Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: Tom Swift and His Motorcycle

When I was growing up, I’d say I read Tom Swift books from the library. That wasn’t exactly true. I checked out 1950s books about the atomic age adventures of Tom Swift, Jr. and a 1990s reboot. Tom Swift, Jr. was an inventor and tech genius extraordinaire who had far out adventures with atomic age technology. His dad was a supporting character as the CEO of Swift Labs. Little did I know, he’d had adventures of his own, adventures that had started the whole Tom Swift craze all the way back in 1910.

The original Tom Swift series was forty children’s books published between 1910 and 1941, and the first of twenty-five of which have fallen into the public domain. Colonial Radio Theatre recently adapted the first of these, Tom Swift and His Motorcycle.

In it, Tom Swift lives with his inventor father Barton Swift in upstate New York. Tom repairs a motorcycle and plans to drive his father’s patent plans as well as a model of his father’s latest invention to the attorney’s office but is waylaid by a gang of robbers who steal the invention. Tom ends up trying to get them back and foils the robbers.

This story is a basic boys adventure story, the type which was so popular for much of the twentieth century but made accessible for modern listeners. It paints a picture of a transitional time in American history as technology such as the telephone and the motor car were making inroads but weren’t universal particularly not in Swift’s upstate New York stomping ground. The story highlights that these technologies were like the wifi hotspots and natural-gas powered cars of their day, so it’s a fascinating look at their era that I don’t think I’ve seen explored in any modern works.

Tom (Colin Budzyna) is the perfect hero for this sort of story: loyal, honest, and a compulsive tinker who has to fix anything he sees that’s broken.

The play is well acted and charming with some dialogue that’s unique and unintentionally hilarious to twenty-first century ears. One character is constantly prefacing his sentence with phrases beginning with, “Bless my-” such as, “Bless my liver….” and “Bless my very existence.” That gives it a nice period feel.

Overall, this is a fun treat. Colonial took an obscure and less-remembered book and has skillfully brought it to life, creating a play that’s enjoyable for both kids and those who remember what it was like to be kids. In doing so, they manage to capture a less remembered era in literature and America History. And Bless my iPod, that’s an accomplishment.


Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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A Look at Jago and Litefoot, Part Four (Series 9-Series 11)

See Parts One, Two, and Three

Series Nine of Jago & Litefoot came out in April 2015 and finds Jago and Litefoot on a cruise, trying to enjoy some R&R after the ordeals of Series Eight.

The Series kicks off with, “The Flying Frenchmen,” Jago and Litefoot where they’re quickly thrown into mystery as the ship becomes trapped in a mysterious fog and they begin to encounter familiar faces–their own, however alternate universe versions where London has fallen under the different countries so there’s a German Jago and Litefoot, a Russian Jago and Litefoot, and a French Jago and Litefoot among others.

Overall, the story is interesting but mainly in the way it sets the stage for the rest of the series. There are clever elements thrown in that make these more than “Jago and Litefoot with different accents.” A lot about this story is unresolved by the end of it but it does set the stage for the subsequent episodes quite nicely.

In “The Devil’s Dicemen”, Jago and Litefoot disembark their ship and stumble on a series of mysterious deaths while Jago is led into a high stakes casino where winning requires forfeiting his soul. The story and features a great guest appearance by David Warner as a man who joins Litefoot in investigating the deaths. Though why he’s investigating is an open question.

Jago is a little too dense to how really dangerous the people who are inviting him to gamble at the Dark Casino are. After eight series, such credulity seemed way out of character. This is made up for at the end where Jago’s intelligence does re-emerge in a surprising twist. Plus, the mystery of what Doctor Betterman is up to is interesting throughout.

The “Isle of Death,” is another atmospheric diversion for Jago and Litefoot as they disembark from their ship to explore an uncharted isle. It’s got a nice Isle of Doctor Moreau feel with a mysterious monster causing mischief. A major highlight was the humorous twist in the reveal of the villain.

Finally, “Return of the Nightmare” is a thoroughly exciting finale as Jago and Litefoot find themselves in danger on the boat and have to confront the cause of the trouble that occurred in the series opener and has been in the background all along. What follows is an action-packed and exciting race to the finish. It’s probably the fastest paced episode of Jago and Litefoot I’ve heard. The plot is solid but is let down slightly by an ending that’s too predictable.

Overall, this is an enjoyable series even though it’s not one of Jago & Litefoot’s best. The third tale, “Isle of Death,” is probably the highlight of the box set like good Victorian Science Fiction.

