Notching up their eleventh box-set, this enduring Doctor Who spin-off features a pair of Victorian era “investigators of infernal incidents”.
Perfectly mismatched, Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) is a theatre impresario, while Professor George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) works as a police pathologist. Thrown together in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’, a Tom Baker classic, they share both a charming camaraderie and a nose for trouble.
In this latest run, our heroes are pitted against a most dangerous foe; The Master. In his decaying, corpse-like form, the malevolent Time Lord has sought out the pair as part of his latest nefarious scheme, and brought their ally, the stalwart Inspector Quick (Conrad Asquith) under his mesmeric influence.
The first tale, Nigel Fairs’ ‘Jago and Son’, seems set upon keeping our dynamic duo apart as it introduces new faces; While Henry reels from the shock of unexpected parentage, Litefoot hosts an old school pal and potential paramour, archaeologist Jean Bazemore (Rowena Cooper). While the tale of a secret society unfolds, monstrous experiments are afoot below the tunnels of the new Waterloo and City underground line.
Later, famous figures abound. Matthew Sweet’s curious ‘Maurice’ finds Litefoot kidnapped and keeping the company of the composer Ravel while matters get decidedly metaphysical. Jago mounts a rescue, aided by the redoubtable barmaid Ellie Higson (director Lisa Bowerman) who is a dab hand with a hairpin.
Theatre manager Bram Stoker and the noted thespian Sir Henry Irving (Edward de Souza) feature in ‘The Woman in White’, from Simon Barnard and Paul Morris. A contemporary in Henry’s professional circle, Stoker fears for his star’s health and involves Jago in the curious tale of a ghostly female figure, a sinking theatre and another secret cult. Meanwhile, Litefoot works on the case of a dehydrated corpse and the threads dovetail cleverly to provide the inspiration for Stoker’s most famous work.
For the concluding adventure ‘Masterpiece’, Justin Richards has the evil Time Lord finally makes his move; pushing Jago and Litefoot into a situation so dire that they are forced to call for assistance.
While any appearance from the Doctor is a treat, we almost wish that Jago and Litefoot could have seen off this ailing Master with their own brand of ingenuity. As it was, the Doctor’s introduction was cleverly done – although given his concealment in plain sight (albeit trumpeted on the cover), might this not have been an opportunity introduce the pair to another incarnation?
Sat in the background across most of the series, and suiting the time period perfectly, Geoffrey Beevers’ devilish Master is on wicked form throughout; ruthlessly despatching those in his way and effortlessly bringing people under his hypnotic thrall with silken tones.
As ever, the production is a delight to listen to, with well realised soundscapes and some terrific performances, particularly from the series regulars who inhabit their roles so well.
Left with a further tease, plus a thread or two dangling, October’s twelfth volume scannot come soon enough!
Extras: A bonus disc provides insight into the writing process, as well as commentary from all the main players.
Released on 28 April 2016 by Big Finish Productions Ltd.
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