It’s forty years since Weng-Chiang first exposed his Talons to a nervous nation, and to mark this most auspicious anniversary of one of Doctor Who’s most treasured tales, the custodians of Big Finish’s Jago & Litefoot range have gone back to the source material for inspiration. While Magnus Greel’s eponymous alter ego cannot for obvious reasons make an appearance himself, his claw-prints are all over this set of four inter-linked hour-long episodes. For anybody who’s hesitated over whether to take the plunge and partake of the infernal investigators’ adventures on audio, Series 13 is the perfect place to make a start; this volume is, to all intents and purposes, a direct sequel to The Talons of Weng-Chiang – and it doesn’t fall very far short of living up to its most famous forefather.
Our best suggestion is to skip the rest of this review in order to avoid spoiling any of the story’s twists and turns, and simply download and listen to the story instead.
Right, still here? It’s roughly three years on from the events that brought the prim pathologist and the loquacious impresario together, when their lives are disrupted by the arrival of a Time Agent from the 51st century, belatedly in pursuit of the infamous Butcher of Brisbane. Our favourite mismatched Victorian associates then find themselves thrust into an alternative London, where the supernatural sleuths encounter not one but two pairs of parallel researchers and where Greel’s aftermath was somewhat less meticulously disposed of.
Paul Morris has the most fun with the duo in his opening instalment “The Stuff of Nightmares”, placing them in the midst of waking dreams and in the hands of an unenlightened psychiatrist, before Jonathan Barnes’ “Chapel of Night” lays out their overarching dilemma in a suitably spooky sci-fi fashion. “How the Other Half Lives” by Matthew Sweet returns to Greel’s murine legacy while joyously cross-matching Jago and Litefoot with their unsuspecting counterparts, and finally Justin Richards’ “Too Much Reality” ties the entire thing together about as neatly as you’d really want him to. Some of the science fiction is a little too easily second-guessed, but that’s only so that the characters might be foregrounded quite so much. If there’s one real quibble with this, it’s that you rather wish the episodes were about half as long again as they are.
In among an extraordinarily capable cast, Christopher Benjamin’s legendary legerdemain and Trevor Baxter’s generous and ingenuous sincerity fill every corner, and the pair are truly an absolute delight to be in the company of. Lisa Bowerman’s direction also warrants special mention, for keeping what might have been a slower-moving or more perplexing affair light on its feet and easy to follow. Scintillating stuff.
JAGO & LITEFOOT SERIES 13 / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / DIRECTOR: LISA BOWERMAN / WRITTEN BY: PAUL MORRIS, JONATHAN BARNES, MATTHEW SWEET, JUSTIN RICHARDS / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER BENJAMIN, TREVOR BAXTER, LISA BOWERMAN, CONRAD ASQUITH, DAVID WARNER, JEFF RAWLE / RELEASE DATE: AVAILABLE NOW FROM BIG FINISH, ON GENERAL SALE FROM 1ST JUNE