Jago & Litefoot Series Two

Posted in Website by - January 10, 2018
Jago & Litefoot Series Two

Released January 2011

While Big Finish has proven time and again that characters from the Doctor Who universe can star in thrilling adventures on their own merit without the necessity of the Doctor’s presence and power, the first series of Jago and Litefoot proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the success of The Companion Chronicles instalment ‘The Mahogany Murderers’ was anything but a fluke and that Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter had the implicit and dynamic chemistry needed to anchor their own series within the confines of a more supernatural-leaning Victorian era.

The second series opens with Justin Richards’s ‘Litefoot and Sanders’ whereupon Professor Litefoot has taken it upon himself to protect Jago after his torment from recent experiences, choosing not to tell his friend about a recent spate of murders in which young women have had their blood sucked dry and to instead turn to his colleague Gabriel Sanders for assistance. Much is rightly made about the smog and fog of pea-soupers in Victorian London, but Richard deftly uses that famed characteristic as a character in its own right, obscuring the views of would-be witnesses, allowing the constant prospect of danger to lurk just metres away, and providing a constant refuge even in the daytime to the suspected vampiric creature stalking the streets. Litefoot’s decision to tackle this case without Jago certainly strains their relationship even as he comes to explain his reasons for doing so, but the unsurprising revelation of Sanders as the vampire unquestionably allows for the strengths and foibles of both leads to take centre stage and to proudly reaffirm their friendship as the two once more confront death but emerge victorious thanks to forward thinking from the unlikeliest of sources.

The first series hit the ground running with stellar atmosphere and characterization, and those easily remain the trademark facets of this opening installment of the second. Jago’s comedic bluster is as present as always, but Richards delves into the more emotional side of the character as he tries to understand why he has been lied to and left behind and then to come to terms with Litefoot’s characterisation of him as a simple amateur who is out of his depth and who suffers from delusions of grandeur. The series has so far shied away from any truly tense moments between these two, and this exchange is performed spectacularly by both leads to create an anxious sense of uneasiness for the duo going forward. Of course, Litefoot has known from the start that Sanders is the vampire and has been trying to draw him into the open by making him feel needed, all the while protecting Jago from his dangerous exploits. It’s quite fitting, then, that Litefoot underestimates Sanders’s abilities and finds himself cornered when his trap fails, brilliantly allowing the shrewdness of Jago to shine through and to save the day, reaffirming the strength that the duo has together and showcasing a trusting relationship of which even Sanders is envious. With a truly distressing final twist involving Ellie, ‘Litefoot and Sanders’ is a foreboding, atmospheric entry that brings out the best in all of its characters and sets a strong precedent for the stories to follow.

Following Ellie’s murder at the hands of Gabriel Sanders, she is set to make her journey to the pauper’s graveyard at Charnel’s End in Mark Morris’s ‘The Necropolis Express.’ Delving into the mythology of vampires a bit more deeply, it is stated that those who are completely sucked dry of blood by a vampire remain dead but that those with even one drop of blood remaining are taken over by the vampiric virus to become like Sanders. Making the most of the desolation of the distinct class structure in Victorian society, Morris reveals that the corpses of penniless paupers are thrown atop each other in the graveyard, making for a more mortifying experience as Jago and Litefoot return to familiar ground within a graveyard to look through each coffin for Ellie’s body. The introduction of Vernon Dobtcheff’s Reuben Mord as a figure from Litefoot’s past who was stricken off the medical register because of his unseemly experiments with corpses is handled naturally and effectively, and Crow’s well-stocked laboratory beneath the graveyard in which he hopes to find a way of reanimating the dead to ensure the everlasting power of the Empire evocatively and fearfully comes to life. Funded by Sanders who is not as dead as Jago and Litefoot were led to believe, Crow has found that a body reanimated soon enough after death can be revived with no trace of any previous malady, but Ellie’s revival as a blood-hungry savage painfully alters the dynamic of the story and quite potentially of the series very effectively.

‘The Necropolis Express’ is far more macabre than any story in this range so far, and the excellent production values and direction bring that element to the forefront wonderfully. The introduction of Mord allows for an element of Litefoot’s past to be incorporated to further round out this upstanding citizen, and both Jago and Litefoot trying to stifle the resulting discomfort caused by their ghoulish surroundings on the Necropolis Express, in the graveyard, and in the laboratory showcases the distinctive flare and unique attributes that these two normal citizens possess when thrust into wholly abnormal situations. Unfortunately, while Lisa Bowerman is fantastic as Ellie arises and slowly begins her transition back to a normal life while still retaining the bloodlust of a vampire, Ellie’s attempts to understand and rationalise what has happened to her are rather rushed and miss some needed character exploration given just how substantive the change she has undergone truly was. Indeed, there is such a wealth of ideas on display that this one story could have easily been expanded to two to more fully focus on Ellie as well as the nefarious experiments; as it is, though, ‘The Necropolis Express’ is still a very visceral and visual story that shows Sanders’s expanded involvement in the darker side of society while serving as a portent for more ominous things to come.

