Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Articles Welcome to Issue 47 - Who & I - May 2017

Issue 47

Who & I

Content Guide

Welcome to Issue 47
Editor’s Note

Peter Stray – Canaries Movie

Big Finish Reviews+
Jago & Litefoot 13
Jago & Litefoot Revival Act 1 & 2
Alien Heart/Dalek Soul

Fans Fiction
Mitchell Part Three

Torchwood Reviews
The Dollhouse by Tony J Fyler

Who Reviews
Episode Review
The Pilot by Jeffrey Zyra
Smile by Tony J Fyler & Jeffrey Zyra
Thin Ice by Jeffrey Zyra
Book Review
Snowglobe 7
The Many Hands
The Peacemaker
The Pirate Loop
by DJ Forrest

Editor’s Note

Hi All,

It’s funny isn’t it, when you take time out to catch up on other stuff, that you still manage to achieve a lot of book reviews regardless. And still to cap it all, bring you an interview with Peter Stray of Canaries movie – which as you’ll read, has a few familiar faces from Torchwood and Doctor Who. Be sure to check this out.

We’ve a Torchwood review of the latest audio from Big Finish, let us know what you thought to this too. I’m a bit behind on the audios these past few months, (since Outbreak), so am yet to listen to the latest.
We always welcome your feedback on any of the reviews we post up. Some of you do add your voice, and we thank you greatly for them.

We’ve part 3 of our Torchwood: Mitchell story for you. I’m glad to be able to give this a second airing, and this time it will be staying on the site.

So with book, episode and audio reviews, interview and story, you have plenty to keep you entertained before we’re back with our final instalment of Torchwood’s Miracle Day episode.

Welcome to Issue 47

Who & I


Interviews Interview with Peter Stray of Canaries movie by DJ Forrest

Interview with Peter Stray of Canaries movie

Hi Peter, Canaries movie – are we talking little yellow song birds used for mining, or are we looking at a threat of attacking Birds akin to Hitchcock film?
What is so sinister about Canaries in your movie and can you tell us more about your film? 

Peter: The title in some ways is open to interpretation, a la “Reservoir Dogs” but also if you look at a Department of Defence Folder in the film you’ll spot its headed ‘Project Canary’ – as a UFO geek I was thinking of a logical next step to Project Blue Book, which was a real US Government investigation into flying saucers. So, delving into the plot without too many spoilers, we meet American characters who operate in very much an X-Files / Bourne style world, and a bunch of drunken Welsh people on New Year’s Eve, more in the world you or I might have experienced in any number of pubs! How those worlds collide is another story…

How are you distributing the film, will it be through festivals, streaming or cinema?

Peter: We’ll be submitting to festivals and meeting with sales agents. In fact, some people who saw the IMDB page, and were intrigued by the plot and the cast have already approached us.

Is it crowdfunded, as many seem to be these days?

Peter: Not in a public sense – we crowd funded it through word of mouth without having to do a public internet campaign. Dominique Dauwe is our Exec Producer and he sourced most of the funding. Others contributed by providing key elements for free or not much at all – UK producer Craig Russell and US producer Steve Dunayer have places near our locations, so they were able to house cast and crew.

You have three familiar faces from Torchwood in your film, Kai Owen, Steven Meo and Robert Pugh – are these actors the main cast, and is the film mostly set around Wales?

Peter: Yes, it is – although key scenes were also shot on Martha’s Vineyard, location for Jaws, (If you watch the trailer, you might spot a familiar ferry) Washington DC and Vietnam. Kai, Steven and Bob were all brilliant. Top actors and top people –they loved the script and were keen to help out.

What part of Wales is the story based? Is it a fictitious place?

Peter: We’re very proud that Wales is not only in the film, but it plays itself. I believe we’re also the first to shoot in Lower Cwmtwrch, a beautiful - and real - place, which is the ‘star’ of the film.

How different is your film to what is currently in the cinema or coming to it this year?

Peter: It is certainly by far the best and only film to be shot in the USA, Vietnam and Lower Cwmtwrch! Also, it’s a sci-fi-horror-comedy, or sciforroromedy if you will, and there aren’t as many of those about. Some films in that vein want to be heavily comic and almost make fun of the horror or sci fi genre - but I think we’ve blended the genres in such a way you’ll feel the creepiness, tension and humour without it being jarring. Some good tone-setters when writing and shooting were Attack the Block and Cabin in the Woods. You laugh with - and get to know and like - the characters. Then feel genuinely sad when they die horribly.