In between Series 9 and 10, Jago and Litefoot appeared in the Doctor Who: Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure. Due to contract difficulties with the BBC, Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor was not given an appropriate final exit and regeneration story, so Big Finish decided to fill in that gap in the Sixth Doctor’s history which they do with a four episode box set. Jago and Litefoot appear in the third story, “Stage Fright.”

The Doctor and his companion Flip arrive in Victorian London where Jago is taking it easy after Mr. Yardvale (an anagram for the Doctor’s enemy The Valeyard) has rented Henry’s theater at a very high rate so he can stage auditions for his own play behind closed doors. However, all the scenes played are those of the Doctor’s past regenerations. The Doctor is set on their trail when Litefoot asks his help on examining bodies that appear to be aged to death–the actors who played in the Valeyard’s sick little drama.

“Stage Fight” has a great sense of terror as well as suspense. It features the first direct confrontation between the Valeyard and the Doctor in the box set and it’s a memorable one. The supporting cast is superb. Jago, Litefoot, and Inspector Quick are top notch, and Colin Baker really has some strong moments. Flip is a fun character, but her best moment was towards the end of the story when she faced her stage fright in a powerful way.

Series Ten begins with “The Case of the Missing Gasogene” with introduces Jago and Litefoot’s biographer Carruthers Summerton as the two try to one up each other and investigate a locked room mystery separately in order to impress Summerton. The story is full of fun and excitement, and I found it to be one of their most amusing tales.

In “The Year of the Bat,” Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor interacts with Jago and Litefoot, albeit indirectly, through the Yesterday Box, a device that allows letters to be sent back in time, altering the current time line. This is good because they find themselves facing a foe they’d each fought thirty years before (without knowing the other party had fought their foe.) The story is one of Jonathan Morris’ most madcap Jago and Litefoot tales as we get some key highlights including the first meeting between Jago and Litefoot (which neither knew about.) This is a solid plot gimmick that works for an entertaining episode.

In “The Mourning After, ” Henry Gordon Jago is dead, or so Professor Litefoot believes. But after the coffin is lowered, we learn Jago is still alive even as his coffin is being buried.

This story is beautifully orchestrated as Henry finds himself in an apocalyptic future with the last member of the Jago and Litefoot Society while Litefoot faces the threat of zombies in the present. The story is clever and while you have an inkling of what might be going on, there are some amazing twists and turns. The scenes with Jago in the coffin are probably the most tense in the series’s history. The story also does a great job setting up the finale.

The set concludes with, “The Museum of Curiosities” where a series of bizarre murders rocks London and demands Jago and Litefoot’s attention as they have to deal with the “help” of Carruthers Summerton and muse about whether the mysterious Doctor Betterman is involved.

The story works brilliantly as a mystery. While I guessed the solution, the story didn’t let me be sure until the very last ten minutes. In addition, this clever mystery leads into a nice celebration of all the mischief and mayhem, Jago and Litefoot have faced in the course of ten series without going overboard or undermining the plot.

This is probably my favorite series of adventures. The individual episodes are superb with the finale serving as a capstone to the first Ten Series of Jago & Litefoot.

Big Finish obtained the rights to do audio dramas using characters from the revived series of Doctor Who that began in 2005. A natural fit would be to combine Victorian Age characters from the Classic and Revived Series, thus in November 2015, Jago and Litefoot were teamed with Strax the Sontaran butler in the feature length: Jago & Litefoot, & Strax: The Haunting.

The plot finds Strax, having lost his memory and moving in with Jago and Litefoot to hunt a creature that steals brains. This story is a delightful and lighthearted tale that while being fun, never crosses the line into being absurd or campy. Strax fits right into world of Jago and Litefoot, and there’s fantastic chemistry between the three leads.

The one thing I was nervous about listening to the trailer (and having seen Strax on TV) is that the entire story would be one big joke about Strax’s tendency to be unable to distinguish gender in humans. Yet, I needn’t have worried, while Justin Richards played to this suggestion from Stephen Moffat, he didn’t overplay it, thanks to a very clever scene with Ellie in the Red Tavern.

While the plot is a bit simple, the highlight is the fun character interactions. Overall, this wonderful production does a great job bringing Classic Who and New Who together.

This eleventh Jago and Litefoot series brings them face to face with the Master (played by Geoffrey Beevers) who remains in the background throughout the series before coming to the fore in the Series finale. Below is a look at each story:

Jago & Son: A fun romp that introduces us to a potential son of Jago as well as an old friend of Professor Litefoot’s. There’s plenty happening, but this story feels far less self-contained than the previous Jago & Litefoot lead off stories. It lays out a lot of threads that will be connected in later stories, with suspense and spookiness around a Satanic cult thrown into the mix.

