrences are in some way connected to Planet X. Lawrence and Elliot rule out calling the police for fear of being overrun by the townspeople and return to the ship, where the creature appears: a short, delicate body with an over-sized mutated human face and slits for eyes. As the creature approaches them, it appears to be struggling to breathe, and Lawrence and Elliot assist him in opening a valve on his suit. The creature recovers and offers his hands in a friendly gesture, following them back to the tower's dungeon where Elliot and Mears try to communicate with him. Mears suggests that they use the most basic mathematical language, geometry, a language they assume a higher life form would have to understand. Having asked everyone to leave the room so that he might concentrate, Mears communicates with the creature but then attacks him to force the formulas from him and finally shuts off his valve and leaves the creature to gasp for breath. Meanwhile Elliot is bedridden by the flu and Lawrence leaves to fetch medication for him from the village. When Mears reports to Elliot that the communication was futile, Enid becomes suspicious and investigates the dungeon, but upon entering, she shrieks in horror, unheard by the others. Soon after Lawrence returns and finds neither Enid nor the creature in the dungeon and confronts Mears, accusing him of abusing the creature. Later the village constable and townsman Geordie arrive at the tower, reporting that two townsmen are missing. Lawrence tells the constable that he believes the man from Planet X is building an army from the paralyzed villagers to launch an alien invasion. The constable disbelieves Lawrence; however, Geordie convinces the constable and the townspeople otherwise, having seen the terrifying creature himself and the panicked townspeople shutter themselves up in their homes. With the phone lines mysteriously dead, Lawrence and the constable contact a passing ship by heliograph and, soon after, an inspector and a sergeant from Scotland Yard arrive and decide to call in the military. Lawrence, fearing that innocent lives will be lost, asks to try a plan of his own. The inspector agrees, but with the planet due to be at the closest proximity at midnight, warns that they must act promptly. Lawrence carefully approaches the ship and finds Mears, who, now paralyzed by the creature, explains that Planet X is turning to ice and its inhabitants have managed to make the planet deviate from its regular orbit so they can escape to Earth. Lawrence then commands the zombies to flee the ship and attacks the creature, shutting off his valve before escaping with Enid. Mears's desire for power drives him back to the ship to save the creature, but the Army opens fire, and the ship explodes just as the planet, in a glowing rush, passes the moors, and then recedes into space. The next day as they talk of returning to California, Enid tells Lawrence that she believes that the creature was kind, and they wonder what would have happened without Mears's selfish plotting, "perhaps the greatest curse . . . or the greatest blessing."