Jonathan Morris’s ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ takes a step into the more surreal as Jago and Litefoot unwittingly star in Madame Deuteronomy’s eponymous show upon Jago’s stage, one that proves its claims are no mere false boasts when it reveals the love between a male servant and his male master. Following brief scenes in which Ellie discusses how easy it would be give in to her animal instinct when she senses that Litefoot cut himself shaving that morning and in which Sacker fortuitously spills his drink to reveal the New Regency Theatre as the centre of a recent spate of seemingly random killings, Jago and Litefoot quickly find themselves showered by good fortune as they come to defeat the evil troupe in short order. Litefoot finds that he is able to cure Ellie of her condition, Jago is offered a permanent job at the New Regency, and Madame Deuteronomy is faced with a trial, but this is all window dressing to hide the greater evil yet undiscovered. As the Theatre is revealed to be a creature feeding upon the bevy of souls that London has to offer, the dreams turn to nightmares as Ellie accepts her vampiric fate and begs to be killed and gargoyles come to life to join in the murders. Naturally, the two discover that this horrifying reality is, in fact, another illusion and that they must break through the theatrical fourth wall to escape this torment once and for all, but the breadth of emotions shown in such a short period of time is truly impressive.

The theatrical nature of this release is brought to life immeasurably well, and the continual twists that the final half of the story present always create a sense of tension and mystery where the known and unknown are anything but clearly delineated. The central conceit of exploring dreams and otherwise unsaid thoughts showcases rather amusingly the more self-centred nature of Jago compared to the more altruistic nature of Litefoot, though of course the duo’s views unite when the prospect of a malevolent force overtaking London is revealed in full. While by itself ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ sadly does not tie implicitly into the overreaching story arc, it remains a truly superb piece of character drama that explores the inner workings of the very human leads wonderfully and toys with expectations and assumptions until the very end, a standout standalone tale that makes the most of its shifting tone and atmosphere and that perfectly brings the different worlds of Jago and Litefoot together in a familiarly unfamiliar locale.

Andy Lane’s ‘The Ruthven Inheritance’ opens with both Jago and Litefoot on the verge of ruin, Jago choosing to quickly sell the New Regency Theatre because of dismal ticket sales due to recent murders that have kept patrons at home and Litefoot finding himself without options as he is stripped of his positions with the police and university because of rumours circulating about the nature of Ellie furtively staying on his premises. Fortunately, Litefoot is offered a temporary reprieve when Lord Ruthven calls upon his pathology skills to catalogue a cache of bones found beneath his country estate and to determine a possible relation to himself. Strangely, the uncovered necropolis shows that the Ruthven line has been evolving from human to something much more than human, the brains becoming larger and the bones and muscles becoming several times stronger than the average specimen. As it turns out, the great vampire Sanders has been guiding the evolution of the Ruthven line for centuries, accentuating the darker aspects he so desires and culling the failures in order to craft the perfect weapon for his means. Having subtly but effectively humiliated both Jago and Litefoot, Sanders plans to torment and kill both of his pursuers, and Doctor Sacker who had accompanied Litefoot proves to be an unfortunate victim before Ellie and her increased senses allow her to escape Sanders’ hold to save her friend. Once more proving that the more direct approach has its merits once he pieces together the puzzle from his own angle, Jago is able to release a chandelier that then crushes Sanders, an action that should hopefully break his influence on Ellie permanently.

All of the writers involved clearly have a firm grasp on the characters of Jago and Litefoot, a testament to Robert Holmes’ skill and vision so wondrously realised in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang,’ but Andy Lane seems to have a more intimate grasp on the two that is only further exemplified as he shows how they react to having the entirety of their worlds and reputations stripped down to nothing. Rightly so, however, the two are able to put their hurt pride aside and focus on the greater mystery before them, proving that these larger-than-life characters are ultimately the very beacon of hope that this gothic and troubled representation of London needs. With the second set even slightly stronger as a complete series than the first, Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter continue to have such an immense rapport that the two intrepid explorers spring vividly to life and create an ever-engaging experience, and it’s clear even before Leela’s surprising appearance at the end that brings with it warnings of impending doom that this will be a flourishing audio range that continues to offer excellent thrills and character drama for a long time to come.

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