March 2013 brought us the fifth Jago & Litefoot boxset starring Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter. Following on from the events of Voyage to Venus (see Comfort and Joy in the jungles of Venus) and Voyage to the New World our inestimable investigators find themselves back in London but in 1968! Observant viewers will note that I have skipped boxsets 3 & 4 in my rush to listen to this.
How will London cope? How will our Victorian heroes deal with the 1960s? Will they ever get back to the nineteenth century? Some, all or none of these questions may get answered. Mind the spoilers (and there are some huge ones)!
Jonathan Morris got things under way with The Age of Revolution. This story had a lot to do in terms of painting a new setting and helping us understand how our heroes might make their way around a city both familiar and strange at the same time. We need not have been concerned – there are two key things that set up a familiar environment.
Firstly we get the return of Duncan Wisbey as Sacker though this time he is a Detective and the grandson of the Doctor Sacker from the earlier boxsets.
Second we get an encounter in the Red Tavern just after arrival – Ellie Higson not looking a day older! The plot device? “I’m a vampire, in’I”. Yes, Lisa Bowerman is back as Ellie who has lived through the last 90 years and is older, wiser and sadder.
Ellie fixes Jago up in TV as the host of music hall show which leads him to become famous whilst Litefoot runs an antiquarian bookshop.
As well as all the set-up, we also get the plot by the Victorian Values Preservation Society (eat your heart out Kinks!) who are attempting to use a mystical statue to brainwash Britain into a return to Victorian Values. We have a Pythonesque ‘What has progress done for us?’ sequence and Jago & Litefoot save the day before the statue can be used to broadcast to the nation by the power of television. (A similarity to this month’s Companion Chronicle The Scorchies which I reviewed in Jo Makes a Thing)
The second story is Marc Platt’s The Case of the Gluttonous Guru which shares some mystical indian elements with the first story but soon becomes a tale of the food eating the diner, strange caviare and tadpoles hatching in stomachs.
The story is rather inundated with toads and Jago becomes infested with a tadpole that will become the next Great Mother. When the toads and the guru are defeated (thanks to Sacker) he suffers withdrawal from the psychedelic influences of the preposterous parasites but Ellie saves the day by purchasing and re-decorating the Palace Theatre for him.
The third story was by Colin Brake and called The Bloodchild Codex a tale of dark deeds and a family feud as various ne’er do wells quest for a book that promises the secrets of eternal life. We have the dark brooding Dreislav and the vampish yet vicious Summer both of whom meet grisly fates before in trying to destroy the book and evil spirit is released.
Action proceeds to the Underground and a trip to the shop run by Raquel Cassidy’s Guinevere Godiva who has been in the corners of the preceding stories and we now learn collects magical items from past magicians. Our heroes defeat the reincarnated wizard and next stop will be to follow-up on Guinevere’s interest in the crystal Jago brought back from Venus
And so to Justin Richard’s The Final Act which has the task of drawing together the threads and (possibly) sending Jago & Litefoot back home. This is done by following the tale of Guinevere Godiva. This is your last chance to avoid spoilers.
We learn that Guinevere’s obsession with magical paraphenalia includes the artefacts taken from the Palace Theatre after the Talons of Weng Chiang (reviewed here) and that Guinevere is obsessed with repairing the crystal key destroyed by the Fourth Doctor. She has embarked upon capturing and then killing a range of scientists (and earning the nickname Brain Drain Killer) but ultimately wants Jago’s crystal to resurrect Magnus Greel and alter history!
We have a great ending back in the room of the Dragon, we have the little pig-man Mr Sin, laser blasts from the eyes and Guinevere’s life being drained to energise the time cabinet to resurrect Greel! Somewhat similar to Bloodchild this was the same yet different.
We then have Ellie sacrificing herself in the bio-energy distiller to save the day. Don’t worry though – she’s a vampire!
The story ends with our heroes taking the time cabinet back to 1893. Or does it! We look forward to December and boxset 6 to find out what the mysterious Colonel wants with Jago & Litefoot. It doesn’t pay to keep Her Majesty waiting!
The Series as a whole
This is a success under any criteria and heartily recommended. Of the three I have so far indulged in it is arguably the best and the idea of shunting the characters via 1968 worked very well. A great supporting cast in too many roles to talk about everyone.
The series didn’t pivot around Ellie as much as boxsets 1 and 2 and we also had a pair of tightly connected stories as the end of the series. That and a postscript to Talons of Weng Chian make this one of the big releases of the year.
If I wore a hat I would take it off to everyone involved!