Maurice: Probably my least favorite Jago and Litefoot episode and a bit of a disappointment from writer Matthew Sweet. The story seems almost like a generic Jago and Litefoot story, but without anything to really make it stand out. There are a few confusing points and the regulars, while still good, aren’t really given the material they need to shine.

The Woman in White: A solid installment that finds Jago meeting up with his friend Bram Stoker in response to Sir Henry Irving behaving oddly. In addition, the most recent production has been plagued by a series of disappearances and strange happenings. The professor’s end of the investigation is a little less interesting, but taken together, this is an exciting and suspenseful story.

Masterpiece: The episode suffers from a lot of waiting and repetition. A body is dropped off at the morgue drained-just like in the previous episode, although there is a difference in what it has been drained of. The focus of the episode is Jago and Litefoot trying to solve a mystery that’s already been revealed to the audience. We also spend much of the episode waiting for the Doctor to arrive.

What does make this work are the solid performances, most notably from Geoffrey Beevers as the Master. The Master isn’t content to wreak havoc for his purposes, but also sets up Ellie for danger and disaster in Series Twelve. The story deserves credit for how it gets the Doctor in. You spend most of the episode expecting the Doctor’s arrival (for that’s the whole point of the Master’s plan) only to realize the truth. Of course, once you realize the truth, the rest of the plot becomes obvious.

Overall, this is probably my least favorite Jago and Litefoot outing. The stories aren’t bad by any means but most of them call to mind prior stories, and recent ones in many cases. Jag & Son uses a satanic cult after one had just been featured featured in Series Nine’s “The Devil’s Dicemen.” Even the best story in the set, “The Woman in White,” has a similar to solution to Jago, Litefoot, and Strax: The Haunting, and I’ve noted my problems with “Maurice” above.

The problem may be the Master. Don’t get me wrong. Geoffrey Beevers is great but this may be a case of mixing two great ingredients and not getting a good finished product. Jago and Litefoot, two mystery-solving paranormal detectives matched against Beevers’ Master, the skulking and the obvious ultimate bad guy really doesn’t work as well as you’d think.

Even though the most recent series was disappointing, Jago & Litefoot has a strong track record and will bounce back with Series Twelve, which will be released later on this month.

Over the course of the last seven years, they’ve had an amazing variety of fantastic adventures. The entire series is a testament to the power of audio and imagination as two Octagenerian actors play characters who embody the spirit of adventure through one vigorous case after another, something that just couldn’t be done on television.

Big Finish has created a series that has an established brand and feel but still manages to come up with new twists and new facets to their characters. Jago and Litefoot have had an incredible run and I hope they carry on for many years to come.

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A Look at Jago and Litefoot, Part Three (Series 6-Series 8)

See Part One and Part Two

Minor spoilers ahead.

Right around the same time as the release of Series 5 of Jago and Litefoot, the duo guest starred in a Big Finish Doctor Who story featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor with Mary Tamm as his companion Romana.

The story is kind of a Victorian version of Judge Dredd meets Superman as a steampunk cyborg vigilante delivers swift vengeance to evildoers on the streets of London. It’s a great yarn but Jago and Litefoot are pretty much in sidekick roles.

Series Six came out in the fall of 2013 and sees them returning to their best form as they encounter the mysterious Colonel who has some business for them to do on behalf of the crown.

The series gets back to its Victorian roots with, “The Skeleton Quay,” where they go to investigate a series of murders off the coast of Shingle Cove. The atmosphere on this is perfect and the plotline is very well-written. It’s probably the most authentically Victorian story Jago and Litefoot have done.

It does feature Jago and Litefoot conveniently forgetting their time in the 1960s and their travels in the TARDIS to Venus for no explicable reason and concluding it was a dream. It’s a case of plot and writer convenience. The experiences, if retained, would probably change the characters too much so I understand why they did it. However, that being the case, Jago and Litefoot shouldn’t have gone there or they should have come up with a more explicable explanation for what happened.

Next up is, “Return of the Repressed” which has Jago and Litefoot meeting up with Sigmund Freud in a nice psychological drama. The story begins with Jago telling Freud of his dreams and then those dreams end up coming to life.

The story has some great humorous moments and for once, Professor Litefoot provides them. At the same, it provides some insight into Jago and Litefoot’s characters. It’s brilliantly written and a lot of fun.

