Audio Drama Review: Black Jack Justice, Season Eleven

Black Jack Justice ended its run as an audio drama with a six-episode eleventh season, once again featuring Christopher Mott as Black Jack Justice and Andrea Lyons as Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective.

The Eleventh Season was much the same as the first ten. The series has a very established beat at this point in the run. You get a typical mix of mystery, comedy, and glorious witty banter.

Big moments were rare. Perhaps, the biggest was the appearance of a federal agent leading to an explanation of the disappearance of a long-time supporting cast member. They did their best to manage it, but the fact that was the cast member left off-stage and they tried to give it as much weight as they could. The series finale featured Jack and his wife Dot going on a double date with Lieutenant Sabian (Gregg Taylor) and Dot’s supervisor in hopes of them getting together while Trixie is undercover as a waitress at the restaurant trying to get to the bottom of a client’s allegation that a mob is starting a protection racket. It’s a fun story.

It’s not what you expect from a series finale these days, though. However, writer Gregg Taylor argued that Black Jack Justice was one of those series that had no need for a big series finale and he’s right.

Serialized storytelling has become all the rage and with good reason. There’s something satisfying about watching characters not only have adventures, but grow and change, and having their world and life change as a result of the decisions made by them and those around them. To not have a big finale for these type of programs that ties up all the plotlines and character arcs would be a shame.

Black Jack Justice is an old-school episodic series. You can listen to any of its seventy-two episodes in any order without any real confusion. So there’s no need for closure, no requirements for the characters to come to a dramatic end.

Season Eleven does a fine job and is entertaining as always. At this point, it’s a comfortable blanket and a cup of cocoa. It delivers everything you would expect. I don’t think any episode would stand out as the series best, although I feel the finale was the best of the season with some great humor and some good moments for some supporting characters.

Season rating: 4 out of 5

Thoughts on the Series:

Typically, most hard boiled private eyes are solo acts. The Justice and Dixon combo where both narrate at different times, both have hard-boiled banter is, as far as I know, unique. The origins of this was a stage comedy act, and having dueling noirish narrators sounds like a Whose Line is it Anyway sketch, not a blueprint for a seventy-two episode series. So credit to Taylor, Lyons, and Mott for making it all come together.

The series came up with consistently good mysteries. The solutions rarely could be guessed from the beginning. Usually they were surprising and often added to the humor of the episode. The character of Lieutenant Sabian wasn’t incompetent, but was a smart cop who asked smart questions and even solved the case a couple of times. While Jack tended to solve more mysteries than anyone, really the solution could come from Trixie or Sabian as well.

While there was little character development, the characters were more complex than their typical jobs would allow. While Tracy and Jack act like they’re complete cynics, they both have shown moments of compassion and a desire for justice.

The series also breaks a key dramatic trope. From the first season, Jack and Trixie irritated each other, got on each other’s nerves, and were often nice to each other. Contrary to dramatic expectations, this didn’t mean they were destined to fall in love. This means they found each other mildly irritating and didn’t like each other. Bold move.

Justice and Dixon’s talents compliment each other well, but they’re not friends or buddies. Tolerance and a joy of annoying each other is probably the closest they’re going to get.

The series is a model of episodic fiction. There are changes that happen for our leads: Clearly establish Trixie as an equal partner in Season Two, the adoption of the office dog King, Jack getting married, and two other characters leaving the series stand out. But none of these really change the essential: Justice and Dixon sitting around the office, waiting for cases, chatting with clients, and going out and solving them.

At times, this series set in the 1950s does a stretch a bit too much to be modern but not too often. It’s a delightful throwback that has a real staying power. It’s fun and well-written. These 72 episodes stand up as a fun homage to the hard boiled detective drama and it’s been a delight to listen to them.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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