Friday, January 22, 2016

Jago & Litefoot & Strax: The Haunting

I think part of the reason I have been a lifelong Doctor Who fan is because the first three Doctor Who episodes I ever saw were The Deadly Assassin Part Two, Robots of Death Part Four, and Talons of Weng-Chiang Part Six. I had read that the characters of Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, the charming supporting characters from Weng-Chiang, had been under consideration for their own spin-off series at the time. While that never materialized on television, the good folks at Big Finish Productions have picked up the baton and run with it, producing ten boxed sets of Jago & Litefoot adventures on audio, plus numerous guest appearances and spin-offs.

While my wife is also a Doctor Who fan, she isn’t particularly interested in listening to most of the stuff Big Finish produces. However, the one series that she is addicted to is Jago & Litefoot. We generally listen to it together when we go on long drives. Last week, we drove to Disneyland, and that gave us the opportunity to listen to the latest Jago & Litefoot special release: Jago & Litefoot & Strax: The Haunting.

This story teams up Victorian-era theatrical impresario Jago and forensic pathologist Litefoot with a character from the new series of Doctor Who: Strax, the Sontaran who acts as butler and muscle for Victorian detective—and reptilian Silurian—Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny. Through a series of parallel investigations, they end up teaming up to solve the twin mysteries of alien technology on earth, and a series of mysterious murders that involve someone removing the brains from the victims.

The plot is fairly straightforward and moves quickly, but it’s mainly an excuse to bring the characters together and play off of each other. Jago and Litefoot continue to be a fantastic double act, and Strax is every bit as hilariously literal as he is on the television. An extra layer of comedy is added by the notion that Strax believes Jago & Litefoot to be Jenny and Madame Vastra in disguise. 

Teaming Strax up with Jago & Litefoot works much more effectively than I think would a team-up that also included Madame Vastra and Jenny. If the story had included everyone, there would have been too many strong investigators, too many leaders. I suppose, as my wife suggested, you could break them up into smaller groups, but if Jago and Litefoot aren’t working together, it doesn’t really feel like a Jago & Litefoot adventure. This story absolutely works.

Cleverly, writer Justin Richards has devised a story which plays to everyone’s strengths. Jago & Litefoot very much take the lead while the investigation is in Victorian London. However, when the action shifts to an alien space ship, Strax is in his element, and he very much takes charge. It’s a good use of all the characters, making Strax feel like a vital part of the story and not just a superfluous guest star. Even Jago & Litefoot series regular Ellie the barmaid features quite prominently, although she doesn’t have as much to actually do as the others. Still, this is a story that needs someone normal to whom the leads can explain things.

This was another great story from Big Finish Productions, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters team up again.

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