I’ve always had a soft spot for Jago and Litefoot, and of all the various Doctor Who ranges that Big Finish have created, this was always the one I liked the look of the most. So when a fellow fan offered me the opportunity to “audition” his BF collection, after much encouragement on his part and not a lot of enthusiasm on mine, when I could take my pick of almost everything they have put out to listen to, these two were my “Desert Island Discs” of choice, and a very good choice it was.
It’s a damn shame that Bob Holmes never lived long enough to take part in the DVD range. If only we could have heard the man himself talking about how he created all those classic stories and all those brilliant characters that inhabited them. Of all the double acts that Bob Holmes created for his Who stories – Kalik & Orum and Vorg & Shirna in Carnival of Monsters, Irongron & Bloodaxe in The Time Warrior, Hade & Marn in The Sunmakers, Humbug & Handbag in The Mysterious Planet, Oscar & Anita in The Two Doctors, Spandrell & Engin in The Deadly Assassin, Garron & Unstoffe in The Ribos Operation, Morgus & Timmin and Stotz & Krelper The Caves of Androzani – Jago & Litefoot in The Talons of Weng Chiang are the best he ever created and the fact that they have been so highly regarded all these years [we were talking about a Spin Off Series for these two for years before Madame Vastra came along – see Mark Wight’s article in DWM301] is testament to Holmes’ skill as a writer and ensures that, through them, his genius lives on.
From the very start of the audio, you are immediately back in Talons territory, transporting you right back to an evocation of Victoriana that immediately puts you in a happy frame of mind before you’ve heard a single word – or even “happy as a buttered halibut” to quote good old Jago. The first thing that strikes you is how Trevor Baxter’s Litefoot sounds exactly the same whereas, initially at least, Jago’s voice has dropped about two whole octaves since we last heard him, taking a while for your ears to adjust and realise who you’re listening to, so it’s just as well that, as the show goes on, Christopher Benjamin quickly hits his stride and starts to sound much more like his old self as the audio goes on.
The format of this audio , with both Litefoot and Jago narrating their two sides of the story, works really well. Given that this is the first one I’ve listened to, it seems a shame that BF have ditched the Companion Chronicles for the inferior, at least going by the disappointment of The Bounty of Ceres, Early Adventures format. The two of them interrupting each other reminded me of those old Amicus portmanteau films like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors but it did strike me as a bit strange to bung in a faux cliffhanger ending halfway through and I’d much rather they simply carried straight on. After all, this isn’t an episode of Doctor Who so why put in the scream?
That aside the plot – an evil genius by the name of Dr Tulp who has a gizmo capable of transferring the soul of condemned criminals due to hang into a wooden mannequin – is imaginative and enagaging enough but the interaction between the two leads, and their alternation in telling their two sides of the story that keeps you listening. The fact that Dr Tulp escapes is neither here nor there, given that this is a “pilot” episode, which I reckon was always intended to lead in to the series of full series that came later.
On the strength of this intial outing, I immediately wanted to hear more from the titanic, titular twosome, even if it meant I had another thirty plus audios to catch up on. I cannot recommend the Jago and Litefoot series highly enough and if, like me, you’ve never really felt that Big Finish was your sort of thing, then this is where you should start.
The Mahogany Murderers is available on CD and Download from bigfinish.com – buy it!