A strange gathering takes place in a sanitorium in the Swiss Alps in 1926. Among the strangest patients there is a man known only as the Doctor, who seems not to have the slightest idea who he is – and anytime he seems to stray anywhere near finding out the truth, there always seems to be something handy to prevent him from remembering too much: chloroform here, a powerful electric shock there. Other patients go through the motions of playing an endless series of games, and being subjected to similar memory-erasing tactics by the shadowy couple calling the shots from the sanitorium’s attic. These two mysterious people are named Ace and Hex, and they’re keeping the patients – and their Doctor – imprisoned for a reason: to rid the universe of a malevolent presence. But it turns out that the Doctor, even without his memory, doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Paul Anthony-Barber (Ludovic Comfort), Joan Walker (Lola Luna), Nadim Sawalha (Swapnil Khan), Nadine Lewington (Queenie Glasscock), Andrew Fettes (Harry Randall), Andrew Dickens (Herbert Randall)
Notes: Spoiler-heavy notes are placed below the review.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The Magic Mousetrap is a story steeped in misdirection, distraction and red herrings. It’s extremely disorienting: nobody is behaving the way the listener expects, and even once we discover that Ace and Hex aren’t under the same mind control as the other characters, they’re doing something so shocking (literally) behind the scenes of the story that the reveal only invites more questions.
Sylvester McCoy slips into his somewhat sillier season 24 persona for a lot of the story, having apparently lost his memory (for reasons that are revealed later). Over the course of the four episodes, he regains his memory and the slightly more scheming, less benign persona most fans will be expecting, but the rug is pulled out from under the listener’s feet yet again when we find out that the seventh Doctor’s penchant for hatching elaborate traps has instead backfired on him. The script required Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier to adopt different accents; Olivier manages to strike just the right balance between being Hex and being posh. Sophie Aldred, however, almost does too good a job of disguising Ace’s usual voice.
Anyone expecting an on-the-nose action-adventure yarn will find The Magic Mousetrap to be a test of their patience; even the regulars seem out-of-character for much of the proceedings. Those willing to have the patience to sit things out and sift through the available clues – i.e. anyone who’s a fan of Lost or The Prisoner in between their consumption of Doctor Who media – will find this story challenging, but good fun.
Notes: The Magic Mousetrap marks the Celestial Toymaker’s return in Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio productions, although the character was intended for a return in The Nightmare Fair, one of the stories from the cancelled 23rd season of the TV series, available later as a novelization and dramatized in audio form first as a charity project, and later as the first release of Big Finish’s “Lost Stories” range. Dialogue in The Magic Mousetrap does not mention The Nightmare Fair as having happened, but it also does not discount it either.