Jago and Litefoot, series 6

It's over a year since I last wrote up any Big Finish audios, but I have been listening to them faithfully all the way through. In retrospect, I crashed and burned with keeping a contemporary at about the time that a) I started the complete New Who rewatch (which I also didn't fully record) and b) Loncon 3 started to eat into my thinking time. Anyway, it's a new year, and I may not catch up immediately with the backlog, but I can at least start logging the audios I listen to in 2014.

The Jago and Litefoot series are tremendously successful. The two central characters featured in only one Old Who story, The Talons of Weng Chiang, which brought Tom Baker and Louise Jameson to Victorian London as the Fourth Doctor and Leela; Jago, a theatre manager, and Litefoot, a pathologist, got swept into the plot (which these days we recognise as racist despite its great moments). Apparently Robert Holmes, the then script editor of Doctor Who, was sufficiently taken with the performances of Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter that he considered a spinoff series in which they would have become a sort of Victorian X-Files, but he never got around to it.

Back in 2009, Big Finish did, as they thought, a one-off audio featuring Benjamin and Baxter in the characters of Jago and Lightfoot, The Mahogany Murderersloved it when it first came out, and so did many other fans, enough to justify BF making Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4, and another series and two specials which I failed to write up at the time.

Now here we are, with Series 6, and Jago and Litefoot back in Victorian London, after, as Douglas Adams put it, a remarkable and unwieldy series of adventures which took them away from home base. Looking back on previous seasons, I note that I have tended to rate the first two stories ahead of the second two, and it is the same here. All four have our two heroes and their sidekick Ellie Higson (played by Lisa Bowerman, who also incidentally directs all four plays) dealing with a sinister Colonel (played by veteran Geoffrey Whitehead) with a variety of other colourful characters.

The Skeleton Quay, by Jonathan Morris, is a jolly good ghost story set in an isolated coastal village, with a striking guest performance by Francesca Hunt, who sounded so much like India Fisher that I had to check the credits to see who it was (and it turns out they are sisters). Return of the Repressed, by Matthew Sweet, is i some ways even better; the plot is a bit incoherent, but bringing Adrian Lukis's Sigmund Freud (quite ahistorically) to London to analyse Jago and deal with peculiar bestial manifestations is a brilliant idea, and great fun to listen to.

Then we step down a gear, I'm afraid. It's no great secret that George Mann isn't my favourite writer, and his Military Intelligence didn't change my view; what is actually a rather promising set-up id then let down by an incoherent ending. I listened to it three times and still wasn't sure what was supposed to have happened. I can't blame Mann entirely; he was presumably given a brief to write to, and the implausibilities of our heroes' travails are therefore not to be laid at his door. The final story, The Trial of George Litefoot by Justin Richards, spends most of its time digging its way out of the plot hole that the previous story left our characters in, but does have a gloriously steampunk climactic scene.

Not to worry. It's very nearly worth it for the first two plays alone, and the good bits of the second half (which very much include the core team's performances) almost make up for the deficiencies. But I wish they had finessed the narrative hook between the third and fourth stories better, and perhaps thought out the details of an admittedly improbable situation with more care.

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