Jago & Litefoot Series Eleven

Posted in Audio by - February 04, 2018
Jago & Litefoot Series Eleven

Released April 2016

Following an incredible tenth series that effortlessly combined nostalgia and innovation, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot once more find themselves embroiled in mysterious events occurring throughout Victorian London, this time coming into contact with famed celebrities as well as Geoffrey Beevers’ enigmatic Master and Colin Baker’s garrulous Sixth Doctor along the way.

‘Jago & Son’ by Nigel Fairs proves from the start that this eleventh series will not be afraid to shift the dynamic and usual angles of exploration of the leads. The title quite explicitly suggests its primary focus, and James Joyce plays Henry Gordon Jago, Jr, a boy Jago does not know exists from a mother he cannot remember, as an incorrigible and devoted son who has heard so much about the daring exploits of his father and who is ready to ally with his hero when a personal tragedy befalls him and his mother is kidnapped. The suggestion of what this boy and his mother have been through is quite impressive in its scope, and Christopher Benjamin and Joyce have an innate chemistry that allows for some of the smaller moments between the characters to really hit home before they uncover a Satanic cult fixated on sacrifice and resurrection.

Even more effective than the titular son is the introduction of Rowena Cooper as Litefoot’s old archaeological acquaintance, Jean Bazemore, an incredibly intelligent and surprisingly modern woman who knows that she is a paragon for women’s rights and abilities in this time. Trevor Baxter and Cooper likewise share an immense chemistry together that offers a unique hint about Litefoot’s past and character, and the resulting exploration of the underground caverns as her London dig competes against the railroad company dovetails nicely with Jago’s own explorations when the new iteration of the Hellfire Club and the mysterious creatures now at hand come to the forefront. The plot, by necessity, relies on a matter of coincidence and convenience to get both leads involved in the main narrative, but this is a story where the sterling characterisation, interactions, and suggestions of elements of the past are fairly successfully able to bridge those liberties taken. Nonetheless, it is a bit strange that the initial importance placed upon the question of whether Jago’s son is truly his son becomes almost insubstantial by the time of settling the matter, and the rather incomplete ending with lingering elements of the plot dropped completel after the main threat is vanquished is an odd note on which to end a story in this usually detail-oriented franchise.

Litefoot quickly befriends the young French composer Maurice Ravel and heads to his house for supper in the aptly-titled ‘Maurice’ by Matthew Sweet. The setup seems simple, but the payoff after separately introducing a frail and masked Master walking through the streets of London while learning of this location and maintaining his mesmeric influence is anything but. Upon taking an interest in Ravel’s intriguing timepieces, Litefoot finds himself on a very surreal personal journey filled with immensely visual imagery, some derived from the works of French poet Aloysius Bertrand who was a true source of inspiration for Ravel. With an ominous presence seemingly beneath Ravel’s terrarium, this strange sequence will undoubtedly be a bit too eccentric for some, but what is impossible to fault is Trevor Baxter’s immense performance as his character that both Sweet and he know so intimately confronts these heightened circumstances.

An intriguing competition of sorts is brewing between the Master and another shape-shifter in ‘Maurice,’ and the resulting confusion stemming from the mysterious appearances of Ravel is played mostly to good effect while giving both Jago and Ellie a direct entry into the search for the missing Litefoot, the latter grounding the more enthusiastic and emotional deductive assumptions of the former wonderfully. Although the resolution is bit rushed compared to the immensely evocative journey setting it up, the extended coda in which the Master’s menace is more overtly revealed as he darkly parts ways with his colleague presents a fascinating tease of what is yet to come, a scene which Geoffrey Beevers’s velvety menace shines. As beguiling as ‘Maurice’ is as a whole, though, Maurice Ravel himself does seem somewhat underutilised in what amounts to a historical celebrity encounter, intricately offering subtle suggestions of where his inspiration came from through the surreal elements but not necessarily highlighting the actual person enough from a more literal characterisation standpoint.

