THE HOURGLASS KILLERS by Justin Richards

The title may sound like an episode of The Man from UNCLE but in fact this is the cracking climax to the fourth season of Jago & Litefoot. And one of the things that becomes clear almost immediately is that this season has in fact been following on directly from the previous one, with the aftershocks of the time-meddling that featured so prominently there still being felt as the eponymous heroes join forces with Leela and Professor Dark for a final battle with the slippery duo of Kempston and Hardwick.

Juicy Jagoisms: “A deluge of duplicitous doubles”

The respective occupations of the eponymous heroes of this series – theatre manager and forensic scientists – provide the recipe for the tang and flavour of these ‘infernal investigations’, combining the showmanship and trickery of the Victorian stage with the nascent fascination with crime and mystery in the era of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper. Each season of Jago & Litefoot has had its own distinctive overarching plot, one usually veering towards a specific genre by dint of the overall villain. If the first season’s Dr Tulp was a character reminiscent of Lovecraftian fantasy and the vampiric Gabriel Sanders of season two of more traditional horror, then the ‘Mr Payne’ that followed in the next was a time-traveler in the best science fiction tradition of Doctor Who. Which if course is fair enough given that this series is a spin-off from that venerable television (and audio) show. That season had made these links to its parent series even clearer by bringing back Leela, the Doctor’s companion from the Tom Baker era. So it is only logical and reasonable that this be now extended further into the current season as she has been retained as a regular cast member for a story that retains the earlier science fiction and time travel through-line. And indeed this season finale will appeal especially to fans (like myself) of Doctor Who, a cross-over story being pretty much what the doctor ordered (sic – sorry, I couldn’t resist) now that Jago and Litefoot are firmly established in their own distinctive series.

Trevor Baxter, Colin Baker and Christopher Benjamin.

Having found an unexpected ally in Professor Dark, the time has come for Jago and Litefoot to face up to the threat posed by the Sandmen … which takes them first to the British Museum for a predictable but still very funny round of ‘shushing’ from disturbed readers and then to the works owned by Lord Ampthill in Bedfordshire. This sees the team split, with Jago and Ellie fairly hilariously passing themselves off as Leela and Professor Dark to distract Kempston and Hardwick, leading to some wonderfully ‘bad’ acting. Indeed, one of the highlights of the season sees Jago giving Ellie lessons on how to play the savage, though neither is particularly convincing when seen up close, as soon becomes clear – especially as it appears that there are also more than one Kempston and Hardwick …

“You will take us to the Red Tavern or I will cut out your liver and feed it to the horse!” - Leela (Louise Jameson)

In the previous season, one story had, via some time travel shenanigans, seen the appearance of two Jagos and throughout this episode we keep hearing the phrase ‘can’t be in two places at once’, which of course turns out to be exactly not the case. In the titular and very striking image, our heroes find Ampthill trapped inside a gigantic hourglass, put there by the creatures inside the crash-landed spaceship uncovered in the works nearby. But it turns out that this is in fact one giant trap by villains who seek to control time in the same way that they can manipulate matter to create the Sandpeople introduced briefly in the opening story. And it really does seem that Kempston and Hardwick can be in several places at once! Robert Holmes, creator of Jago and Litefoot, was renowned for his use of double acts in his scripts and perhaps the greatest single delight of a series full of them has been the contribution this season of Christopher Beeny and Mike Grady, late of Last of the Summer Wine on TV, as Mr Kempston and Mr Hardwick. Their urbane double act has been utterly superb and it is only right that in the conclusion their previously fleeting appearances should now become much more substantial. Justin Richards is the script editor of the series and hitherto has written the introductory story and left Andy Lane to write the season finale. But as Mr Lane is absent this time round (and indeed his last Big Finish appeared under a pseudonym so I hope this doesn’t mean he won’t ever be back), Richards himself is penning the finale. I’ve griped in the past that his scripts tended to be a bit weak on plot but for the finale his story proves more than meaty enough and also provides all the juicy character scenes that he is usually to be relied upon to deliver. On the whole, despite a slightly clunky underground climax a bit reminiscent from The Ruthven Inheritance, the finale from season two, and where it is a bit hard to understand quite how the villain is thwarted except through a walloping coincidence, this is a highly entertaining finish for a great season of the series and then provides a springboard for new adventures that should please all Doctor Who fans out there.

