REVIEW: Jago and Litefoot: Series 4 (Big Finish)

large-jl-series4-forweb1.jpg_image_large Right then: if you’ve read any of my blog so far you’ll probably have an idea by now of what Jago and Litefoot is. I’ll shorthand: Doctor Who side characters, spin-off show, Victorian mystery, supernatural, gothic, etc. Happy? Now, I’ll start this review by saying that, in general, I love this series. I love the characters, I love the setting, I love the production, I love the style. I’m saying this because, essentially, what is about to follow is quite a negative review, and I want to stress that, as a baseline, I actually really do love the Jago and Litefoot series. I just didn’t love Series 4 as much as I loved the others. It’s stated in the audio extras that Leela was thrown into the show to shake up the original setup. In Series Three that was great, simply having the ‘out of her own time’ Leela in the midst of Victorian mysteries. With Leela came an increased mix of the modern, Doctor-Who-ish plots coming in, and it worked splendidly in Season Three. However, come Season Four, with the Professor Claudius Dark (a glaring reveal to Doctor Who fans, apparently, lost on me) and some increasingly convoluted evil machinations behind the scenes. It starts with Jago In Love by Nigel Fairs, which is a decent enough opener, transposing the characters to Brighton. There’s game for a good bit of carnival, seaside gothic here, but it seemed a little bit wasted, and the problem with the conniving lady with whom Jago becomes infatuated is that she is clearly of evil intent from the start, and never particularly offers much in the way of good manipulation of Jago. Second is Beautiful Things by John Dorney which sees the team tangling with Oscar Wilde. The story is decent enough, with a good set of knowing winks at Oscar Wilde plays. The plot of the eternal library is actually rather good, and executed smartly as the story plays to it’s conclusion, and this is a fairly decent episode. However, it’s unfortunately let down by the irritating voice work of the actor playing Oscar Wilde; whether deliberate or not, I wanted to slap the irritating little twerp. I will applaud him on one point, however: there is a stupendous moment of alliteration in which Wilde responds to Jago with a sentence of around about 35 words beginning with the letter P. Showstopping. Third is The Lonely Clock by Matthew Sweet, for which I had high hopes after his previous entry in Season Three. Set on the underground, in a time loop, it’s an incredibly intricate plot that is executed quite well given the constrictions of radio. It simply suffers from being, essentially, far too complicated a trap, even for a megalomaniac. And fourth, we come to The Hourglass Killers by Justin Richards. And once again, I’m hitting my problem with the finales of the series. Episode Four runs considerably longer than the rest of the episodes, and it’s not quite clear why. It does have some indelible images–the man drowning in a gigantic hourglass, for example–but never quite satisfies the reasoning for most of the machinations of the villains Kempston and Hardwick thus far, and vanquishes them rather easily, in the end. Now, again I will pause and repeat: I love this series. This series was still good, and the above summaries are probably unduly harsh. The problem is, what I originally loved about Jago and Litefoot was the grand gothic Victoriana, and as the series edges on it feels like it’s moving away from that. It might be unfair of me to criticise the show for that–really, my frustration is that it’s no longer meeting the quite restrictive expectations I have. But nevertheless, I am quite sad about it. I miss the gaslight, the fog, the vampires, the alleyways. How I will feel about Series Five, in which Jago and Litefoot are transported with the Doctor to the 1960s remains to be seen. Do not afear though–the series is still undeniably strong, and high on my list of wonderful discoveries this year.

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