In “Military Intelligence,” the mysterious Colonel, who called Jago & Litefoot into service for the crown at the beginning of the sixth series wants information regarding their encounters with Doctor Tulp who they battled in the “Mahogany Murderers” and during Series One of Jago & Litefoot. However, Litefoot smells a rat. A s he asks questions, the situation gets more dangerous.

The story is exciting and packed full of intrigue, mystery, steampunk elements, and a surprise guest character all leading to an ending that sets up the Series finale beautifully.

In, “The Trial of George Litefoot,” Litefoot is arrested for the murder of Jago. The idea for the plot was an intriguing one, but in the first half they strained credulity far too much. It seemed like they were concerned about laying the groundwork for the premise of Series Seven that they cut a lot of corners to get there. At fifty-three minutes, the story could have benefited from being a bit longer to fill in the gaps of logic.

However, the last twenty minutes has the story back on track with our heroes having a thrilling climatic battle with the Colonel, who has an utterly insane plan to bring down the British empire. Overall, it is a decent conclusion to Series Six.

As a whole, Series Six re-established the series’ original premise and sets the stage for Series Seven which would have Jago and Litefoot on the run and wanted.

Series Seven begins with, “The Monstrous Menagerie,” which finds Jago and Litefoot in disguise as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson and sent out on a case by none other than Arthur Conan Doyle (played by Steven Miller) himself.

The story is set after Doyle’s killed off Holmes in “The Final Problem” and finds the author encountering constant cries from fans to bring Holmes back. Miller does a great job in the story and Jonathan Morris’ script does a great job playing up Doyle’s frustration.

There are some great hints and references to future Doyle stories including, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Lost World.” This is a very delightful, well-acted tale and the strongest opening to a Jago and Litefoot box set since Series One.

While the previous Series’ “Return of the Repressed” took a somewhat lighthearted look at the psychology of our heroes, Series 7’s “Night of 1,000 Stars,” examines Jago, Litefoot, Ellie, and Leela (who has appeared for a reason that’s key to the story).

It’s meaty material that has our heroes questioning which of them is behind their predicament and they come to the conclusion that one of them is in fact a killer. It’s a clever script that could easily be performed as a stage play. It’s a fantastic script that shows that there’s still a lot more depths to plumb with these characters.

Murder at Moorsey Manor features Jago and Litefoot showing up at a mansion for a party under assumed names to speak to a key witness who can clear them. However, they find out that they’re at an early convention. Then they and the other guests discover that they’re in an old house where one person dies every hour. Murder at Moorsey Manor is evocative of, “And Then There Were None…” and other “old house” murder stories.

The story moves at a good pace and manages to blend suspense with comedy in a way that is seamless. The finale and solution to the case are superb and cleverly executed. The story concludes with them apparently arrested.

However, in the series finale, “The Wax Princess,” Jago and Litefoot, to their surprise, find themselves not under arrest. Instead, they learn Jack the Ripper was captured by Inspector Abeline but he’s escaped and it’s up to them to find him.

The story works. There are some great suspenseful moments, a strong performance for Sergeant Quick, a nice bit of misdirection over the identity of the Ripper, and even a somewhat funny bit where Lightfoot impersonated Jago.

The story wasn’t perfect. The whole premise of the box set was dealt with and dismissed rather quickly. “Forget about that whole being on the run thing, the police need you to hunt Jack the Ripper.” Also, I have to admit the realization of Queen Victoria was a little weak. Having the actress who played her talking in a very high falsetto seemed a bit below the typical standards of the series, although she still managed some good moments even with that voice.

Overall, though this was an enjoyable conclusion to one of the best series of Jago and Litefoot.

Between Series Seven and Eight, Big Finish released, “The Worlds of Doctor Who,” a good marketing idea that featured a story that would feature episodes from three Doctor Who spin off ranges and then a Doctor Who episode with Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. The four stories would be inter-linked by the same villain operating in different times and places.

Jago and Litefoot are in the lead off story, “Mind Games,” where the duo look into a series of murders in London when they find a man who dreamed he committed the murder and another is awakened before following through. The clues point back to a hypnotist named Mr. Rees. Overall, this was unremarkable Jago & Lightfoot fare. Our heroes provide charm but little else. The story’s problems may stem from the fact it’s the start of a storyline that would be picked up 3/4 of a century later.

They do make a cameo appearance in the third story for UNIT, “The Screaming Skull,” via a recording done on a wax cylinder. It’s a nice touch and Big Finish did a great job treating the audio so it sounded like an authentic wax record from the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

In the fall of 2014, Jago and Litefoot Series 8 was released and it was a bit of a departure from most of the recent box sets. Usually, at least three of the four stories are interconnected, starting with the first episode. However, in this set, the first and second stories are standalone tales and the final two episodes are essentially a two parter.

