Advent Calender 2013 – Dec 9th: Jago & Litefoot (and Radio Drama)

09 Jago & Litefoot

The 2013 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order. 

Back in the day (by which I mean, eight or nine years old) I used to listen to the Radio 4 Jeeves and Wooster. My father, a man immune to fiction unless it was Wodehouse or CS Lewis, owned most of the radio dramas on tape. I listened to them all, on loop, and I found them hilarious, even though I probably didn’t get all the jokes.

Part of the beauty of them was the absolutely superb voice casting. Both my father and I strongly and diligently maintain that there has been no finer casting of Jeeves and Wooster than Michael Hordern and Richard Briers. They are undoubtedly brilliant in the roles.

And then, aside from that, I’ve never really encountered much by way of radio drama. In fact, it wasn’t until I came to writing this post that I had even considered Jeeves and Wooster to be radio drama–to me the full-cast plays are just what Wodehouse is.

Until this year. This year, I discovered radio drama.

I came to it by way of a series called Jago and Litefoot. It’s a Big Finish produced spin-off of Doctor Who; Jago and Litefoot were side characters in the Victorian-set episode The Talons of Wing-Chiang. Professor George Litefoot is a middle-class pathologist, restrained and practical. Henry Gordon Jago is a blustering theatre impresario who speaks frequently in alliteration. The radio series places them as an unlikely crime-fighting duo, investigating spooky supernatural goings on around a gaslit, cobble-strewn Victorian London. The brand of the show is roundly gothic in tradition (werewolves and vampires and seances abound) filtered through a vague Whoniverse McGuffin to explain it all away. It’s now on it’s sixth series, of which I have heard five, and it is, roundly, bombastically, ludicrously superb.

I bought them for their Victorian setting, which I love, and was completely swept away in a superbly conjured atmosphere–exactly the right mix of mysterious goings on with grimy taverns, dripping laboratories and creeping fog. It requires little to no knowledge of the classic Doctor Who universe it spins off from, which is helpful (although classic companion Leela turns up for two seasons–even with no knowledge of her character, she’s wonderful.)

The main success of it are the two leads, Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin, the original actors from the serial. They bounce off each other with marvelous abandon, sinking imperceptibly into their Victorian roles with glee and a tongue-in-cheek dry wit. The stories, sound production and concept are all excellent, but the whole thing is sold on their bounding repartee and sterling acting. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.

And from Jago and Litefoot, I’ve dived into a world of radio drama this year–although I’ve barely waded into the shallow end. The Scarifyers, various Doctor Who dramas, Paul Magrs’ superb Imaginary Boys on Radio 4, Ladies of Letters… there’s so much great stuff.

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