The Mahogany Murderers

Posted in Audio by - March 07, 2019
The Mahogany Murderers

Released May 2009

Given the undisputed success with which the early installments of The Companion Chronicles delved into the earlier eras of Doctor Who that Big Finish could not bring to life with an authentic full cast, it’s no surprise that the company looked to expand upon its format with experiments such as giving Sara Kingdom a voice once more and using Ace as a medium through which to explore a character integral to a concurrent Fifth Doctor trilogy. Andy Lane goes one step further in ‘The Mahogany Murderers’ by eliminating the Doctor and his companions altogether and thrusting the immensely captivating duo of Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago from ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ directly into the middle of a deadly scheme that only they can stop.

Jago and Litefoot have proven to be two of the most enduring and endearing supporting characters in the franchise’s long history, having once been considered for a spin-off series of their own. With over thirty years passed since their lone adventure on screen, Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter pick up as if no time has passed at all, their obvious rapport and irrefutable charisma capturing the pride, bravery, anxiety, and charm of their respective theatrical impresario and forensic pathologist perfectly. As the two friends recount their distinct portions of an interlinked tale over drinks with plenty of congenial interruptions and questions to ensure the progression of the narrative is always clear while further defining the nuances of the speakers, the writing and performances are genuinely engrossing and leave no doubt about just how deep their camaraderie runs, particular highlights being Jago sternly telling Litefoot to leave doing voices to the professionals such as himself and Jago begrudgingly admitting that Litefoot’s own cliffhanger was superior to his own. As Jago ostentatiously adds flourish to his narrative while Litefoot remains steadfastly more objective and straightforward with his own by choosing the perfect words to heighten the menace, rarely have two such immense personalities come to life so vividly and quickly.

Although this can hardly be seen as a true criticism, the focus on the leads and the immense visuals employed to develop the Victorian setting does mean that the true plot itself is fairly clear-cut and uncomplicated. Little detail is afforded to explain the mechanics behind the mysterious Dr Tulp’s scheme to transfer the consciousnesses of criminals into wooden mannequins, and there’s never really any doubt as to how this whole sordid affair will end given the items and means at the investigators’ hands. Fortunately, even with the characters admittedly treading the same ground on occasion to fill the running time, the fact that this is a less robust plot than usual never becomes a glaring issue at any point during the production, a testament to the superb writing and performances on display. Without question, it’s clear even from this individual story just how and why Jago & Litefoot would go on to become one of Big Finish’s most enduring audio ranges since the foundations for this world and its exaggerated yet grounded characters are all perfectly in place even without the most in-depth exploration. ‘The Mahogany Murderers’ may not offer the fully self-contained story that other entries in this range have offered since ongoing adventures were practically writing themselves as this one unfolded, but it’s telling that it’s truly difficult to imagine The Companion Chronicles offering a more totally engrossing and enjoyable tale given the interplay of the two leads.

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