Saturday, 30 April 2016

Jago & Litefoot Series 11

There are some releases that I count as a treat. I have made no secret that Jago & Litefoot is my favourite of all the Big Finish ranges, there is just something special about them – the banter between Jago & Litefoot, the beautiful characterisation, the abundant alliterative articulation of Mr Jago, the cool calm and collected Professor Litefoot, the dialogue between the two and their co stars Ellie Higson (Lisa Bowerman) & Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith) I am immensely fond of them all and it is a testament to the writing that I can imagine their lives when they are not having the adventures that we hear. It is amazing that a couple of characters that appeared in a single TV story back in 1977 have now notched up 11 series of their own as well as appearances in Companion Chronicles, 4th Doctor Adventures, The Worlds of Doctor Who Box Set and Colin Baker’s swan-song box set – and 11 series in the quality has not let up, not one little bit, in fact these once guest stars in Doctor Who now have The Doctor (Colin Baker) and his arch enemy The Master (Geoffrey Beevers) as guest stars in their series.
 But what exactly is The Master doing in Victorian Britain, what does this mean for Jago & Litefoot & how is The Doctor involved in proceedings, well dear reader, read on & I will try to enlighten you. Series 10 ended on a cliffhanger (as J & L Box sets do) to tease us about Series 11, this particular cliffhanger made my blood run cold, it involved Inspector Quick encountering the emaciated form of The Master and being taken over by him – Six LOOOOONG months later the story continues and we encounter satanic cults, a surreal world constructed from poetry, alien Vampires, hypnotism and a desperate Master who will go to any lengths to revitalise himself – so without further ado lets have a look at the stories:
 1. Jago and Son by Nigel Fairs
 People are going missing, seems like business as usual for Jago & Litefoot but their investigations lead them to a Satanic Cult based on the seemingly defunct Hellfire Club. Investigating from two different angles, Litefoot teams up with his old archaeologist friend Jean Bazemore (Rowena Cooper) whilst Henry Jago is joined in his investigation by his hitherto unseen and unknown son – Henry Gordon Jago Jnr (James Joyce), but is all as it seems, is Jago’s son all that he seems and what connection do he and his Mother have to the Hellfire Club? A blistering start to the box set with bluff and counter bluff and the “is he, isn’t he” mystery of Henry Jago Jnr played out throughout the episode – added to this is the mystery of The Master and the reason he has appeared in Jago & Litefoot’s world and his continuing and deepening control over Inspector Quick. Almost stealing the show though is Rowena Cooper as Jean Bazemore, a superb addition to the J & L canon and a remarkable female foil to the usually unflappable Professor Litefoot. I really hope we hear more from her in upcoming series.
 2. Maurice by Matthew Sweet
 This is a very odd episode. Strange, surreal and quite disturbing. Professor Litefoot meets and befriends Maurice Ravel (Andy McKeane), when Litefoot joins Maurice for dinner at his apartment he finds himself transported to a world constructed from a surreal nightmare poem (literally) where he finds another Maurice who claims that the Maurice that Litefoot has met is an imposter. Confused? you will be. The plotting is intricate, it all makes perfect (if odd) sense – its one of those stories you have to just go with and not try to second guess events because believe me you never will. Imagine if the world of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll invaded the world of Jago & Litefoot and you will get some sort of idea of the ambiance of the story – not to everyones taste, but for me the highlight of a very high quality box set.
 3. The Woman in White by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris
 Doctor Who does it so why not Jago & Litefoot – I am talking about the “celebrity historical”, except for Jago & Litefoot it should be renamed the “celebrity contemporary” as this story features not one but TWO celebrities of the Victorian era – Bram Stoker (Jonathan Forbes) & Sir Henry Irving (Edward De Souza) who join our heroes in a tale of ghosts, Vampires (what else) and a sinking theatre. This story works on several levels – as a pure adventure it is fast paced, full of danger and excitement and  also as a very witty pieced of writing about Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula – characters called Harker, Wilhelmina and a very Renfield like performance from Henry Irving all add layers of colour and humour to the proceedings. This episode also has The Master’s plan coming to fruition….
 4. Masterpiece by Justin Richards
 The Master is literally draining the life from Jago & Litefoot, he has manipulated them through their friends Ellie & Inspector Quick to become so desperate that they call The Doctor for help because The Master needs the Doctor, he needs his Artron Energy to revitalise his desiccated body, but The Doctor has not heeded Henry & George’s summons and the situation is getting worse. A slow burner of a finale, it is worrying to hear our heroes slowly have their life drained away and not being able to do anything about it – they have never been this debilitated before or so desperate – this is a real heart in the mouth, edge of the seat finale that builds slowly to a crescendo. And as always we get a cliffhanger to next series to round off the set.
 Geoffrey Beevers’ Master fits in exceptionally well to J & L world – he is a well rounded take on the Doctor’s arch enemy and most definitely not an “arch” arch enemy, he is all oily charm and desperate manipulation, he seems to be held together purely by the force of his will. His manipulation and use for his own ends of Inspector Quick and latterly of Ellie Higson & his cruel draining of Jago & Litefoot purely to get The Doctor’s attention is cold and cruel even by his standards, it is made even more offensive because Jago, Litefoot, Ellie and Quick feel like family and any affront to them is an affront to the sensibilities of the listener – the characters are really that relatable and beloved
Another exceptional box set, but as this is a Jago & Litefoot Box set did you expect any less? A bold experiment bringing in a major Doctor Who villain as the “big bad” in to another series, but the Beevers Master fits in just perfectly to the gas lit fog strewn Victorian soundscape. As Jago may say “a memorable melange of masterful machinations” and as I may say, actually I will say this set is heavy in Victorian Values & I value this set at 10/10.