Jago & Litefoot Forever (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 2 June 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Jago & Litefoot Forever (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
First Released: May 2018
Running Time: 3 hours

 

Big Finish's surprisingly long-running series Jago & Litefoot comes to an end, following the death of one of the leads Trevor Baxter, and the finale is quite heartwarming and rewarding for longtime fans. Newcomers won't be totally lost and can find some fun in this, but as a finale, it is most certainly geared towards longtime listeners.  

Henry Gordon Jago's good friend George Litefoot is missing, and it is up to Jago to find his lost friend, all while battling his own memory loss.  It is a story that celebrates the duo, and all of their friends both regulars of the show and recurring characters. Christopher Benjamin anchors the story with a fantastic performance, and his co-star Trevor Baxter is able to appear via archival recordings. 

In many ways, the story not only serves as an end to the series, but it is clearly built as a tribute to Baxter, who unfortunately passed before they could record together again. It is an excellent finale, saying goodbye to the likable pair and their friends in a lovely tale that is both fun and poignant and ends their Victorian Adventures on a high note. 

Also included in this set is The Jago and Litefoot Revival, which is a "Short Trips" story performed by Benjamin and Baxter, and tells of an adventure the pair had with two separate Doctors, the Tenth and Eleventh.  This is a fun lark as well, if for no reason other than to get a bit more of Baxter in the role before his passing.  

This series brought two actors who hadn't seen each other since they walked off that set of The Talons of Weng-Chiang in 1977, and brought them back together...and fans of their adventures will no doubt enjoy their final adventure together.   A great way to say goodbye to Baxter and the whole series. Fans of Jago & Litefoot rejoice, Jago & Litefoot Forever is a great farewell.



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Jago & Litefoot Forever




Jago & Litefoot & Strax (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
 Jago & Litefoot & Strax (Credit: Big Finish)

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
First Released: November 2015
Running Time: 2 hours
 

It is kind of amazing what Big Finish can do. They can somehow base a series around two characters that appeared in one story in 1977, make it a success, and then for a bit of a fun event, have them crossover with a recurring character from the new series. And it can still be fairly accessible for newcomers.  These adventures don't really require a ton of backstory for you to find them enjoyable.

I am aware of Jago & Litefoot from their lone appearance in the 70s, and while I've not really had too much chance to dive into their Big Finish run, I have enjoyed nearly all of their appearances in regular Doctor Who adventures. This adventure, in which they team up with New Series recurring Sontaran Strax.  It's a smart use the newly acquired Big Finish license, which gives them use of New Series characters.  Why not take your classic series spin-off featuring a couple of guys solving paranormal and alien mysteries in Late Victorian England, and team them up with at least one member of the New series team that does the same? 

In this Two-Part story, titled "The Haunting," Strax ends up assisting Jago & Litefoot on a supposedly haunted house mystery...though the entire time he thinks they are just Vastra and Jenny undercover. Strax is dumb. Which is fun!  The entire two-part mystery is good fun.  Jago & Litefoot have a good rapport, and Strax is usually a pretty funny comic relief to the Paternoster Gang, so the story has a good comedy line-up. Oddly, that comedy team is investigating murders in a haunted house.  That is the fun of it. 

I rather enjoyed this story.  It is light, funny, with just enough drama mixed in to balance it all out. As someone who was only mildly familiar with the Jago & Litefoot series before I began this, I can say it is definitely accessible to newcomers, and if anything it just makes you want to listen to more from this series. 



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Jago & Litefoot - Volume 11Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 May 2017 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Stars: Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot),  Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), James Joyce (Henry Gordon Jago Jr), Rowena Cooper (Jean Bazemore), Andy McKeane (Maurice Ravel), Jonathan Forbes (Bram Stoker), Edward de Souza (Sir Henry Irving), Robbie Stevens (Mr Manners/Stanley Harker), Maggie Ollerenshaw (Dame Wilhelmina Gusset), Rachel Atkins (Madame Sosotris/Bishop), Colin Baker (The Doctor)
Written by Nigel Fairs, Matthew Sweet, Simon Barnard, Paul Morris and Justin Richards
Directed by Lisa Bowerman
Produced by David Richardson
Big Finish Productions, 2016

“Good Lord! Look at us, Professor – reflected in that puddle! We look positively ghastly – the both of us!”

