I reviewed Jago & Litefoot series 9 for Kasterborous (see here) and thought I’d follow up with my more usual, in-depth take on the stories and the set as a whole. There are a couple of spoilers but I leave plenty of the plot unexplored, focussing on the greater narrative arc of the characters.
This may all seem rather pretentious, but please bear with me!
When we left them in series 8, our intrepid investigators of incidents infernal were much in need of a holiday. What could be more relaxing than a nice cruise…
First (as he often is with these sets) is Jonathan Morris and The Flying Frenchmen. Jago and Litefoot set out on the good ship Fata Morgana, and we meet many of the crew and passengers as the ship becomes encalmed in an eerie fog. Of course it falls to our heroes to explore and soon find they are trapped in a mysterious anomaly as they encounter their own future then a vast number of parallel versions of themselves.
This all gives Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter plenty to do as they talk to themselves in various accents and the whole piece is jolly entertaining. Of course as this is a collected set of stories, we know there will be themes that re-occur in later stories.
Next up is the first of two stories by script editor Justin Richards, The Devil’s Dicemen. The eerie fog has cleared, depositing the Fata Morgana at Monaco no less. Here they discover the Dark Casino where Jago and ship’s purser Aubrey (Jamie Newall) find themselves gambling for the highest of stakes. Meantime Professor Litefoot meets Doctor Luke Betterman (David Warner) and the two physicians spend half the story assuming each other to be the cause of a set of murders! By the time they realise their folly Jago is playing for his soul against the devil. All this and Miranda Raison as Madame Diabolique. A corking tale!
Taking their now regular third spot are bafflegab’s Simon Barnard and Paul Morris with Island of Death. The Fata Morgana is once again shifted by fog and this time arrives at a strange island with its own mysterious tribe, lost expedition and dastardly Frenchman Victor Bataille (Anthony Howell). What is the secret Neville Tibbs (Dan Starkey) is hiding [it’s hilarious] and why has Lady Danvers (Sarah Badel) become so amorous?
This may owe more than a nod to HG Wells’s Island of Doctor Moreau but the authors make it their own and there is a deeper science fiction story a modern listener can discern that hides in front of the participants.
And it all ends with Justin Richards and his second story in this set, Return of the Nightmare. The mystery of the fog is exposed and its connection to some of the ship’s crew. In attempting to right all wrongs, J&L end up sending the ship back to Blighty, and it’s a welcome return to the Red Tavern and Ellie Higson (Lisa Bowerman) in a final confrontation with ancient evil.
Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith, recently promoted) is part of the fray and Jago’s expert knowledge of public house design proves vital in saving the day. Lumme!
This is all as wonderful as ever and the only real flaw (for me) is the fact Ellie had to be left behind for three episodes. Miss Higson is part of the essential fabric of these stories and it is a pity she was sidelined.
In my overall analysis of how these boxsets are constructed (and there are beats to these things, and it is not only the Big Finish writers who [instinctivel in some cases] follow these, and it applies equally to other releases such as the Charlotte Pollard stories) there is a pattern:
- Story 1 sets up the character, gets the listener up to speed with the setting and comes to a satisfactory conclusion
- Story 2 is often a bit to the side. It might not develop the plot as much as it forms part of a narrative arc (Hero’s Journey if you are into the theory of writing) in that the characters need to explore their world before getting the means to engage with the overall big story
- Story 3 sets up a big ending, tidies up a thread but then segues into…
- Story 4 the big conclusion. The last two stories are often no more than a two-parter with a narrative change at the cusp — this might be a change of setting or a big reveal as to the identity of a character)
In this set, story 2 feels far more integrated into the whole and the series as a whole is of high standard throughout and makes a good jumping on point.
[pullquote]Jago is the hero[/pullquote]
Interestingly as well (to analysts at least) is that Jago is the hero of at least two of these adventures, and his heroism is well grounded in who he is. If you listen closely, Professor Litefoot has become the companion in some ways while Henry Gordon Jago defeats the foes in the second and third stories with skill and experience, not with luck or by fumbling into an answer.
As I said, this is a good series, and the extras also reveal that David Warner’s character, Doctor Betterman, will return. I look forward (as ever) to the next series, David Warner’s return and following the dynamic between our heroes.