The set kicks off with Jago deciding to hire a puppet act in, “Encore of the Scorchies.” Little does Jago know the Scorchies are evil alien puppets (from a Doctor Who audio in which they were the titular characters.) It doesn’t take long before those evil killer puppets are up to their old tricks as they get hired on to perform at Jago’s theater and the result is mayhem.

The episode is full of superbly written musical numbers and are performed brilliantly with some very good guest vocalists as well as a couple of strong numbers from Jago and Ellie. The Encore of the Scorchies has some very funny scenes, most notably the one where the Scorchies expected to blow Lightfoot’s mind by explaining they were evil aliens bent on world domination and found him unimpressed, plus the final scene for Ellie has a great humorous twist.

At the same time, the story never loses sight of the genuine horror of what the Scorchies are doing and it how it effects the characters in the story, which manages to give it a neat balance. Overall, this was a very memorable start to the series.

“The Backwards Men,” has Jago and Litefoot looking into mysterious deaths that center around Wednesday’s World of Weird Wonders. It marks the return of Andy Lane who wrote the Mahogany Murderers but hadn’t written for the series since Series Three. The story has a lot of fun touches that seem quite true to the Victorian era . The story features an extra-terrestrial element including an alien symbiote that’s not everything he seems to be.

The villain was given an interesting backstory and motive. The final few minutes were riveting with Jago fighting for his life and mind.

“Jago, Litefoot, and Patsy,” introduces the Mudlark Patsy,  who discovers a fish with a man’s severed hand in it. This leads to her foisting herself on Jago and Litefoot as she wants the fish back when the investigation is done. Through the course of the story, she’s given an interesting backstory as the Queen of Jacob’s Island.

This one is solidly atmospheric with Flaminia Cinque turning in a solid performance as Patsy and the story maintaining some great Victorian atmosphere and a well-done final confrontation and a final scene that set up the box set’s finale.

“Higdson and Quick,” is a very different finale that finds something very wrong with our heroes and it’s up to Ellie and Inspector Quick to save the day.

At the core of the story is the idea of Jago and Litefoot being under an alien influence but it not changing their personality. It’s very well acted by the two leads. The whole plot is fascinating, and it features well-realized scenes on a train.

Series Eight left our heroes quite beleaguered and emotionally drained and ends with them deciding to recharge by taking cruise expecting nothing eventful at all to happen, but they’d learn better in Series Nine, which we’ll discuss next week.

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A Look at Jago & Litefoot, Part Two (Series 3-Series 5)

After having discussed Series 1-2 of Jago and Litefoot last week, we continue with Series 3-5.

Series Three saw Jago and Litefoot reunited with Leela (Louise Jameson) from “Talons of Weng-Chiang” of Doctor Who as she returns to19th Century London at the request of the Time Lords.

The series shifted to a more Science Fiction and Fantasy feel after the horror of Series Two.

The first story, “Dead Man’s Tales,” established Leela as part of the cast as she’s investigating cracks in time where the future is bleeding through to the past. The story has some faults, particularly that the solution to the main plot doesn’t involve any of the heroes. Still, the story is a lot of fun and has more comedy than most any other Jago and Litefoot story. After the dark beginnings to the first two series, this showed how the tone of Series 3 would be different.

The next story, “Man at the End of the Garden,” is Matthew Sweet’s debut writing for Jago & Litefoot and it’s a memorable one as Jago & Litefoot investigate the disappearance of a female Fantasy author. The story has got a fantasy feel of its own with some mystery and horror elements thrown in combined with some fine character moments.

Next up John Dorney’s first script for Jago and Litefoot, “Swan Song,” which finds the intrepid trio encountering ghosts from the future in a team of scientists whose lab was built on the site of Jago’s theater. The story has some great emotional moments with Jago forming a bond with a scientist from the future whose dream of being a dancer was destroyed by an auto accident.

Finally, “Chronoclasm” wraps up the season as we see the villain behind it all. It’s a thrilling and action packed story with some great twists including two different version of Jago from differents appearing. The only downside was that the villain’s motive, which was meant to humanize him, is a bit overdone.

Still, Series Three remains one of the best sets Jago and Litefoot with the middle two stories being outstanding examples of how good the series can be.. The addition of Leela gives the stories a good tone as well. Originally, she was supposed to leave at the end of Series Three, but would return for one more turn as in Series Four they encounter the mysterious Claudius Dark.

