The plot: Jago, Litefoot and Leela take a holiday in Brighton. There, Jago meets and falls for music hall singer Abigail Woburn, a relationship that threatens to split the infernal investigators apart, as dark forces gather on the beach … For how long can they escape the shadowy presence of the mysterious Professor Claudius Dark?
Juicy Jagoisms: “I was pondering on the perplexities of the passing of time”
Hurrah! Those two fruity and charming Victorian investigators, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot, played to perfection by Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter, are back for another quartet of audio adventures, courtesy of those very talented people at Big Finish Productions. These are not audio books but full-cast radio plays, approximately an hour-long each, featuring superb sound design, full-bodied music scores and some excellent performers too. The unlikely pairing of Jago’s lower class theatre impresario and Litefoot’s aristocratic police surgeon proved instantly popular when the 1970s duo (from the Doctor Who serial ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’) finally got their own adventure in The Mahogany Murderers, Andy Lane’s truly excellent two-hander made as part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles range of talking books. The success of that production has led to a spin-off series of full cast adventures, all released in beautifully designed box sets made up of four individual ‘cases’ tied with an overall story arc, with a fifth disc containing an extended collection of interviews with the cast and crew. For me these are the cream of Big Finish’s current output – and now we reach series 4 (a fifth series has already been recorded, and a further sixth and seventh are already scheduled).
Jago and Litefoot were created by Robert Holmes as sidekicks for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and his then traveling companion Leela, the ‘savage’ from an alien planet played by Louise Jameson, who again plays the role in these audio adventure, having joined the cast in the previous season. These releases have seen the list of regulars grow slowly but surely – along with our duo and Leela there is the barmaid Ellie (played by Lisa Bowerman, who also directs), Conrad Asquith as Sergeant Quick (he also appeared in the original TV production) and a mysterious new character introduced in the cliffhanger at the end of the previous season, Professor Claudius Dark, who, in another Doctor Who connection, is played by Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor). The latter three are largely absent from this initial story though after making an appearance in an extended recap of the season 3 cliffhanger. We then begin this new story as our heroes go to Brighton on holiday to get away from the monsters that seem to be following their moves in London.
It is while on the south coast that Jago falls for Abigail Woburn, a singer literally performing in a show ‘at the end of the pier’ – in this case Brighton’s famed West Pier. He is so smitten in fact that within days he even proposes (if this seems a little swift, well, you’re supposed to think that). The first half plays like a two-handed Companion Chronicle almost, with Jago relating his recent adventures with disintegrating monsters in London to his new sweetheart; he also recounts his earlier experience of the predictive powers of his current landlady, ‘Gypsy Nancy Lee’. When Leela and Litefoot go to visit Jago’s new friend in her dressing room, they are both overwhelmed by the feeling of a dark presence, seemingly emanating from a cracked mirror that the gypsy had given Abigail. Soon mirrors are being cracked all over Brighton and Jago seemingly abandons his friends for Abigail.
“Consult the runes? More likely she’s consulting the whiskey bottle, I should say.”
If the first series veered towards fantasy with its Lovecraftian elements and the second towards horror, with its vampire villain, then the third was more akin to science fiction with its time travel theme. What we get in this introductory season 4 opener ultimately resolves itself into a ghost story akin to those Big Finish created in their Sapphire & Steel range (reviewed by me here) – which should come as no surprise since author Nigel Fairs was also the producer and lead writer for that range, and is all the better for it. As we encounter creatures that have no reflection, ghosts that don’t know they are no longer of the living and mirrors that can show images of the past, the spooky supernatural aura is very nicely sustained. This leads to a memorable climax with a carnivalesque atmosphere in a hall of mirrors, and is then topped with a coda which sets up a pair of recurring villains as part of the overall season arc. Along with its solid story and great ambiance comes a feast of great lines as we enjoy the banter of the alliterative Jago, the slightly stuffy Litefoot and the regular malapropisms of Leela, who has great instincts (and here even gets to fend off a lion) but is still having trouble making sense of some of the more unusual idiomatic phrases of the English language.
“I am not a madam!” – Leela
This makes for an excellent start to the new series by taking our main trio into a new and exciting environment (and even meeting some real-life people, including ‘Gypsy Lee’ as revealed by Fairs in a 9-minute interview with him at the end of the disc). If you like Victorian era thrills and chills with a dollop of the supernatural and lashings of charm and humour, then this series is for you.
To buy the set from Big Finish, either as a download or as a beautifully designed CD box set (and really, you should treat yourselves), visit the company’s website: www.bigfinish.com/Jago-and-Litefoot
My dedicated Jago & Litefoot microsite is here.
Writer: Nigel Fairs
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Music & Sound Design: Howard Carter
Cover Art: Alex Mallinson
Running time: 69 minutes
Release date: March 2012
Main cast: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Louise Jameson (Leela), Elizabeth Counsell (Abigail Woburn)