Jago & Litefoot Series Thirteen

Posted in Audio by - February 08, 2018
Jago & Litefoot Series Thirteen

Released April 2017

Series twelve of Jago & Litefoot seemed to provide a perfect culmination to the duo’s investigations of infernal incidents, revisiting the range’s very beginnings and bringing the main characters closer than ever before as lingering loose ends were addressed and satisfactorily resolved without a traditional cliffhanger ending. Series thirteen proves that there are further stories to tell, however, as a mysterious figure hunts down a renegade and comes upon the eponymous heroes, beginning an adventure that will propel them into wholly unexpected territory.

‘The Stuff of Nightmares’ by Paul Morris proves that even the earliest adventure of Jago and Litefoot, 1977’s ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ still has avenues left to explore as a time agent appears searching for Magnus Greel. Surprisingly but fittingly, Abi Hayes’s Agent Cara is a no-nonsense woman who is committed to uncovering the information so crucial to achieving her aim regardless of the collateral damage incurred, and this obviously presents a distinct contrast to the well-meaning and generally even-tempered investigators that works to great effect once the differing personalities are thrust together because of their common contact with the futuristic foe.

Wisely, however, Morris allows the Time Agent storyline to develop of its own accord while Jago, Litefoot, and Ellie each begin to suffer waking nightmares, Litefoot trapped on his mortuary table with Jago the dissecting pathologist above him, Jago a failure on a theatrical stage managed by Litefoot, and Ellie assuming the mantle of the vampiric Old One using Jago and Litefoot as her most trusted murderous servants. Although just short vignettes, these scenes are immensely visual and powerful and hint at the inner turmoil and fear of the psyches lying just beneath the brave exteriors. Indeed, with the help of Litefoot’s psychiatrist friend, the ostentatious and pretentious Dr Hilary Standish as played by Carolyn Pickles, the discussed possibilities of Litefoot’s morbid fascination with death as Jago cuts away at his dead soul with effervescence and wit as well as of Jago’s sentiment that his mastery of the English language is all that he has come to the forefront and end up offering one of the most intimate character studies this range has offered even when these developments somewhat hidden beneath the more comedic stylings of the psychiatry and hypnotherapy employed to try to elucidate the truth. Of course, Agent Cara plays an unknowingly intimate role in these fear-ridden visions, and although the explanation is somewhat let down by technobabble, the visual method by which events of the recent past and the present are tied together is quite effective and suitably sets the scene for the entrance of Jago and Litefoot into an alternate reality.

The introduction of a parallel world in any franchise instantly allows countless opportunities to explore new aspects of familiar characters when faced with uncertain circumstances and surroundings, and ‘Chapel of Night’ by Jonathan Barnes presents a very familiar London in which Jago and Litefoot find themselves relative unknowns within their familiar circles. Unfortunately, precisely because this version of London is so familiar, a good portion of the narrative comes down to Litefoot pondering silently to himself whether this is truly their world or not as Jago carries on in bewilderment. While it’s intriguing to see a version of Ellie who has no idea who these two are and then a version of Quick who knows Litefoot only as a pathologist who occasionally helps with post mortem examinations, these scenes ultimately serve as padding while the heroes try to catch up to the audience, a precarious scenario for any story and one here that is saved only by the acting prowess of Christopher Benjamin, Trevor Baxter, Lisa Bowerman, and Conrad Asquith.

By dedicating so much time to the uncertainty of the explorers, the titular chapel and the nefarious goings-on within also don’t have the requisite time to fully develop, a grand portion of this plot coming down to Teresa Banham’s Mrs Bartholomew speaking malevolently to homeless people. The fate of Jago’s one-time friend, Toby, brings the intrepid explorers directly into the mystery, and there is a brief moment where Bartholomew’s flaws shine through her exaggerated presence to hint at a more nuanced character, but this ends up being a very generic plotline that manages only to offer glimpses of what it could have been in the standard universe as multiple alternate versions instead begin to collide. Fortunately, Benjamin gives a truly spectacular performance during the climax that puts his earlier fears of faltering on the biggest stage firmly to rest, but relying on performances to save both running storylines is unfamiliar territory for this range that so often fires on all cylinders.