Duo meets duo: Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin, Christopher Beeny and Mike Grady (Big Finish)

This may be the end of the current season, but Jago and Litefoot go on. They are scheduled to appear as companions opposite Doctor Who – in fact, two incarnations of the Time Lord as played Colin Baker for release this December and then opposite Tom Baker (and Mary Tamn as Romana) next year. Then there will be a fifth season of the series scheduled for release in March 2013 with a sixth promised after that – sounds wonderful to me.

The Hourglass Killers
Writer: Justin Richards
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Music & Sound Design: Howard Carter
Cover Art: Alex Mallinson
Running time: 61 minutes
Release date: March 2012
Main cast: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Louise Jameson (Leela), Conrad Asquith (Sergeant Quick), Colin Baker (Professor Claudius Dark), Terry Molloy (Lord Ampthill), Christopher Beeny (Mr Kempston), Mike Grady (Mr Hardwick)

To purchase the set from Big Finish, either as a download or as a beautifully designed CD box set, and you really, really should, visit the company’s website here: www.bigfinish.com/Jago-and-Litefoot

My dedicated Jago & Litefoot microsite is here.

***** (4.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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This entry was posted in Audio Review, Big Finish, Doctor Who, Jago & Litefoot, Justin Richards, London, Scene of the crime, Steampunk. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to THE HOURGLASS KILLERS by Justin Richards

  1. This is a whole new series for me, one I have neither heard about nor seen on Indian television so far, but it sounds very interesting and I’ll see if I can get hold of a CD set.

    On another note, I can’t seem to comment from my office PC, a hitch I’m encountering only with WordPress blogs. I need to get around that soon. I have not been using the home system as I am currently doing hospital duty for a very close relative. But I’m reading your posts and enjoying them as ever, Sergio. Thanks…

    • Hi Prashant thanks for the comments – I remember you mentioning earlier some problems with WordPress – how frustrating. There is a lot of trouble with the new version of Blogger and quite often it and WordPress don’t seem to ‘communicate’ very well – sorry about this as I always welcome your feedback.

      If you’ve never watched DOCTOR WHO with Tom Baker, then you might want to start with THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG, which is where the characters of Jago & Litefoot originate from. It is also considered by many to be the best Baker story of all (though CITY OF DEATH, co-written by Douglas Adams comes pretty darn close).

  2. Sergio, I have watched a couple of episodes of DOCTOR WHO which is currently running on one of the English channels, FX or Fox Crime probably. DOCTOR WHO paperbacks are still available where I live and they are being sold for just Rs.5 each. Do you think I ought to pick up a few considering I have never read these sf novels before? I read sf quite frequently.

    • Hi Prashant – I should preface this by saying that although I didn’t grow up with it, I’m now a big fan of Doctor Who both on TV and on audio. To my way of thinking, the current series overseen by writer Steven Moffat and starring Matt Smith is the best it’s ever been, probably an opinion informed by the fact that I now watch it with my 7-year old nieces who adore the programme. Here’s a clip that puts it all in context, courtesy of YouTube. There are many novels that have been published in the last 7 years or so ever since the return of the show in 2005, which are much more modern in their pacing and sensibility. The show originally ran from 1963 to 1989, going through 7 different lead actors in the role who would ‘regenerate’ with every cast change. Jago and Litefoot belong to the era of the fourth incarnation of the Doctor as played by Tom Baker (1974-1981) and was made when the show was very successful chanelling a lot of Gothic horror motifs – this meant you ended up with classic stories from that era such as Pyramids of Mars, which feature a SF variant on the Mummy, or The Brain of Morbius, which is a Frankenstein pastiche. The novelisations for the stories produced during that era, mainly by Terrance Dicks, are lots of fun and aimed at early teenagers. The most recent books are original works not derived directly from episodes of the show and skew a little older. To get a sense of what Jago & Litefoot and Doctor Who from that classic era, watch a clip of The Talons of Weng-Chian on YouTube here. If that seems like your sort of thing, there is much to be found on DVD, audio and in print.

  3. Sergio, thanks very much for the information. There’s all kinds of interesting stuff about DOCTOR WHO at http://www.archive.org including text, audio and video. It’s one of many sites that allows you more than a peek into the past, be it literature, entertainment or whatever. YouTube is, of course, the first bet and an easier medium to watch film and television.

    • You are absolutely right, it is a very impressive site – and unlike YouTube it is, mostly, much more responsible about copyright too!

    • PS Although having performed a cursory ‘Doctor Who’ search on the site, I am a bit shocked to see how much illegal stuff is on the Internet Archive – obviously it’s great to be able to access so much material with such ease, but for people to just rip off the hard work of small audio companies like Big Finish and post them there for anybody to steal is just incredibly frustrating.

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