‘The Woman in White’ brings Jago and Litefoot into contact with two historical celebrities, the acclaimed but faltering actor Henry Irving and his theatre manager with dreams of literary fame Bram Stoker. It’s always difficult for the guest performers to stand out given the innate charisma of Benjamin and Baxter, but Edward de Souza gives an incredibly evocative performance that highlights the nuanced struggle of a man who is steadfastly unable to accept the fact that he is struggling with his best days possibly behind him, and Jonathan Forbes manages in his portrayal of Stoker to bring out the mixture of confusion, fear, and brilliance of a man who is out of his depth here but who also would go on to create one of the most enduring literary characters of the time. Like the first story of this set, this is thus another tale that relies on a previously-unknown acquaintance to drive the narrative forward before Litefoot’s path intersects with the supposedly cursed theatre as he follows his own investigations into an inexplicably desiccated corpse and the hermetic order to which the living man belonged, but the information gleaned by each man helps to flesh out the mystery successfully.

Unsurprisingly, the events of ‘The Woman in White’ are meant to serve as loose inspiration for Stoker’s most celebrated work, and it makes sense that the very visceral threat carries a little bit more of a traditional science fiction element to it than the more Earthbound threats that typically pervade the series. Still, the mounting deaths, the dark catacombs, the ghostly figure, and the beings who seem to suck the life out of those they contact while inexorably changing them come to life perfectly within the heightened atmosphere of this Victorian London. At the same time, the solution is wonderfully appropriate for the sensibilities and knowledge of the investigators themselves and relies on pure cunning and logic rather than technobabble or luck to bring alien and Earthly together seamlessly. ‘The Woman in White’ may not do anything revolutionary, but it’s a complete and satisfying tale that makes the most of all of its cast and haunting environments and scenes to create the slickest entry of the set.

Justin Richards closes out this eleventh series with ‘Mastermind’ as the Master finally steps out of the shadows with his diabolical plan nearing completion. By the Master’s standards, his plan to cause Jago and Litefoot suffering and distress to lure the Doctor to their side so that he can steal the Doctor’s artron energy to repair his decaying form instead of continuing to rely on the quick fixes human bodies give him is fairly simplistic and straightforward, but it does suggest just how much attention the Master pays the Doctor to understand both where he is likely to show up and how to manipulate him for his own advantage. Unfortunately, as intriguing as the mirrored threat to the vitality of Jago and Litefoot is, its realisation may be a bit too cinematic since on audio it comes across simply as a series of yawns and proclamations of just how tired and forgetful the eponymous heroes are becoming. As such, it’s difficult to fully empathise with a condition that is known to be worsening when the same descriptors are used to varying degrees throughout the story.

The cover for this box set makes no secret of the fact that both the Master and the Sixth Doctor appear, but it’s quite surprising just how long the proper appearance of the Doctor is withheld. On the one hand, this allows the deadly mystery and the Master’s intrinsically personal threat to Jago and Litefoot to develop slowly and naturally as stage hypnotist Madame Sosostris and her assistant Mr Nocturne ally with Ellie alongside the weakening investigators to explore, but it also means that the denouement is quite rushed with the Doctor quickly putting everything back in order. Fortunately, although the Master comes off as somewhat foolish for not picking up on the Doctor’s rather overt hints about what he has done to foil his plans, he does at least manage to outthink the Doctor in one aspect as he powers up his TARDIS enough to escape to fight again another day. Still, it is quite intriguing to note just how atypically furtive the normally bombastic Sixth Doctor’s actions are until the very end given the circumstances surrounding his arrival. Unfortunately, as incredible as the performances from Colin Baker, Geoffrey Beevers, Christopher Benjamin, Trevor Baxter, Lisa Bowerman, and Conrad Asquith are, ‘Mastermind’ doesn’t quite manage to live up to the expectations that its guest cast brings with it, ending a somewhat uneven series on a serviceable but surprisingly unremarkable note before the return of Ellie’s vampiric nature leads into series twelve.

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