Lumme! It’s forty years since Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot first came to our notice in Talons of Weng-Chiang and here they are in their thirteen Big Finish boxset! Still fresh and still wonderful after nearly seven years and around 60 stories. What’s the secret? Why is this set such fun? Read on!
Paul Morris opens proceedings with The Stuff of Nightmares and we learn this set of stories is all related to the events of Talons and the legacy of Magnus Greel. A time agent (Cara, played by Abi Hayes) is ruthless in her quest to find out what happened to Greel, and it takes only a few bodies for Jago and Litefoot to come to her attention.
It isn’t that simple, reality is somewhat on the blink and the story is well punctuated with alternate realities and a chance to get new perspectives on familiar characters. The nightmares of the title are such that a hypnotherapist is called in, Dr Hilary Standish (Carolyn Pickles, Broadchurch) but is unable to help.
Events come to a head, and the time agent dealt with, but not without cost; Henry and George are now trapped in a parallel world!
Jonathan Barnes takes the baton with Chapel of Night, a story serving several purposes. First it lets our heroes find out they are not in the London they know (even Ellie doesn’t know them!), second it sets up threads for the rest of the set (that come to the fore in the finalé), third it tells a good story in its own right.
The story is a good one, the Chapel of Night, run by Mrs Bartholomew (Teresa Banham) are up to something. Despite a reputation for helping those in most need, there is something more going on. The clue might be in the name, not the most welcoming, perhaps?! In the middle of this, cue a wonderful, if curtailed, performance by Oliver Lansley as Jack Ridpath.
They might be in the wrong London, but that doesn’t stop Henry and George from sorting out Mrs Bartholomew and making short work of her plans. For now…
Matthew Sweet builds out with How the Other Half Lives, and who else should Jago & Litefoot meet but Jago & Litefoot! This not only gives lots of fun and some measure of confusion, but also shines a light on the characters themselves. Our versions of Jago and Litefoot are down on their luck, and this story gives them a chance to both improve their lot and to intersect with several elements from Talons.
It also gives an unexpected insight into the life of a tosher!
Matthew does a good job of allowing the actors plenty of room to play with their characters and tell a good story. It also dovetails well into the concluding episode.
Justin Richards, as he does, wraps proceedings with Too Much Reality. If two pairs of Jago & Litefoot are sufficient, we also get this world’s own infernal investigators Betterman and Aubrey! A welcome back to David Warner and Jamie Newall and again we get new sides to every character. We end up with curious combinations of Jagos, Litefoots and others as a new mystery is explored and a crashed spaceship reveals all. Mrs Bartholomew’s evil plans are exposed but all looks lost when even this many are arrayed against them to no avail.
The ending when it comes is nicely realised and echoes earlier elements of this set without overdoing it.
It’s a strong set with all stories aiming for the same ending. I can’t pick a favourite and I thought Lisa Bowerman’s direction made excellent sense of keeping separate versions of characters distinct. Producer David Richardson may have handed the reins over to Ian Atkins, but he leaves a remarkable set of tales behind. We have no details on future sets, but given Ian’s recent work with Christopher and Trevor in the Short Trips range, I am confident it will all be wonderful.