‘How the Other Half Lives’ by Matthew Sweet fully exploits the parallel universe, however, to intricately weave together the storylines of two Jagos and two Litefoots. As it turns out, this is a world where the giant rat from ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ survived in the depths of London’s sewers, and this version of Jago is on the hunt for it to reclaim a place of prestige within society. With his Litefoot counterpart a lonely man who is in the unknowing possession of Magnus Greel’s time cabinet and about to fall victim to con artists, both Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter do exceedingly well to portray these versions as exceedingly familiar but subtly different within their isolated confines that effectively call back to the true heroes’ beginning together and help to flesh out this new London much more thoroughly in the process. With the addition of Lucy Sheen as Jago’s wife, Xiu Xiu, and immense attention to detail with both familiar and novel elements and settings, Sweet manages to imbue an incredible amount of depth to proceedings in a very short period of time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the remaining connection to Greel in this world forms the crux of the storyline, and even without full knowledge of its workings, the characters certainly witness just how powerful the distillation chamber can be even with its original owner long since deceased. As in the previous story this is another situation where the audience knows more than main characters, but the result is so much more effective here because there are dire and known consequences as the plot barrels towards its perilous climax, and the means by which the true Jago and Litefoot find their ways to the cabinet are very effective and bring out the very best of these dear friends who find themselves strangers in this land filled with such subtle unfamiliarities. Fittingly, it’s their knowledge because of their own adventures that proves so vital to at least something of a positive outcome, but it’s the arrival of this world’s own investigators of infernal incidents, Dr Betterman and Aubrey, that provides the momentous segue into the final story.

‘Too Much Reality’ by Justin Richards closes out the set with investigators aplenty as Betterman, Aubrey, Inspector Quick, and both pairs of Jagos and Litefoots join forces to tackle the case of a strange demon and bodies that mysteriously fade away to nothing. With so many familiar faces, this has all the makings of a celebratory finale, but the sheer magnitude of characters gives neither the characters nor the plot any time to fully breathe and develop. Thus, while David Warner and Jamie Newall do admirable work with this worlds’ investigative equivalents of Jago and Litefoot, there is a deficiency of characterization all around that stands in marked contrast to the wonderful character development of the preceding story- both for the leads and supporting cast alike- that makes this feel much more one-dimensional than it should.

Whether a consequence of the expanded roster of characters or not, the plot also becomes quite straightforward, and discovering the truth behind the nefarious Mrs Bartholomew essentially amounts to the investigators simply asking questions and then settling the issue almost completely by chance. The narrative, of course, makes use of the fact that the true Jago and Litefoot are men outside of their own world, but the climax and resolution lack the usual intelligence of the range and serve more as a means to simply allow the duo to move on in their adventures to more worlds unknown. There is still plenty to enjoy in ‘Too Much Reality’ thanks to the charisma of the actors and evocative setting, but this is a story that warrants two parts in and of itself to fully make use of the talents of everyone involved and to provide the astounding finale so clearly intended.

As always, Lisa Bowerman’s direction is magnificent, as is the sound design that especially impresses with multiple Jagos and Litefoots present, and impressively the narrative is always easy to follow no matter the twists it takes through the four instalments. As a celebration of everything has happened to these eponymous characters over their many years together, series thirteen again showcases the mighty camaraderie and charisma of Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter and provides an intriguing if somewhat flawed swansong for series producer David Richardson who has been with the series since the beginning. Unfortunately, with the unfortunate passing of Trevor Baxter in July 2017, it seems unlikely that the cliffhanger ending here will be fully explored, but the intriguing reflective release ‘Jago & Litefoot Forever’ due out in May 2018 has a unique opportunity to provide ultimate closure to this celebrated range and the legacy that it and its beloved leads will forever leave behind.

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