Series Four came out in March 2012 and got off to a rough start in the first few scenes of, “Jago in Love,” as Series Three ended with the cliffhanger and the opening scene of the box sets resolves it but not in a way that makes sense. However, once everything is straightened out, Jago, Litefoot, and Leela decide to take a holiday at Brighton where Jago falls completely, madly, disproportionately in love with a singer. However, some strange ghostly evil is afoot and Lifefoot and the Professor will need Jago’s help to take care of it, but is Jago set to leave his friends behind forever?

This is a story that could easily become pantomime because most of these premises have done in fiction to death, yet the story comes off beautifully. Nigel Fairs’ script is handsomely written and thoroughly researched. The soundscape is great and I loved the recreation of the 19th Century music as well as the fair.

In “Beautiful Things”, courtesy of Professor Dark, Jago and Litefoot get tickets to an Oscar Wilde play but Litefoot has had a bad experience with Wilde personally and would rather look at cadavers. Litefoot finds himself involved in the investigation of several young men who have gone into comas. Jago and Litefoot find the crimes are tied in with a man who’s been trying to meet Mr. Wilde. Writer John Dorney does a great job at capturing Oscar Wilde. I loved his interchange with Jago when Wilde teased Jago’s verbosity. Wilde also shines in the when confronting the villain. This would also be the first of many Jago & Litefoot to feature Victoria-era historical figures.

In “The Lonely Clock,” After the events of the previous story, Jago and Litefoot board a train to flee their enemies and are separated from Leela. The ghost train is great atmosphere and leaves Jago and Litefoot to play off one another in this spooky environment where time seems to be changing speeds, and then they find a dead woman on the train.

At the same time, Leela and her companion encounter a woman who just murdered her fiance and has more secrets to hide, having had an offer to represent her by an attorney, who happens to be one of the enemies of Jago, Litefoot, and Professor Dark. This story works solid sound design, great acting, and a great conclusion that is exciting even if I found the shocking reveal to be instead a bit expected.

In, “The Hourglass Killers,” Claudius Dark really takes the lead here as he confronts the nefarious scheme of Kempston and Hardwick, who have been lurking to one degree or another throughout the box.

Jago had some great character moments, both in terms of revealing his emerging courage, as well as being re-united with the woman he fell for in, “Jago in Love,” and has a very poignant end.

Series Four is another superb box set with some fantastic science fiction elements. If anything, it’s slightly stronger than the previous series. The sets ends with our heroes heading with the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) in the TARDIS and thus becoming actual Doctor Who Companions. Rather than having another series come out in the Fall, Jago and Litefoot appeared in two stand-alone single disc Doctor Who stories.

First up was, Voyage to Venus which finds the Doctor, Jago, and Litefoot landing on Venus. It’s a pulp fiction vision of Venus with a matriarchal society you’d read about in a 19th century or early 20th century science fiction. It’s a fun idea and fairly well executed.

The second tale was Voyage to the New World which has the trio travelling to the 16th century and exploring the mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke. Matthew Sweet turns in a script that’s a well-researched and well-written story filled with rich and evocative atmosphere and language. Sweet shows incredible talent in creating a script that grips the imagination, while creating a wonderfully charming fantasy.

The leads all turn in great performances and are graced by a superb guest cast.

The story ends with the Doctor dropping Jago and Litefoot off back in London. It turns out that he gets them into the exactly correct location, only a little later than they would have hoped–about 75 years later.

Series Five of Jago and Litefoot came out in the Spring of 2013 finds them dealing with living as men out of time in the late 1960s. Ellie has survived into the 1960s without aging much due to the experiment done on her in Series Two and now owns the former Red Tavern. She’s a different character at this point which makes for a different dynamic in this series. In addition, this set features a great, updated 1960s version of the Jago and Litefoot theme.

The series does a good job setting up Jago and Litefoot in the 1960s in the first story,  “Age of Revolution,” with Jago as a TV presenter for a Victorian Music hall revival show, “Those Were the Days” while Litefoot runs a Victorian bookshop. The second half of the story goes a bit off the rails as the writer tries to use Jago and Litefoot to make a political point.

“The Glutonous Guru” finds a classic 1960s new age guru worming his way in, in more way than one. As Litefoot and Ellie race to save Jago from a horrific fate that he seems all too eager to embrace. Writer Marc Platt really took the 1960s setting and went to town with it. The story is not for everyone and I couldn’t recommend listening to it anywhere close to mealtime.

“The Bloodchild Codex” is about an 18th Century magician who found a way to provide Eternal life and two different people who want the book that will do it. A somewhat typical ghost story that’s unrelated to the series arc and therefore cut short to support the arc. Really, this story could have just as easily occurred in the Victorian era.

