Theatre of the Mind was a comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine.
An elderly-looking man asks spiritualist Diamanda to speak to the deceased Esmerelda. Looking into her crystal ball, Diamanda claims that Esmerelda is happy and requests money for more information... only for the man to reveal that Esmerelda is fictional. Taking off his disguise, he reveals himself as Harry Houdini and scolds Diamanda for offering false hope at the expense of people's money. The spiritualist confirms his accusation, but adds that after acquiring her crystal she has in fact been hearing dead voices, "and so much more besides..." Diamanda orders the crystal ball to save her, and Houdini is met by a milky white vortex. Using his pocket watch to create a signal, Houdini mutters that there is only one hope for him...
The Twelfth Doctor follows Houdini's signal to 1925. Much to Clara's confusion, he claims that the temperature is nonexistent, like "an irrelevance that somebody forgot to add..."
They see Houdini on stage; traps of several varieties mysteriously form around Houdini, and the magician does not appear to hear the Doctor's calls for him. The Doctor and Clara attempt to reach Houdini, but find a transparent, "intelligent crystal" barrier blocking them. The Doctor shatters the crystal using his sonic screwdriver.
Even as they reach Houdini, the Doctor and Clara are unable to hear him. Additionally, the time travellers are attacked by a heavy sand bag which they only narrowly avoid. The Doctor and Clara see the attacker from a distance, and Clara decides to go after her. She follows the mysterious woman offstage, but the woman is gone. Even more shockingly, costumes begin to attack Clara; however, the Doctor once again uses his screwdriver to save her.
The Doctor realises that Houdini is in a computerised system created by the intelligent crystal, and that he is attempting to reprise his greatest escapes in order to get out of the situation. The Doctor attempts to find a way to crash the system, which Clara manages to do by merely whacking the crystal ball with a shoe. Houdini is now free... but the woman who attacked the time travellers claims that he will not escape alive. She is Diamanda, but is in the process of being devoured by the crystalline life. Impressed by the Doctor's mind, Diamanda hopes to get it. Ropes form around the Doctor, Clara and Houdini, before they are put into traps.
Clara is in a water tank, but she manages to tip it over, and Houdini breaks the ropes holding him to a guillotine. The Doctor is apparently in a box falling onto large spikes; however, he reveals to have never actually been in the box. Clara mentions how she wishes there was an escape key to hit, giving the Doctor an idea. He suggests he, Houdini and Clara think of the thing that makes them feel most free - the TARDIS, an aeroplane and the Doctor himself respectively. This sends the three back to the real world.
Houdini wishes he can speak to the dead. The Doctor is unsure as to whether this is possible; however, he assures Houdini that his reputation will survive long after his death, allowing communication in the form of help and inspiration.
- The Fourth Doctor's scarf and coat are present on the stage.
- The Eighth Doctor's coat is worn by a mannequin backstage.
- There is a poster advertising a Buster Keaton film named Seven Chances.
The story has no formal credits. However, the people who worked on the story are seen credited on a playbill for a play within the narrative as a part of the scenery, right beneath the story's title. On the playbill, Roger Langridge is given the themed billing of "Master of Ceremonies", James Offredi is "Lighting" and Scott Gray and John Ainsworth are "Producers".
Original print details
- (Publication with page count and closing caption)
- DWM 496 (12 pages) The End
- The Doctor still has his sonic screwdriver. He would later abandon using it when he gave one to the boy Davros. (TV: The Magician's Apprentice)
- The Doctor says he encountered Harry Houdini when they were both a lot younger, and that they learnt tricks from each other. (AUDIO: Smoke and Mirrors et al.)
to be added