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A character is unconscious and near-death, and has an abnormally realistic dream. The world may be completely different from our own, but the kicker is that what you do in the dreamworld is critical to whether you wake up in the real world. This can be a result of magic, divine intervention, or purely symbolic of their struggle to remain alive, but it will rarely be addressed since it's more fun to leave it up to the audience as to whether it was real or not. Having this be the premise of a story or sequence allows writers to have the benefits of a Dream Sequence or All Just a Dream story (it doesn't have to impact any other characters or the world in general, it can be much weirder than usual, and it can explore the character's mind in a more visible way) while avoiding the problem of the sequence seeming to not matter since it didn't really happen- if the character has to make an effort in the dream world to wake up, then the effort really does make a difference.
Compare Journey to the Center of the Mind, Vision Quest, Talking in Your Dreams. Adventure may possibly happen naked. See also Lotus Eater Machine, Schrodinger's Butterfly. For the fictional video game version, see Win to Exit. See also All Just a Dream and (for the unwinnable version) Dying Dream.
Anime & Manga
- Near the end of I''s, Ichitaka is knocked into a coma. In it, he relives his school days from earlier in the series with Iori, only with the knowledge of the future. He's awoken by Iori through The Power of Love.
- In Hekikai no Ai ON Tatsuya went into Seine's induced dream in order to wake her up.
- Action Force, the UK version of G.I. Joe. Lady Jaye is badly wounded by Destro and falls into a coma. She experiences a vision quest in order to regain wakefullness and mobility.
- The whole plot of the movie Monkeybone.
- In Awake, while Clatyon's doctors plot his death unaware that he can hear them, Clayton can do nothing but relive his memories that led up to this point, scrutinizing every detail to try to understand what's going on. After the transplant "fails" while he remains hooked to the bypass machine, everything in his dream world grows dimmer and dimmer, until finally fading to pitch black.
- In Harry Potter, Harry Potter suffers a temporary case of death and has a chat with Dumbledore in the afterlife.
- The entire plot of Catherine Webb's Mirror Dreams depends on this trope. Renna is a dreamer, a coma patient. This allows her to exist in the dream-world for much longer than normal dreamers, and also makes her more "real" in that world. In the end her choice (and the actions of the protagonist) allows her to die, save the world (both of them) and preserve her own existence.
- Jayfeather in Warrior Cats has the ability to enter into other cats dreams. During the events of the third arc, a cat named Poppyfrost falls deathly ill, so he has to enter her mind so that he can find her and bring her back to reality.
Live Action Television
- Played with in Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes, though in different ways. Alex's 1981 is not Sam's 1973.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl spends the second half of the third season in a coma, during which he dreams he's in an old sitcom like the ones he used to watch as a child.
- An episode of MacGyver had Mac put in a coma by assassins. He ended up on a cruise ship piloted by a guy claiming to be Anubis where he managed to talk one last time to his dead parents and just deceased grandfather before escaping.
- The main plot of the Canadian live action kid's show The Odyssey.
- The Sopranos: After getting shot by a delirious Uncle Junior, Tony spends a few episodes in a coma dream sequence. He was in a distant city, where he'd accidentally switched his wallet and briefcase with a man named Kevin Finnerty, and everyone else thinks he actually is this man. Curiously, in this dream, Tony's heavy New Jersey accent drops significantly and his posture is better.
- One episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Bashir trying to fix the titular space station (a representation of his own damaged mind) with the help of several of the senior officers (representations of various bits of his subconscious personality) while a weird psychic alien (a representation of the damage the real alien inflicted on his mind) tried to tear it apart.
- In Criminal Minds, after Agent Elle Greenaway is shot by the Serial Killer of the week she is left unconscious and bleeding to death. Throughout the remainder of the episode while emergency workers attempt to resuscitate her, she is in a dream version of the BAU jet, where she is visited by her police officer father who died when she was a child. During their conversation Elle's father tells her that the decisions she makes in the plane will make the difference as to whether she lives or dies in real life.
- In The Drew Carey Show, Drew once had to choose his real life over his idyllic-for-him coma life (he would have died if he'd stayed.)