“The Final Act” finds Jago and Litefoot fighting the villain of the box set in what’s essentially a bit of a sequel to “Talons of Weng-Chiang.” The story has some good moments but loses momentum at the end as writer Justin Richards can’t resist throwing in one more element of Talons. Other than the fact it took the villains three generations to prepare their evil scheme, like the previous story, there’s little that demands this story be set in the 1960s.

The Fifth Series of Jago and Litefoot isn’t bad but it’s a bit frustrating and one of my least favorite series. The series showed there was great potential for taking these two investigators of the infernal and plopping down in a different century. Yet, only in, “The Glutonous Guru,” did the series realize the 1960s potential to its full worth. If anything, Jago and Litefoot were a bit too comfortable with the 1960s and too adjusted to it as the series started and that made them seem like different characters. If Big Finish wanted to do Jago & Litefoot in the 1960s, they should have done two series of these so they could really get into the feel of the era. Instead this set is kind of written with the thrust that they’ll be home by the end of the set, so they don’t really play it up to its full potential.

Of course, there’s a good case to be made that this was a big departure for the series and perhaps shouldn’t have been done in the first place. Certainly, it’s fair to say the series had drifted from its original premise. The Mahogany Murderers had presented Jago and Litefoot as fighting infernal forces in Victorian England. This series is about time travelers who have visited Venus and are having the Doctor and his companion around for adventures and it isn’t quite what many were expecting.

Series Six would change that as Jago & Litefoot returned to their roots. That’s not to say they were done with the Doctor, but the next time they met the Doctor, they would be guest stars in his series and not the other way around.

We’ll take a look at Series 6-Series 8 next week.

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A Look at Jago & Litefoot, Part One

Big Finish’s audio drama series, Jago and Litefoot will soon release it’s twelfth series. It follows theater owner Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) and pathologist George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) as they team up as investigators of all things infernal in late 19th Century London.

What are the origins of this series and how did it become popular? The story of Jago & Litefoot is the tale of a long overdue spin-off and the freedom audio drama gives actors to play roles they would never be allowed to play in a visual medium.

In the course of the next four weeks, we’re going to take a look at the entire series over the next four articles.

The Origin

Jago & Litefoot

Jago and Litefoot originally appeared in the Doctor Who TV story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” in 1977 which finds the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) travelling back in time to the late Victorian Era. It’s a story that’s noteworthy for its period feel. The Doctor abandons his typical suit and long scarf for a Sherlock Holmes outfit complete with deer stalker cap while Leela trades her short jungle dress for a proper Victorian look. In the story, the Doctor investigates a series of strange murders and he obtains the help of Litefoot the pathologist, and Jago, whose theater is at the center of the killings. However, the Doctor meets the characters separately during his investigation and the two only come together in the last episode.

However, when they came together, the dynamic was great.They were praised as a fine double act. Writer Robert Holmes reportedly liked the idea of the two having their own spin-off series.Many fans over the years would agree, but no one at the BBC saw this as a worthwhile project and nothing came of it.

Benjamin and Baxter certainly knew little of it and didn’t  work together for the next 30 years. Both had very prolific careers with a combination of stagework and television appearances. Benjamin’s career was the picture of a character actor as attested to by his 168 acting credits through IMBD. His credits read like a history of British Television with appearances in series such as Foyle’s War, the Tomorrow People, Rumpole of the Bailey, Yes, Prime Minister, and the Return of Sherlock Holmes as well as appearing as another character in the revived series of Doctor Who as a different character. Baxter’s career was no less prolific, but it was focused more on the stage and included play writing as well as appearances in a few films.

By 2009, Benjamin was 74, and Baxter 76. It was safe to say their time on a Victorian Doctor Who serial was little more than a happy memory for them.

The Pilot
Mahogany Murderers

Benjamin and Baxter worked together for the first time in more than thirty years on the Mahogany Murderers, which was released by Big Finish in June 2009. The story was officially released as part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line of audiobooks. The Mahogany Murderers was strikingly different than other releases in this line as it was not really an audiobook, but a two-handed audio drama and it became a backdoor pilot for the series. In addition, despite featuring the Doctor Who theme music, the Doctor doesn’t appear.

The plot involves Jago and Litefoot meeting up at the Red Tavern and telling each other about strange encounters they had. For Professor Litefoot, the case begins to get strange when a body is pulled from the Thames and turns out to be a very well-detailed mannequin or is it?

It actually proves to be a part of a plot by a gang of criminals who want to live forever, and they are assisted by the mad genius, Doctor Tulp.