How do your aliens differ from what we’ve come to expect from sci fi?

Peter: Well, anyone expecting large CGI creatures with ten eyes will be disappointed – they’re all practical. I love zombies, vampires and little green men, but we've created something a bit different – the mythology of the aliens and how our villains were created is totally unique. We had a tremendous make up team in Jess Heath and Alice Pinney and a great sculptor named Helena James-Lewis who helped make our villains creepy and memorable.

Kevin McCurdy, who we recently interviewed is also in the film – are we to expect a fair bit of fisticuffs and fight scenes?

Peter: Oh yeeees! It’s not all out action straight away – I’m a fan of the slow build. But Kev brought along a terrific team of actor-fighters and himself was a tremendous force on set. Richard Mylan (Waterloo Road, Don’t Knock Twice) who plays Nav has worked on tons of films and TV but was just saying how much he learnt from Kev and his fight scenes. You will see punch-ups, gory deaths and inventive use of everyday objects as weapons!

Is this your first movie project? If not, what have you worked on before that we may have seen?

Peter: This is my first feature film, yes. Before this I wrote and directed four shorts and two series, including “Secludio” (www.secludio.com) about a guy living in a cabin trying to finish his novel and skyping the outside world - each episode is about 5 mins and features a tremendous cast.

As an actor, I’ve been in tons of plays plus a small role in “Lost” and a TV movie with Summer Glau from “Firefly”. I’m a total geek for all that stuff which is why I wanted to make “Canaries” – it’s the film I’d want to discover as an audience member. I’ve also just had a screenplay optioned that someone else is directing, and I’m loving the collaboration.

When can we expect to see the film?

Peter: This year will have special screenings and festivals – hopefully by the end of the year it’ll be available to everyone.

Will there be a sequel?

Peter: I would love that. I think the characters and the mythology are rich enough that it can expand in several different ways - there are several elements to the ‘story bible’ that can be paid off in future films.

How important is it to you that the cast was diverse and strong?

Peter: There’s a larger conversation to be had about diversity in the industry and it was a challenge to find non-Caucasian actors to audition for some roles.

So many actors-of-colour either never made it to drama school through lack of opportunity (or got out and instantly went to Hollywood!) but we tried to make it as diverse as we could within the casting resources we had.

Given my influences and being raised by a feminist anthropologist – there are hopefully no thankless female roles in the film and we have a great, diverse cast.

This is not just a British enterprise, is it?

Peter: Post-production is a totally international event!

We have a great post production team finishing off the film right now – Milk VFX (Oscar winners for Ex Machina) in London, composer Marengast (LA) some great songs form terrific artists, (all over the place) sound mixer Paul Tristram, (Cardiff) editor Anthony Arkin, and colourist Artificial Peach (both NYC).

Thank you, Peter, for a great interview.

To see the trailer released last Thursday, then copy and paste, or click on the link below. I personally cannot wait for the release of the film. It looks awesome.

Big Finish Reviews+ Alien Heart/Dalek Soul by Tony J Fyler

Alien Heart/Dalek Soul

By Tony J Fyler

The Fifth Doctor and subterranean tunnel networks. We’re not entirely sure what it is about the Fifth Doctor and subterranean tunnel networks, but something happens to the unsure, generally less cocky, sunshine-tempered, young-man Doctor when you get him underground. It’s as though the pressure of all the earth on top of him compresses his character like a diamond and makes it shine. Earthshock, his encounter with the Cybermen spent at least most of its first episode beggaring about in a subterranean tunnel network and ended in the death of his companion, Adric. And of course his own final adventure, The Caves of Androzani, is often regarded as the best overall Doctor Who story in over fifty years, and involved him struggling through a subterranean cave network. Seriously, if you want to write a guaranteed hit for the Fifth Doctor, stick him in some subterranean caves or tunnels, and see what happens. Probably at least one death, to be sure, but a cracking story along the way, usually.

Alien Heart, the first two part story of the latest release from Big Finish Productions, sticks the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in some subterranean caves and tunnels.

So that bodes well.

What’s more, for a two-parter, there’s a lot of texture in this story, as Nyssa and the Doctor tangle with relatively primitive natives on a moon of the planet Traxana, acquisitive Earth imperialists, sticky green bogeyspiders and a cave architecture that changes in the blink of an eye – a dark additional threat if you actually intend on doing anything in the cave network or moving about at all.

