Big Finish, JAGO & LITEFOOT, Series 2 Review

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‘Foul, fanged fiends!’ says Tony Fyler.


Series 2 of Jago & Litefoot takes us on a four-story series arc, where the overall Big Bad is a vampire. Don’t ask why, it just is! It’s a vampire played by David Collings, all right, now shush!

That’s something of the theme of the series: there’s not, necessarily, any explanation for why things are the way the way they are. They just are, and Jago and Litefoot are out to stop them. If that makes it sound like the series is a flippant laugh-fest…well, you’ve clearly never seen Sapphire and Steel, that’s all I can say. There was seldom an actual explanation in those stories either, but that didn’t stop them being creepy as hell and great drama into the bargain.

Episode 1 introduces us to Gabriel Sanders, George Litefoot’s new bestie, meaning he doesn’t want to play with HGJ any more, so nehh.  But Henry Gordon Jago is made of sterner stuff than to take such a dismissal lightly, and he mounts his own investigations into the affairs of the somewhat sinister new influence over his friend. Sanders is an interesting role for Collings, more sly and insinuating than we’re used to from him, and he gives us the sort of performance that you’d normally expect from the likes of David Warner – than which of course, there is little in the way of higher praise. There’s significant plot development here too, with Lisa Bowerman’s Ellie beginning a journey that takes her far from her previous role as ‘barmaid in the Red Tavern who glues Jago & Litefoot together.’ Justin Richards delivers a solid opener that does that always entertaining thing, forcing our heroes to confront not only eldritch villains with dark and demonic plans, but also the conventions of their time, and their own engrained prejudices. It’s a fascinating piece of work and it has teeth beyond its initial scope, so it’s well worth a listen.

Episode 2 takes us into bodysnatching territory, and necromantic shenaniganing, as Jago & Litefoot go above and beyond to save Ellie from an afterlife at Sanders’ command. Generally, it’s a more expositional piece than the first instalment, bringing Litefoot face to face with an old…it’s difficult to actually imagine George Litefoot having ‘enemies’ as such, but certainly an old ‘chap with whom he found it impossible to reach an accommodation.’ After their division and separation in episode 1, Mark Morris’ Necropolis Express is a good exercise in bringing our two heroes back together, and it’s reasonably well-balanced fare, giving each of them a good share of the action and the character-development. That’s not to say it’s particularly dull – far from it in fact; there’s grimness and charnel house action behind all the chat, but its essential function it to weld our heroes back together after the initial events with Gabriel Sanders left them shaken.

That initial encounter with Sanders though was merely the appetiser. Episodes 3 and 4 put our two Victorian adventurers through the wringer – the Theatre of Dreams is a dark nightmare set on stage, with people’s greatest dreams laid bare, their greatest fears exploited, and their greatest weaknesses paraded. It’s a horrible, horrible idea from Jonathan Morris – inasmuch as it’s scary, unsympathetic and creepy, and the most Sapphire and Steel-like of the four stories here, with a resolution that could have come almost directly from that show. There’s something almost Torchwoodian about the villains in this one too, and a shiver of genuine, grown-up unfriendliness that will make even adults remember the sort of human puppetry involved. The Theatre of Dreams is the precursor to ‘reality’ TV, only with the last vestige of free will ripped away. It takes all Jago & Litefoot’s ingenuity, along with the intervention of Sergeant Quick and Litefoot’s colleague Dr Sacker, to break free from its clutches.

The series ends with The Ruthven Inheritance by Andy Lane, and it ends not so much with a bang as with a gurgle. Guest starring Simon Williams as the latest heir to the Ruthven inheritance, the plot involves a subtle plot to steal from them everything that gives our heroes’ lives meaning – Litefoot’s job, Jago’s theatre, as well as their friendship and Ellie’s – as Sanders pulls some ancient strings. If anything, it’s the ending that lacks the oomph of the rest of this episode, as Sanders has been turned into a deeply interesting villain, and the way he ends this episode feels less than worthy of him, particularly given a paucity of explanation. Again the ‘because it is’ mentality kicks in, and whereas for the most part that’s just fine and dandy in Victorian investigations of all things weird and spooky, in robbing Sanders of the ending he deserves here, it does four hours in the company of Victorian London’s finest a little disservice. The Ruthven Inheritance does build up Ellie’s character, nature and dilemmas though, to a point where she looks like becoming something truly interesting as the series goes on. And it certainly ends with a surprise – the return of an old friend to join Jago, Litefoot and Ellie in their adventures for Series 3.

While Series 1 set out the stall on which Jago & Litefoot would be the stars of their own investigations, Series 2 gives them a Big Bad with bite, but more importantly, it gives them consequences in what happens to Ellie, and it gives them challenges in terms of their own characters – more than once in the course of Series 2, it’s the nature of Jago or Litefoot that threatens to put an end to both their adventures and their friendship. They end the series strong and together though, and with a definitive mission to take care of as they head out into the Victorian smogs in search of more diabolical adventure – Jago, Litefoot and…friend.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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