THE LONELY CLOCK by Matthew Sweet

The Jago & Litefoot audio adventures, a spin-off from the Doctor Who characters featured in the classic Tom Baker serial, ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ by Robert Holmes, continue into their fourth and potentially best season yet. Trevor Baxter plays pathologist and scientist Professor George Litefoot while Christopher Benjamin is Henry Gordon Jago, manager of the Palace Theatre. In addition there is Louise Jameson as Leela, the Doctor’s companion from ‘Weng-Chiang’, who is here working apparently solo, fighting some new time-meddling foes …

Juicy Jagoisms: “I suppose it’s not beyond the periphery of pertinent possibility”

As we reach the third installment of this exciting new season many of the plot pieces really do start to fall into place. Indeed, this is the story in which we are set to discover just what the villainous Mr Kempston and Mr Hardwick are up to; and what the mysterious Claudius Dark truly wants from our Victorian heroes. At the end of their previous adventure, Beautiful Things, they were fleeing from Kempston and Hardwick. Leela managed to evade her pursuers and ended up back at the tavern managed by Ellie, the series’ intrepid barmaid. Jago and Litefoot instead sought refuge in the London Underground, which is where the story now picks up, beginning intriguingly ‘in media res’, by plunging us straight into the middle of the action. Indeed this is initially quite disorienting and I did briefly wonder if a chapter had been skipped on my CD – but no, this is all part of the plan. The opening scene introduces us to Winnie O’Connor who has evil designs on her lover Sandy, using a dinner knife to polish him off. Before she can make her getaway after the murder, she is accosted by Hardwick and given one of his distinctive glass calling cards and asked to perform a special service in return for his silence. She arrives at Ellie’s place in possession of a ‘time beaker’, an item that is very powerful but which she does not understand, quickly catching Leela’s attention – which was part of Hardwick’s plan all along of course.

While Leela, Ellie and Wendy scurry around London try to track down Kempston and Hardwick, on the London underground things are becoming increasingly surreal. Jago and Litefoot awaken to discover that they are trapped inside an apparently empty train in some sort of temporal limbo, going round and round on the Circle Line while their fob watches go backwards and forwards as they lose and regain time, watching events occur as if in slow motion through their carriage windows. They then find a dead body on the train – only it belong to Winnie and when the clocks go back, she comes back to life. Or does she?

“Don’t let them kill ya twice Winnie!” – Jago

When listening to a previous Big Finish audio from the main Doctor Who range, The Haunting of Thomas Brewster by Jonathan Morris, I remember being a little disappointed that it didn’t make greater use of the London Underground – but this story more than makes up for it. It turns out that Kempston and Hardwick (who is actually ‘Sandy’ and is not actually dead) have been manipulating Winnie and have now moved her out of time and placed her inside the train so that they can all watch her death in front of the train through the carriage windows. This paradoxical plot and the limbo setting is more typical Sapphire & Steel, a series I love (and have reviewed here) and this may explain why I enjoyed this tale so much. There is plenty of initial humour in the scene in which Leela empties out Ellie’s tavern at closing time by threatening all the customers (‘you pack of worthless stinking drink soaked swamp pigs’), but as we get involved in Winnie’s sad story the story of the apparent murderess turns into a winning story of the victim of a grand scheme who manages through her own devices and the bravery and Jago to claim her own life back again.

Matthew Sweet (image: BBC)

Matthew Sweet is a historian and broadcaster and also occasionally writes for Big Finish. In his previous Jago and Litefoot story The Man at the End of the Garden he combined E. Nesbit, Lewis Carroll and Hitchcock’s The Birds for a compelling fantasy with some very nice twists in it. In his new contribution, as he explains in the extras, he took elements from Joseph Conrad’s 1908 novel The Secret Agent, including a disruption of time via a bomb, and again by way of Alfred Hitchcock, who not only turned that novel into the 1936 movie Sabotage but also Blackmail, another classic movie directed by the ‘master of suspense’ bets known for the sequence involving a bread knife.

All the various elements are very ably shuffled by Sweet and on top of which we get a great big fat plot reveal at the end which sets things up for a thunderous conclusion in Justin Richards The Hourglass Killer. Tune in next week to find out what happens …

Writer: Matthew Sweet
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Music & Sound Design: Howard Carter
Cover Art: Alex Mallinson
Running time: 50 minutes
Release date: March 2012
Main cast: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Louise Jameson (Leela), Colin Baker (Professor Claudius Dark), Victoria Alcock (Winnie O’Connor), 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:

My dedicated Jago & Litefoot microsite is here.

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

This entry was posted in Audio Review, Big Finish, Jago & Litefoot, London, Matthew Sweet, Scene of the crime, Steampunk. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to THE LONELY CLOCK by Matthew Sweet

  1. Going to be interesting to read your review of The Hourglass Killers without mentioning the spoiler…

  2. Todd Mason says:

    And I had a double-take, since there’s a musician named Matthew Sweet based in the States, whom I thought might’ve come up with a relevant concept album you were reviewing…

    On the discussion list I administer, Rara-Avis, there’s been a query about good Italian noir fiction…who would you recommend? And any interest in joining such a list?

    • Hello Todd – sorry for the misleading info! No idea if Victorian steampunk with loads of humour is you thing but this would be that if it were … I have just popped over to the Rara-Avis list and have gone and signed up for it but although Italian Noir idea sounds great I’m afraid I wouldn’t really be able to contribute much beyond knowledge of about half a dozen authors that are fairly well known anyway (Sciascia, Camilleri, maybe Roberto Saviano). I should read more Italian fiction than I do but usually I just dip in and out when I go home in the Summer to visit my folks (based in the UK now). And I read in the original, which might make a dialogue difficult since so few seem to have been translated (beyond the ones mentioned above). I’ll prowl (rather than lurk) around the list though. Pietro De Palma of DEATH CANNOT READ is much better versed in Italian crime than I will ever be however – his site is at:

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