Alien Heart is tonally very exciting, writer Stephen Cole mixing Classic Who references (it’s a story set during the Dalek-Movellan wars, recently blink-and-you-missed-it glimpsed in New Who, but much more a factor of two Classic-era stories) with modern influences (the bogeyspiders are actually cellspiders – single-celled organisms shaped like arachnids, as seen in Kill The Moon). Alien Heart feels like it exists in a very much bigger universe than many four-part stories, and its two-part structure makes no concession to any smallness of ambition or characterisation simplicity – the unpleasant people here don’t necessarily become good people when it’s revealed there’s a bigger game at stake, a bigger threat to fight. What’s actually going on is sufficiently grandiose to be a Big Finish Dalek plot – the company has a famous knack for doing Daleks as though they really were as clever as they think they are, something the TV version has often conspicuously failed to do. But a word of warning – you’ve only the slimmest chance of working out what actually is going on here until the very end, and even then, you’ll likely be clinging on to sense by your fingernails by the time the dying’s done. It’s the Fifth Doctor in a subterranean cave network, of course there’s dying to be done. In fact, for fans of the Fifth Doctor’s on-screen battle with the Daleks, there’s a familiar amount of dying to be done in this story, which sets up a slablike bank of bleakness for Guy Adams’ Dalek Soul to distil and purify.

Adams’ story is in some ways a simpler affair, and again, fans of Resurrection of the Daleks (surely the Emos of the Who world – almost everyone dies) will be in familiar territory here. But for the less intense fans of the Resurrection bleakness, there’s plenty to ponder in this story. Pity Peter Davison for a moment – born with the face he has, he’s been almost destined to play a succession of ‘nice’ people, or lads at the worst. But here Davison gets to cut a little loose from his nice-character straightjacket and play a ruthless spitting psychopath. Or the Doctor, as he calls himself.

There’s perhaps not an awful lot of underlying sense to Adams’ principal premise – on a Dalek-colonised world, the Pepperpots of Doom are using humanoid chemists and virologists to brew up a batch of something nasty to sterilise the planet of its indigenous life and make it a truly Dalek homeworld…rather robbing themselves of some extermination-fun and allowing elements of risk into their life that aren’t strictly necessary. It makes even less sense when we consider that that humanoid resistance to Dalek occupation is more than a little pathetic. But Adams is intuitively intelligent in his construction of the story, dropping us into it after quite some period of time has elapsed since the end of Alien Heart, so it delivers maximum suspense from its premise, working as both an effective ‘alternative reality’ storyline and a mystery in terms of what is actually happening to Nyssa and the Doctor. Again bringing in just a touch of recent Twelfth Doctor magic, there’s a solid play on repeated, iterative action too, our ‘heroes’ doing the same thing time and time again, advancing just a little with each repetition.

Alien Heart/Dalek Soul marks the beginning in a shift at Big Finish – for many years now, one of their annual releases has been broken down into a three-parter and a single-episode story, sometimes with impressive success, sometimes notably less so. With Alien Heart/Dalek Soul and the stories which follow it, the company rebalances that sense of storytelling, giving us two connected two-part stories, each of which has a very different thrust and tone. As an example of what can be achieved in just two episodes – as if much of the Fourth Doctor range hadn’t already proved this point – it’s an impressive banner-wave, each story created a textured world and its own tone, against which familiar characters can be explored in new ways. Each story works within its own remit, and when you listen to both together, you end up with something richer than either of the halves on its own.

That makes Alien Heart/Dalek Soul worth investing in, quite aside from the strong Dalek deviousness in Alien Heart, the bravura ‘Dark Doctor’ performance from Davison in Dalek Soul, and the notes of nostalgia the combination-story gives for fans of Davison’s entanglement with the Daleks and its signature tonal bleakness. Give it a whirl – but be prepared to look at kittens and puppies for an hour or so afterwards to bring yourself back from the sense of infection by the Dalek mindset.

Big Finish Reviews+ Dethras by Tony J Fyler


By Tony J Fyler

Dethras, the latest Fourth Doctor story from Big Finish, is a tale of science, politics, strength, fear, responsibility and a chimpanzee. It’s almost ridiculously timely in an age when anti-science feeling is running high in politics, and the threat of science being shackled by the needs of political gain is both real and frightening. An age where a march for science is deemed a necessary thing.

