Jane Childress was a graduate student and a teaching assistant at the Charles University in Prague. She was an ambitious and talented inventor whose potential was not acknowledged by her colleagues. Miss Childress held the same position for years, seeing many teaching assistants in her department promoted ahead of her. This made her jealous and vindictive, prompting her to design a machine she named "the devolution wave". The machine could reverse the course of evolution in an individual, reducing them to a more primitive creature on the evolutionary ladder, for example, a human to a monkey. Miss Childress intended to use it on the people attending the celebration of her university's anniversary in 2348 in order to assert her intelligence.
She was among the students and staff welcoming guests at the anniversary celebration. She greeted the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki and stated that she had heard of the Doctor. Vicki thought Miss Childress' necklace was lovely, but Miss Childress refused to let her see it, as it was in fact a device for protection from the effects of the devolution wave. She then talked to the Doctor and Steven about a clock located on campus. Jimson, the local caretaker she had previously turned into a monkey, escaped from the room where he had been locked and ran through the crowd. Miss Childress lured him to her with fruit from her pockets. She took him to the clock tower to lock him there again, but this time Steven accompanied her. He suspected that something was amiss, and before he could come to conclusions, Miss Childress knocked him out with a wooden club.
After the devolution wave reduced the Doctor to a prehistoric creature, he retained traces of conscious thought, found and damaged the mechanism. Miss Childress then produced a handheld version of the machine and intended to use it on the Doctor with the purpose of doing permanent damage. Suddenly, Jimson attacked her and caused her to drop the device. Miss Childress realised too late that the Doctor had taken her protective necklace from her neck. Jimson activated the handheld device, and Miss Childress devolved down the evolutionary ladder and disappeared in a burst of light. (PROSE: The Long Step Backward)