Jago & Litefoot Series Fourteen (Audiobook)

Posted in Audio by - July 06, 2021
Jago & Litefoot Series Fourteen (Audiobook)

Released June 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

From their sterling reintroduction in 2009’s ‘The Mahogany Murderers’ through thirteen series of adventures and multiple appearances besides, Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter instantly and continually brought forth an immense shared chemistry and energy that propelled Jago & Litefoot to the pantheon of Big Finish’s offerings. However, when Baxter tragically passed away in July of 2017, it seemed as though the bright light of that talent and of Professor George Litefoot would only remain a happy memory following the fitting tribute of Jago & Litefoot Forever that used archival recordings to bring about a sense of closure to the long-standing series that had otherwise ended on a cliffhanger. Now, some four years later, the scripts of the abandoned series fourteen have been adapted to an audiobook format to once more bring to life those famed infernal investigators.

Adapted by Paul Morris from a script by Paul Morris and Simon Barnard and narrated by Jamie Newall who played Aubrey in earlier adventures, ‘The Red Hand’ opens series fourteen as Jago and Litefoot return home from a parallel world. However, with a strange mechanical airship above and a golden hue in the air around them, neither of which anyone else seems able to see, it’s clear that things are not quite as they left them. Worse yet, Inspector Quick and Ellie also seem to have turned against them, and with overt warnings to trust nobody and furtive messages to resist, the two inspectors quickly find themselves at odds with this society that is so boldly fronted by a new and terrifying chief inspector. A shadowy organization known only as the Red Hand is their only hope of uncovering the truth behind the dark and paranoid changes to their world that have come to manifest during their absence, and plenty of references to past adventures firmly entrench this newest adventure with the duo’s previous exploits to once more develop and expand the rich and cohesive tapestry of this Victorian setting that is so familiar and yet so distinct. Newall is a strong narrator that proves surprisingly adept at capturing the stylings of Benjamin and Baxter without ever attempting to do straight impersonations, and the pair’s individual yet complementary intelligence, pride, shrewdness, and compassion shine through brilliantly as an occupation far more expansive than they could have imagined begins to reveal itself. Naturally, the transition from full-cast drama to the audiobook format necessitates the inclusion of much more detail to get across what dialogue otherwise would have achieved, but Morris is able to maintain a good sense of pace as the intrigue continues to escalate, incorporating plenty of humour- Jago’s pride in his theatre’s new toilets a particular highlight with immense payoff- and gravitas along the way to remind listeners of the genuine power this range continues to hold while developing an automaton-laden mystery that remains out of the public eye and the burgeoning resistance trying to rise up and fight back against it.

‘The Laughing Policeman’ by Jonathan Barnes, adapted by Julian Richards, and narrated by Duncan Wisbey who played Detective Sergeant Sacker among other roles in earlier instalments takes something of a step away from the core mystery of this world to reveal the tangential exploits of Inspector Gilhooey to light. Utilizing the first-person perspective is quite rare for this range, yet it proves to be the perfect means of developing this man who spent his life dealing with mundane crimes before suddenly being tasked with rooting out enemies of the state. His investigations have led him to Temperance Hall and the seditious speeches of the Cotterill siblings, but he soon finds two more traitors in the crowd that prove to be a conduit to something far more mysterious and nefarious than he has ever encountered. This is a story that would be quite interesting to hear in its originally-intended format give the immense amount of internal monologue and characterization that the audiobook format demands which proves to be so critical to making Gilhooey a thoroughly well-rounded character that can be understood and empathized with, and Wisbey brilliantly evokes a range of emotions to drive forth the Inspector’s steadfast certainty that slowly gives way to exasperation and bewilderment without ever reducing him to something less than he should be. Indeed, the mysterious blackouts Gilhooey experiences are used to strong effect, and the incorporation of the parallel detective work of Jago and Litefoot represents a strong dovetailing as a mysterious home in which names seem to be nonexistent comes to feature. The ultimate resolution is somewhat predictable, but an engaging science fiction component fueling the underlying mystery creates an atmospheric experience that expertly emphasizes the strengths of its leads. Wisbey isn’t quite as strong with the intonations of Jago and Litefoot as Newall was in the previous story, but the unique format that so brilliantly fleshes out Gilhooey and the distinct core mystery provides another strong outing for the infernal investigators who continue to find their way in this strange new world that is still filled with so much unknown.