“You’re right, Henry …”

Henry Gordon Jago and Prof George Litefoot

It’s amazing to think that 40 years ago last March, Doctor Who fans were introduced to the unlikely combination of Victorian showman Henry Gordon Jago and East London police pathologist Professor George Litefoot in the Tom Baker serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Although the two characters never formally returned in the TV series, they were so fondly remembered by fans that their popularity took on a life of its own. Indeed, it’s difficult to recall any other characters in the life of the classic and modern TV series that could have conceivably had spin-off adventures in the broader Whoniverse. Jago and Litefoot’s creator Robert Holmes created similar unconventional and roguish pairings in many of his Doctor Who serials (and even a few Blake’s 7 episodes), eg Spandrell and Engin in The Deadly Assassin, Garron and Unstoffe in The Ribos Operation, Glitz and Dibber in The Trial of a Time Lord – but none seem to have had the appeal of Jago and Litefoot.

Yet amazingly, since 2009, Big Finish has given the characters a whole new lease of life and a devoted fanbase, some of whom probably weren’t even alive at the time of the original broadcast of The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Jago & Litefoot started as a seemingly one-off and obscure Companion Chronicle called The Mahogany Murderers and within the space of eight years has spawned 13 boxsets plus a special release pairing the duo with Sontaran butler Strax (the Sontarans being another Holmes creation).

This review focuses on Volume 11. Whereas much of BF’s recent output has sought to integrate and celebrate the mythology of Doctor Who’s classic and modern incarnations, Volume 11 of Jago and Litefoot’s adventures has delved further back into Doctor Who’s past and pitted the two amateur detectives against the Doctor’s arch nemesis the Master, who in 2016 year celebrated his/her own milestone of 45 years. While there’s great potential in the idea of pitting the two amateur sleuths against one of the Doctor’s deadliest adversaries, the execution is not quite as satisfying as the inspiration.

Certainly, the box set artwork hints that the Master must play a quite dominant role across the four tales in the box set (not to mention shoehorning the Sixth Doctor into the overall saga as well).  Yet while the Master is indeed present in the four tales, he is not (as you might think) the “big bad” – that is, someone who manipulates events from behind the scenes while getting others to do his bidding. It is not until the concluding chapter – Masterpiece – that the evil Time Lord comes into his own. The Master, though, does share some terrific dialogue in the opening and closing scenes of the second play Maurice with that serial’s villain and is wonderfully wicked in its climactic moments.

The villains in the opener Jago & Son are of an earthlier disposition than the Master, although their divine purpose is indeed based in the extra-terrestrial. Nevertheless, their incompetence would easily disappoint the evil Time Lord! In all, Nigel Fairs’ opener is farce from start to finish as Jago (Christopher Benjamin) encounters a mysterious young man who claims to be Henry Gordon Jago Junior (even though Mr J swears until he’s blue in the face in his own profligate, baroque Victorian lingo that he doesn’t have any offspring). Meanwhile, Professor Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) has caught up with an old flame in archaeologist Professor Jean Bazemore (the wonderfully pompous Rowena Cooper). Prof Bazemore has returned to the British Isles after years away unearthing ancient Egyptian tombs to uncover something infinitely older in London’s catacombs. Jean’s strong anti-establishment character is the opposite of the reserved and chivalrous Litefoot yet they gel brilliantly, even if the former’s more masculine demeanour blindsides both Jago and Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith). Indeed, there are a few LGBT jokes and references that go over the heads of the Victorian characters but will leave a smile on the faces of 21st century listeners!

As for whether the “son” of the title is indeed Jago’s, time will tell. Regardless, there is a wonderful chemistry between Benjamin’s flamboyant, yet reticent and quite unheroic Jago and James Joyce’s Junior whose dialogue just oozes youthful enthusiasm and a hero worship of his father that leaves Jago duly beaming and mortified! There’s even a “bereavement” scene between the two characters that’s touching and humorous! You get the strong impression from Fairs’ writing that the story is only half-concluded and that its premise will be revisited later. Certainly, little to no explanation is given for the abnormalities that the principal characters encounter beneath Professor Bazemore’s dig ...

The second instalment Maurice, written by Matthew Sweet, is a very different “beast” in tone and pace to Jago & Son. The story focuses on French composer, pianist and conductor Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), better known for his composition Boléro, but set some 30 years before that famous piece. Indeed, the musical work that the young Ravel (played by Andy McKeane) works on in this tale - Gaspard de la nuit, which was inspired by the book by French author Aloysius Bertrand, and which premiered in Paris in 1909 – plays a pivotal role in the story. Litefoot finds himself thrust into a macabre fantasy world in which many strange elements of Ravel’s composition seemingly come to life. McKeane impresses as Ravel and the villain, even though his hackneyed French accent can sometimes grate on the listener.

