Jago & Litefoot Series Nine

Posted in Audio by - January 31, 2018
Jago & Litefoot Series Nine

Released April 2015

Burdened by the ramifications of their actions while under the malevolent influence of the Darkling Façade, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot decide to embark upon a cruise to distance themselves from the emotions and pressures of their investigations, visiting the sea and abroad and coming upon altogether new threats along the way.

Jonathan Morris opens the ninth series of Jago and Litefoot with ‘The Flying Frenchmen’ in which the eponymous heroes board the Fata Morgana for their fateful journey abroad. What initially seems like a comfortable character piece as the crew and passengers are introduced in short order- including an engaging turn from Sarah Badel as the widowed Lady Isobel Danvers who seemingly has quite overt designs on both heroes- quickly turns much more sinister as a thick fog descends upon the ship and the clocks and engines suddenly stop working. With time running at a faster rate within the fog than without, though, the mayhem and intrigue only intensify once a duplicate ship arrives that appears derelict but for a pile of bones and a yellowing copy of Captain Mercer’s log that hints at what will- or at the very least what may- occur. This marking only the beginning of a quick succession of Fata Morgana copies arriving from different timelines that have converged upon this spot, ‘The Flying Frenchmen’ quickly turns into a superb mixture of the absurd and the dangerous that puts a unique and heightened spin on the typical jeopardy of this range.

The story does take a little bit of time to get going and ultimately does feature some rather interesting attempts at a variety of accents from Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter, but the end result is a strong standalone release that features a gripping atmosphere and also provides a suitable introduction to the expanded cast of supporting characters, of whom the ship’s purser, Aubrey, as played by Jamie Newell will seem to have an especially prominent role. Culminating with a surprisingly poignant discussion on the implicit right to life and how one’s own viewpoint can skew perceptions while also intimating at a mysterious passenger who has strangely confined himself to quarters and who just may be related to a mutilated body found back at home in the Thames, plenty of intriguing characters and threads are put in place before the ship escapes the fog and lands at Monte Carlo.

Arriving at Monte Carlo, Jago is keen to try his luck at the casino in ‘The Devil’s Dicemen’ by Justin Richards. When Litefoot decides to cut his modest losses and comes upon fellow academic Dr Luke Betterman, Jago continues testing his luck alongside Aubrey, and the two soon find themselves invited to the prestigious and secretive Dark Casino where only the highest-echelon guests are welcome. The grand tradition of splitting heroes up here works wonderfully and plays to both heroes’ strengths expertly, Litefoot’s intuitive and knowledgeable side shining as a mysteriously marked body by the nearby cliffs manifests and Jago’s more prideful and impetuous side breaking forth when an uncanny lucky streak strikes. Unsurprisingly, the ominously-titled Dark Casino is more than simply an exclusive gambling den, and Miranda Raison as Madame Diabolique is deftly able to make both Jago and Aubrey believe that they are the sole guests of honour during this chance to win riches beyond their wildest dreams. Yet when Jago breaks the bank and finds that his soul is the promised price of victory, he soon seems certain to join the long list of unfortunate souls who have mysteriously left this mortal coil after signing away their worldly possessions.

As immensely engaging as Jago’s gambling feats are, ‘The Devil’s Dicemen’ is all the more engaging thanks to the more cerebral work of Litefoot and Betterman that Trevor Baxter and David Warner bring to life with an immense camaraderie and chemistry. The two are naturals alongside each other and expertly bring the needed pathos to the cliffside mystery that inevitably leads directly to the Dark Casino by another route, even if they wrongfully begin to suspect each other as a criminal mastermind with ties to the London base of this scheme along the way. Continuing the perfect duality of the heroes’ split, however, it’s Jago’s professional background that fittingly and humorously provides the means by which a happy resolution can occur after Litefoot and Betterman discover the far-reaching scope of the nefarious financial scheme at play. With an immense paired atmosphere of danger and an intriguing mystery that becomes much more human in its execution as it is revealed, ‘The Devil’s Dicemen’ is a powerfully engaging piece that unabashedly shows both the strengths and flaws of its heroes and main supporting cast while once more bringing an element of home close to the traveling duo.

