Big Finish: JAGO & LITEFOOT, Series 10 Review

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Tony is apparently not Jago & Litefoot’s biggest fan… 


Jago & Litefoot Series 9 was a fast listen, a rapid cruise around parts unknown with a different regular cast to that of most of the range. It was a breath of fresh sea air, infused with dimension-fogs, devil-casinos, death-islands and Jagos and Litefoots with a range of deeply dubious accents.

As with Series 5, which also took our infernal investigators out of the comfort zone of the Red Tavern, it was a high point in the range, and left us – after the subsequent dip of Series 6 – wondering whether Series 10 would suffer a similar sense of anti-climax.

It doesn’t.

There’s a softly satirical thread running through the four stories of Jago & Litefoot’s tenth series, as they are dogged by the Victorian version of an ultra-fan, one who knows their adventures almost better than they do, and wants to immortalize them in a biography.

Toby Hadoke is rarely celebrated for the talents he brings to his original career as an actor, being rather better known for his own encyclopaedic knowledge of the world of Who and of pop culture in a wider sense. Who better then to play ultra-fan Carruthers Summerton, here with a slightly cracked and squeaky voice and the suggestion of a lisp? He features throughout in one sense or another, focusing the lens of the drama onto the kind of fans who take their fandom to intrusive, irritating levels. Jago & Litefoot have had a brush with this kind of fandom before, having encountered Arthur Conan Doyle and his lunatic fans, but having their own well-meaning stalker takes the pair in new directions – often different directions – in their quest to uncover the truth behind their latest crop of cases.

The Case of the Missing Gasogene, by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris sounds like it should revolve around a gaseous alien, and indeed there are lines in it from Jago that ponder if the death of a servant at Sir Hartley Harecourt’s house (the Jago & Litefoot series continuing its fine work of using dubious naming conventions) is down to some gas-based invader. But really, the themes here are rather truer to Jago & Litefoot’s principal tradition – showing the nature of the Victorian age – and centre on scientific genius, aristocratic patronage, the theory of evolution and to some extent the gothic grimness of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It’s a dark-edged romp, with Jago & Litefoot pursuing different lines of enquiry which ultimately lead them to the same place, giving Summerton plenty to write up in his journal of the pair’s adventures.

The Year of the Bat, by Jonathan Morris, is not part of a chronology and could technically fit anywhere in the history of Jago & Litefoot, delving back as it does thirty years in both men’s past, through the absolutely shameless use of a MacGuffin apparently gifted to Litefoot by the Fifth Doctor, posing as Doctor Walters (for context, it would do you no harm to listen to the Fifth Doctor story The Haunting of Thomas Brewster – at one time or another, clearly, Doctors Five, Six and Eleven were all swanning around Victorian London for extensive periods, with visits from plenty of their other selves to boot. Holy Blinovitch Limitation Effect, Batman!). The so-called Yesterday Box is positively the stuff of Young Adult bestsellers, and the plot has a touch of Dickens about it as we get to hear both a young Litefoot and a young Jago, as they independently investigate the case of some nefarious nannies and some bats in a bell tower. There are points, to be fair, at which you wonder whether the whole Classic Doctor, New Monsters licence hasn’t kicked in a little early – one word: Krillitanes – but apparently not. The whole thing does have a deliciously deterministic logic to it though, rendering itself ultimately redundant and keeping to the one-shot formula mercilessly, for what feels like the fastest and most fun listen of an already very fast foursome.

James Goss gives us two parallel tales in one, involving zombies, the Jago & Litefoot Society, as inspired by Summerton’s memoirs of the two sleuths, a touch of Woody Allen’s Sleeper, tropical diseases and the highly suspicious return to London of Dr Luke Betterman (played by David Warner, conforming as ever to Warner’s Law – everything with David Warner in it is immeasurably better than it otherwise would be, no arguments, discussions or divergent opinions allowed), last encountered at the Devil’s Casino in Monte Carlo. As the zombie apocalypse threatens Victorian London, and Henry Gordon Jago finds himself rather less dead than everyone seems to think he is, is there a dark plot afoot to ‘better Mankind’? Tonally, this is an odd one, with Litefoot in mourning for his friend, while Jago finds himself in a hellish future, on a mission to save the past. And, as is becoming distinctly the way of things for the Jago & Litefoot stories, this third episode flows straight on into the fourth, The Museum of Curiosities by Justin Richards. Betterman goes suspiciously missing, and people are finding themselves immolated, as if to bate Jago & Litefoot personally, leading them to a date with destiny in the Museum of the story’s title – a museum of staggering familiarity. As a series-closer, it’s a tense case of determining which reality is true, forcing Warner into delivering lines with dubious intonations to maintain the uncertainty. It also brings Hadoke’s ultra-fan Summerton back into the fray as he accompanies Litefoot on his investigations, while Jago goes off to find his own way. The Jago & Litefoot stories have done this before, each of the investigators standing on their own skills and pursuing their own lines of enquiry, only coming back together at the end, but it’s rarely been done with the aplomb that the tenth series has, the writers crafting stories that allow each man to shine in his own way. That in fact is something of the theme of the series – in The Missing Gasogene, Jago insists on following a path which will get the pair the largest financial reward, while Litefoot follows more strictly scientific principles. In The Year of the Bat, we’re shown their individual inquisitiveness thirty years before, each pursuing their own investigations into the same case. The Mourning After separates them by the device of death, and has them each working their own case from their own direction. And here this Jago/Litefoot approach, rather than a Jago & Litefoot, approach shows us both Litefoot’s analytical intelligence and Jago’s familiarity, ten series on, with how things work and where he can be of most effective use.

The series matches its predecessor for pace and suspense, while actively adding to the capabilities of each man, showing us both why they’ve become Victorian London’s celebrated investigators of the infernal, and why, ten series on, the pair show no signs of losing their appeal to fans worldwide.

Oh, and then there’s that ending.

Sorry, did I not mention the ending?

The ending to Series 10 will make you punch the air. Traditionally, the ending of a Jago & Litefoot series prepares the ground for the arc of the next series – booking passage on a cruise at the end of Series 8, being contacted by a would-be biographer at the end of Series 9 and so on. If the ending of Series 10 delivers the arc for Series 11, we’re in for a roller-coaster and a half.

But before that, there’s a diversion for our Victorian investigators, as they cross the invisible boundaries of canon to team up with Strax the Sontaran.

What can possibly go wrong?

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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