The other interesting aspect of the story is the role of the Doctor in this tale. Although the Time Lord is only mentioned in Maurice, his influence is felt nonetheless. You are reminded of just how much of an impact the Time Lord must have on Earth’s history, even when he’s not particularly interventionist – and how he seemingly attracts danger whenever he appears. Even the simple, unselfish and gracious act of leaving a gift for a friend in the wrong time period can have serious repercussions – both for that friend and other peers in his circle.

We meet two more historical figures in Simon Barnard and Paul Morris’s The Woman in White – the  19th century Shakespearean thespian Sir Henry Irving (played by one-time Doctor Who guest star Edward de Souza) and Irving’s theatre manager Bram Stoker (Jonathan Forbes), the future author of Dracula. Aside from borrowing elements very heavily from Stoker’s famous novel and what is known of the Irving/Stoker partnership, Barnard and Morris’s titular character is also clearly influenced by the 2011 Doctor Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot. De Souza is wonderfully over the top as the intolerant, bewildered Irving while Forbes brings the right level of naivety to the fresh-faced, inexperienced yet effusive Stoker. Special mention should also go to BF alumni Robbie Stevens who again displays versatility as the villainous Mr Manners (Stevens previously impressed as both a crusty British MP and a union shop steward in 2015’s We are the Daleks).

The final instalment Masterpiece brings the investigative duo and publican Ellie (Lisa Bowerman) face to face with the Master himself, played throughout this box set by stalwart Geoffrey Beevers. Beevers’ silky tones, dripping with delicious mischief and menace (butter certainly doesn’t melt in this Time Lord’s mouth!), reinforce why his version of the Master is ideally suited to audio. It’s just a pity that the so-called “masterpiece” of the story is quite underwhelming. Admittedly the Master is in a weakened state (it is very clear by the climax exactly when in the Master’s timeline Masterpiece occurs) but even he would agree that it’s a pretty unambitious plot by his standards. Perhaps the blame should be levelled not so much at the Master as the writer in Justin Richards. Richards seems to have a penchant for delivering “by the numbers” stories that are quite dull, slow-moving and relatively undramatic (his concluding piece for the last series of the Blake’s 7 audio adventures was equally uninspiring, as was his contribution to The Diary of River Song Vol 1). Masterpiece sadly falls into that criteria. Perhaps it’s because Richards is often busy with other projects beyond BF but if that’s the case, then it’s even more reason for him to take a step back and let someone with fresh ideas take on the writing duties.

The performances and production qualities of this Jago & Litefoot box set live up to the bar that Big Finish regularly sets itself. Hearing Benjamin and Baxter’s voices unaltered by the years almost takes you back to their one-off appearance in The Talons of Weng-Chiang a good 40 years ago! Lisa Bowerman also impresses as feisty publican Ellie, a character that has been involved in the revival of the Jago & Litefoot saga since The Mahogany Murderers. Ellie’s cockney East London accent is completely unrecognisable from the more refined, cultured tones of 26th century archaeologist Bernice Summerfield – if you don’t necessarily follow the careers of many of the names that regularly contribute to the BF stable, then you wouldn’t even realise they are both Lisa Bowerman. And to boot, Bowerman also directs this box set as well. Colin Baker’s appearance as the Sixth Doctor is small but as you’d expect of the great man, his performance as “ol’ Sixie” is near perfect and his presence in the boxset’s climactic showdown does not overshadow the true protagonists in Jago and Litefoot.

It’s difficult to compare Vol 11 of Jago & Litefoot to previous or subsequent volumes (this reviewer hasn’t listened to the other box sets) but overall, when compared to BF’s broader Doctor Who-related content, it is highly entertaining. Apart from Masterpiece, the various serials are creative, comedic and even theatrical – not unlike the theatre manager that makes this amateur detective pairing so loved by fans. Vol 11 is both a good introduction to the Jago & Litefoot series (if you’re only familiar with the characters from The Talons of Weng-Chiang) and a great stepping-on point if you haven’t heard any of the other box sets. With 13 lots of adventures under their belts, these wily old dogs aren’t showing any signs of slowing down!



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Released 31 May 2016
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Jago & Litefoot: Volume 11