‘Island of Death’ by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris finds the Fata Morgana in need of repairs when arriving at a mysterious island near Sumatra. With nothing to do and time to spare while repairs are underway, a small group of the ship’s passengers head off to explore the jungle before them with intentions of having a nice picnic lunch along the way. Quickly discovering evidence of a missing expedition, though, they soon uncover the seeming existence of a godlike creature that recent events have brought back to the fore and whose existence is not quite so unknown as initially believed. The title of the story makes no secret of the fact that this is a dangerous locale, and Sarah Badel as Lady Danvers steps admirably into the spotlight and expertly gives voice to the mystery at hand- alongside the lost expedition’s captain’s log- as deeper layers continue to be revealed. The very human notions of capitalism and greed seemingly being responsible for the emergence of this being is a timeless theme, and the rather uncanny thought of a cult of one hoping to grow in numbers adds an intriguing element that retrospectively develops certain actions and motivations.

The mystery of the vast jungle is befitting of the many classic adventure stories of the time, and the swaths of foliage and eventual darker locales spring to life expertly with an immense atmosphere. The fate of Lady Danvers also allows a much more nuanced and softer side of Jago to come forth without ever becoming too sentimental, and Christopher Benjamin subtly alters his delivery to imbue an immense amount of caring and emotion to his words as the story unfolds and Danvers’s situation becomes ever more perilous. After Jago displays tricks of the trade he picked up from Harry Hypno to play a superbly proactive role in the resolution, the prospect of these two formalizing their deeper bond seems natural even if Jago manages to deftly avoid any meaningful commitment, but the arrival of a telegram from London stating the apparent connection between a mutilated body from the Fata Morgana’s manifest and the mutilated body from the Thames is sure to test everyone’s resolve in this set’s finale.

Justin Richards closes out the ninth series with ‘Return of the Nightmare’ and a killer at loose upon the Fata Morgana. Tying in with the more exotic locales of this series, a mysterious machine that looks like a phonograph leads to a surprisingly lengthy but wholly evocative backstory involving a previous expedition fronted by current passengers Fowler and his now-deceased scientific associate. Having unleashed a curse when stealing a silver artefact from an uncharted island’s primitive tribe three years ago that resulted in the death so many of that voyage’s crew and the persistent pursuit of the remaining survivors across the globe since, the two have spent all of their resources to craft a means of creating the strange fog that initially engulfed them to hopefully take them back to the island to return the artefact. Aside from the rather dubious position this put all of the passengers of the Fata Morgana in as their fog experiments went awry, it seems that that the beast is likewise able to traverse the fog and suddenly puts all of London at risk as the experiment from Jago and Litefoot unexpectedly returns them home.

It would have been strangely disappointing for Jago and Litefoot to have a quiet voyage home after conquering another mystery afar, and bringing London and the atmospheric and familiar confines of London and the Red Tavern back into the fold is a masterful decision to end this more expansive set. As Fowler disappears seemingly to lead the beast away from the ship, Litefoot begins to ponder if perhaps Fowler may be the beast himself since they have never seen the beast nor the actual killings and whether Aubrey who is with him is captive or perhaps accomplice. Yet as the tense mystery unfolds and the truth is revealed with the Red Tavern unexpectedly selected as the site of the final confrontation once the patrons are evacuated, both show their true colours in an emotional and riveting scene in which failure seems to be an increasingly likely outcome, and Jonathan Coy and Jamie Newall deliver enthralling performances from beginning to end. This frightful element brings Ellie and Quick into the climactic action expertly alongside the ever-brave heroes and neatly leads into the upcoming tenth series as Jago and Litefoot seem set to become biographed figures thanks to their enduring exploits.

Jago and Litefoot have traveled to the past, to the future, and even to another planet, but traveling abroad within the confines of the Victorian era opens up a whole host of new but familiar settings and conflicts for the intrepid explorers, and the brief snippet afforded here creates one of the most balanced and enjoyable sets yet that seamlessly maintains the usual stellar atmosphere, direction, sound design, and camaraderie that has made this series so successful from the start.

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