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Tommy had to do unmorphed battle with his past Ranger identities. After proving his will to live, he woke up, his powers restored and with a new Super Mode.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith spends most of one episode having semi-lucid dreams as she struggles to awaken from her coma.
- On another episode, a comatose young boy gets the entire cast into this trope as his dreams begin to infect the real world.
- In an episode of So Weird, Fi is somehow able to communicate with a young woman who has been comatose for several years. In the woman's dream, she's still a little girl, and she's lost in an unpopulated version of her hometown and can't find her way home. Based on her descriptions of her surroundings and her family's corroborating details, Fi is able to put together a map of the town as it was back when the girl first fell into her coma and uses it to guide her back to her house. Finally home again, the girl walks through her front door and wakes up back in the real world.
- An episode of Mysterious Ways involves a woman named Paloma waking up from a 16-year coma, completely healthy, and describing an island where she and other people in comas from the same hospital lived together. It's not completely clear if their actions on the island determine whether they wake up, but Paloma is able to re-enter the coma world and bring out a little girl so there has to be some controllable mechanism of escape involved.
- In the mid-season finale of Supernatural season seven, most of the episode takes place inside of Bobby Singer's head as he fights for his life after receiving a bullet to the head.
- House is shot and enters a coma hallucination in which the man who shot him shares his hospital room during recovery. He wills himself out of his coma through sheer Genre Savvy.
- Could have happened in Len Kagamine's New Millennium series (Vocaloid).
- Near the end of Fable II, your character has one of these after Lucien shoots you in the face (again!). Your character is apparently safe at home with your sister Rose... which is a pretty good clue something isn't right, since Rose is the proverbial dead older sister.
- The Magicant sequence in Earthbound is a fantasy landscape made up mostly of Ness' memories.
- Both Max Payne games have Max in the nightmare world at certain points.
- The ones in the first game were a nightmare for players as well.
- The entirety of The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening is a collective dream of both Link and the Wind Fish.
- Eternal Sonata
- In Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters Ratchet ends up in a surreal hallucinatory dreamworld at one point. Interestingly you can collect ammo in the dream that carries over to the real world.
- Sanitarium not only has the protagonist navigate a surrealistic world, but has them piece together real events basing on recurring symbolic elements.
- Driver San Francisco has the city of San Francisco itself as the Comaland, hand waving the protagonist's ability to teleport between cars.
- The Scarecrow sequences in Batman: Arkham Asylum probably qualify.
- In Drawn to Life, the entire Raposa world is all just a coma dream. Maybe.
- In Assassin's Creed:Revelations, Desmond Miles' mind has been so traumatized by the events of Brotherhood's ending and the Bleeding Effect that he went into shock, after which he was put back into an Animus - through which he'll have to "explore" his, Ezio's, and Altair's remaining memories and piece back together his fractured consciousness if he's to awaken.
- Desmond also needs to find a synch-nexus buried within those memories - a single moment that connects him and both his ancestors. This will provide the catalyst for the repartitioning and will allow Desmond to wake up.
- In Erfworld, Parson Gotti considers the idea that his trip to Erfworld is just a coma-induced hallucination. There's evidence both for and against this theory.
- The unfinished Web Comic Edolic Fringe.
- Looking for Group has a variation - Richard is banished by magic, and endures a trial of his soul. Unfortunately for him, it's a Kangaroo Court of lesser demons where he has no defence and his crimes are betraying his alignment of Chaotic Evil.
- Futurama: In the episode The Sting, Leela has a strange experience when where Fry dies from being stung by an alien bee and she has strange dreams and hallucinations about him being alive. Turns out it was all a dream induced by the venom, because SHE was stung as well (he was perfectly OK.)
- In the ThunderCats (2011) "Trials of Lion-O" arc, the Spirit Stone forces young hero Lion-O to undertake a Vision Quest in a Mental World to prove his worth and overcome his personal issues, so that he might earn the right to be resurrected.
- Real life example: Artur Lundkvist wrote an entire book about his adventures in Comaland, called Journeys in Dream and Imagination.