The story is brilliantly acted as Jago and Litefoot recount the tale with gusto. The story becomes more complex and creepy as it develops and the truly diabolic nature of the business is revealed.


The release was a critical and commercial success. It showed the potential for a series of Jago and Litefoot adventures.

The Series Begins

The Jago & Litefoot series has had a very consistent feel to it over the course of the last eleven box sets, aided by the continuing presence of most of its key principles. The series is produced by David Richardson, with scripts edited by Justin Richards, and\ directed by Lisa Bowerman.

In The Mahogany Murderers, Bowerman took on the functional role of the minor character, Ellie Higdson, the barmaid. The role grew to become the main supporting character through the entire series. Conrad Asquith, who played Police Constable Quick in the Talons of Weng-Chiang, reprized the role as Sergeant and later Inspector Quick in every box set except for Series 5.

The cast and the creative team were in place and thirteen months after the Mahogany Murderers was released Jago & Litefoot released their first series box set. Each box set would contain four stories, written by three or usually four different writers. Details of the first two series with minimal spoilers follow.

In this first series, the show is very entertaining but it’s clearly trying to find its feet. While there was a single villain behind the scenes, each story has a different flavor as there’s a sense of trying to discover what works best. The first story “The Bloodless Soldier” is a werewolf tale and it’s followed by “The Bellova Devil” which is a more traditional detective mystery, then “The Spirit Trap” has them taking on what they think is a phony medium but who turns out to be far more dangerous than they imagined, and then wraps up with “The Similarity Engine,” which has a very strong steampunk feel to it.

The series set down a few key precedents. Because it is set in the same universe as Doctor Who, the infernal things that Jago and Litefoot investigate will tend to have causes that are naturalistic, alien, or mad science related. Even if there’s a werewolf, the series will offer a natural explanation for it rather than suggest an ancient curse or something of that sort.

The first series also had to be concerned with the character development of Jago. Jago has endearing traits that make him a fun supporting character but that could pose a problem as a lead. Jago can be a pompous and is almost always the over the top impresario ready to drop a grand alliteration, such as, ‘Slumbering somnambulists to the slaughter!’  In addition, if written in the wrong way, Jago could easily be one dimensional and the teaming of Jago and Litefoot would be that of the erudite Litefoot and blustering cowardly idiot Jago.

The series chose to go another direction and right from the first episode, Jago is established as something different. Jago faces a fateful decision, a moment of truth at the end of “The Bloodless Soldier,” that forces him to take action and spurs his journey towards being a believable hero of the story. And rather than Litefoot being smart and Jago being dumb, the series establishes the duo as complimentary. Litefoot is better read and expert in scientific investigation, however Jago’s years of experience in the theater have brought him a specialized skillset and a sort of street smarts that helps him catch things Litefoot might miss.

Overall, the first series does a great job of laying the groundwork for the whole Jago & Litefoot audiodrama.

In the Winter of 2011, Series 2 of Jago and Litefoot was released. This second series had a much darker feel. It kicked off with Litefoot abandoning Jago for a new partner in Gabriel Sanders in “Litefoot and Sanders.” After killing off Ellie’s brother in the Series 1 opener, Ellie herself dies in the opening story and our heroes take a spooky night train to ensure the safe burial of her remains only to discover foul experiment afoot among the bodies in, “The Necropolis Express.” In  “The Theatre of Dreams,” Jago books an act that can make your dreams come true but of course, this promise has a dark side. Finally, in “The Ruthaven Inheritance,” Litefoot is fired and Jago is tricked into selling his theatre. Both men get 500 pounds and the villain’s endgame comes into play.

“The Theatre of Dreams” is probably the outstanding story of the series with its mind-bending plot and the way it challenged listeners’ perceptions. The series strengthened the relationship between Ellie and our heroes. They show obvious care for her. When they find out she’s not really dead but has been transformed into a vampire by the villain of the story, Litefoot sets out to cure her and Jago takes care of her despite her making him nervous. Her vampirism is gone by the end of the series but some of the after effects play a role in Jago and Litefoot stories for years to come.

On a negative side, the final story put Ellie, Jago, and Litefoot in serious straits and the finale offers cheap solutions that aren’t entirely satisfying. In addition, the tone of the stories was too dark for the lead characters, particularly in the second box set.The first two box sets were well-written but it’d be hard to describe the series as fun. The series had some strong stories but they needed to find the right tone. They’d take a big step towards that in Series 3 and they’d do it with some old friends and new writers. We’ll talk about that next week.

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