Adapted by Paul Morris from his own script and narrated by Lisa Bowerman who famously portrayed barmaid Ellie Higson throughout the Jago & Litefoot series, ‘The Corridors of Power’ takes the action into the mysterious airship that was so focal in the first story while making use of Gilhooey’s communicator device from the second. This is a story brimming with immense visuals, and the means by which Litefoot and later Jago independently reach his intended location highlight the bravery, shrewdness, brashness, and quick-thinking nature of both. Once aboard, the unending aristocratic soiree they find that is attended by haughty individuals who are completely oblivious to their surroundings and circumstances adds the perfect touch of surrealness to make the duo’s preposterous costumes to remain unknown seem anything but. Plenty of humour interjects what is otherwise quite serious subject matter to maintain a fairly light tone, but the prominent theme of Jago’s unyielding desire and fight to save his friend creates a strong emotional core that underscores just why this range has been so incredibly successful for so long. And although Bowerman doesn’t quite capture the vocal intonations of Benjamin and Baxter, the immense amount of emotion and spirit she imbues ensures that that comradeship is utterly believable throughout amidst a bevy of characters that she manages to aptly distinguish with an impressive range of accents. Yet just as this story is the one to bring together elements of previous stories, ‘The Corridors of Power’ is also the one that finally reveals the ultimate threat to this world, expertly bringing back The Eminence and its Infinite Warriors from Doctor Who to make sense of the golden hue and the strange behaviours that have been experienced to this point. This is a highly visual villain that is also perfectly suited for the audio medium and that still has plenty of room for further development and exploration, and the brief glimpses of the genuine power that the infernal investigators have stumbled upon is a strong tease for what should be a thrilling conclusion. This would have been an absolutely surreal riot with a full cast, but the audiobook adaptation proves to be immensely entertaining in its own right and effortlessly flaunts the loving heart at the core of this series.

Julian Richards’s adaptation of ‘A Command Performance’ from a script by Justin Richards and Julian Richards and that is narrated by Christopher Benjamin himself may prove to be the final production in the Jago & Litefoot range, and it duly offers a sense of momentousness and closure should that be the case. Of course, this production simply had to include Benjamin to once more give voice to Henry Gordon Jago, and he brings a truly immense energy to not only breathe life into the verbose impresario but also to portray and differentiate an impressive array of memorable characters within Jago’s own theatre. The Christmastime setting provides a nice framing device for the pantomime production that forms the foundation for this story, and the return of a figure thought lost in the previous story provides a strong link to that adventure that dutifully heightens the sense of unease and danger facing the intrepid investigators and the unknowing audience members who are so entranced by and involved in the performance before them. At the same time, a very dangerous edge to the face of the local police force lends an immediate danger that truly challenges the dedication and honour of both Jago and Litefoot. However, even with the plot often and purposefully moving sideways rather than forwards as the duo must see through elaborate distractions to piece together the much more dangerous scheme at hand, one that will firmly move the Eminence and its Infinite Warriors beyond their earlier reliance on animatronics, the story never loses its sense of purpose or pace. The Eminence, of course, has a long history with a certain Time Lord who has had many encounters with Jago and Litefoot, and that burgeoning knowledge and connection through its long memory offers a fitting tie into the parent franchise without ever seeming obtrusive, a sentiment that is challenged in the grand finale before a surprising face makes a triumphant return to keep these events wholly within this range’s immediate family. ‘A Command Performance’ isn’t necessarily the most bombastic story or series finale that Jago & Litefoot has ever offered, but it absolutely portrays its leads in their finest light and manages to incorporate its supporting cast to full effect while delving into an ever-deepening and consequential mystery that is amongst this range’s finest.

While this audiobook adaptation of series fourteen certainly brings with it questions of what the full-cast dramatizations could have been, the end result is a thrilling and engaging journey back into the beloved realm of Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago with a series of adventures that for so long seemed to be lost to history. Everyone involved in this production deserves all the credit in the world for making this possible, and should this prove to be the last time that this corner of Victorian London is explored, it’s a brilliant ending point that captures everything that has made this iconic series and its legacy so enduring.

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