The Doctor and Sarah have landed in Victorian England. The Doctor plans to take Sarah to a show, though when he learns the date, he notes that entertainment "will soon be rather hard to come by".
Meanwhile, Mary Prout visits the a chophouse and orders some food. She tells the proprietor, Freddie, that her aunt made money from something that no one can do without — ink. She has a bottle of ink that radiates heat.
Sarah and the Doctor watch a pantomime. Unknown to them, Mary sits right behind the Doctor. Sarah looks at her programme, and notes that a drawing of a clown on the right side has come alive. It travels to the next page, where it kills another character's drawing.
The show over, many of the performers are relaxing backstage when word comes from their manager that Prince Albert has died.
Sarah and the Doctor visit Charles Goodall and Son, the printer responsible for the pantomime programmes. Goodall and his son explain that they are very busy but have plenty of ink. Mary enters the shop, bringing news of the Prince Consort's death as well as ink for the printing press.
One of the performers, Simia the Missing Link, has been attacked, but she is brought back to life by Anak. The Doctor and Sarah arrive, as does Mary, and the Doctor recognises Anak as a resident of the Rock Belt of Hextacosulous.
Anak tells his story. Mary stole the bottle of "ink" from him. It isn't actually ink, but rather the microbes of the survivors of two warring planets. Mary's possession of the "ink" has placed her in danger, and the only solution is for her to drink it. When she does so, a vivid tattoo appears on her back.
Later, Sarah is at the chophouse when the Doctor arrives with a newspaper dated tens days hence, advertising the performance of one "Maria Parota, the Living Panorama". They decide to stay a few more days to see Mary's performance.
- Third Doctor
- Sarah Jane Smith
- Mary Prout
- Simia the Missing Link
- Miss Hutchison the Pig-Faced Lady
- Bracebridge Hunz
- Gabriel East
- Professor Hendale
- Charles Goodall
- Mr Goodall, Jr
- Albert is the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria.
- The Doctor calls Mary drinking the "ink" her Sidney Carton moment.
- The Doctor reads The Times.
- The two warring planets were Hextacosulous Blue and Hextacosulous Green.
- Freddie rolls cigarettes for Mary.
- The Goodalls' business is always busy since the repeal of the Paper Tax.
- This story was reprinted in Short Trips: Re:Collections.
to be added