Written by Andrew Poynton, it’s mostly a study in fear and weakness, but it’s far better and less lofty than that makes it sound. When the Fourth Doctor and the Second Romana (Tom Baker and Lalla Ward respectively) land on a Second World War submarine, they find it can’t last long where it is before the outside pressure cracks it open like an egg. And then, because this is a story that fits into a very specific time period when Douglas Adams (he of Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fame) was Script Editor of Doctor Who, they discover a locked room full of scared people and an inexplicable chimpanzee.

Chimpanzees were not standard issue on World War II submarines, in case you were wondering, so the chimpanzee would be inexplicable under normal circumstances. But this particular chimpanzee, who goes by the name of Franklin, is altogether more inexplicable than most, and is also integral to the plot of Dethras, which only begins to make sense when you realise there’s a strong thread of evolutionary theory at work here, twined around what is essentially a power struggle between science for its own sake and the politics which makes use of it, with the Doctor and Romana ending up on different sides, playing each towards the middle. This is the debate over splitting the atom, and then using an atom bomb, but given a science fiction twist to make it modern and interesting.

Poynton takes his core elements – the World War II submarine crew, the chimpanzee, evolutionary theory and the battle between strength and fear – and weaves an intriguing quadruple helix out of them, which dares to ask questions about scientific ethics, paid research, politicians who are governed by fear of the other, and the choice between fear and reason that it’s necessary to make, both in science and in politics, if your endeavours are to ultimately be of benefit to humanity, rather than being advances used purely for profit and war.

No, honestly, we promise it’s not an ethics lecture. That’s what it’s about, but in the foreground there are wars, and hiding, and ultimate weapons of mass destruction, and stand-offs with battleships and green globs of potentially universe-destroying goo and low-level telepathy. There’s Romana being brave and the Doctor being angry and politicians being stupid in a way it’s easy to recognise, and people not being what they seem to be. And, as an added bonus, there’s a chimpanzee!

There’s more even than that, but some of the plot elements make for great reveals and cliff-hangers in this story. Poynton, and director Nicholas Briggs, keep things moving at a steady pace, developing threat, mystery and thrill, and eventually opening out the drama on a broader canvas than you initially suspect is even available to them. It’s impressive, engaging stuff, driven by some standout performances at the core of the story that help make the world against which Dethras is told seem bigger and broader and more real than the two simple episodes of the story’s length normally allow: there feels like there’s a world off the corners of the audio screen, that these are real people with real grievances and motivations, rather than characters created to ask important questions about science, war, and fear.
Alistair Petrie and Sheila Ruskin particularly bring a deep level of realism to their antagonism that hooks you in and doesn’t let you go till close to the end of the story. And, for what this is worth, John Banks is a darned effective chimpanzee. The world is helped to feel real too by some impeccable sound design – from the very first scene, you absolutely feel like you’re listening to a TV story from the early Eighties. You can almost hear the boxy sets, the vinyl spaceship command chairs, the early computer-generated effects and the plywood corridors. Big Finish is frequently renowned for its sound design, but here it’ll genuinely make you prick your ears up. Then you’ll nod and smile.

And as for the title, it would spoil you to find out in advance what Dethras, but suffice it to say that Dethras – a great ‘Doctor Who’ word, that gives no clue whether it’s a planet, a person, an ultimate weapon, a process, or some other thing entirely - is at the centre of the story, the element on which everything turns.

Dethras does a lot with its two episodes. There’s all the high-brow stuff about fear and science and politics, sure, but that’s all woven into the fabric of the character motivations, rather than foregrounded, so it never beats you over the head with its subjects. But there’s also lots of action, lots of surreal, unusual imagery, and some engaging subsidiary characters too, so you care what happens to everyone in the story. There’s tense, Das Boot-style drama, there’s a Star Trek Wrath of Khan-style standoff, and there’s ultimately a sense of accepting and living up to one’s responsibilities.

With a run-time of an hour, Dethras never feels like it has the time to drag, but you come away feeling like you’ve spent at least twice as long on the edge of your seat, and have absorbed an enormous amount of world and argument and action along the way. Dethras is a classy piece of many moods, cogent arguments, and perhaps most of all, an entirely wonderful chimpanzee.

Big Finish Reviews+ The Jago & Litefoot Revival Act One by Tony J Fyler

The Jago and Litefoot Revival, Act 1

By Tony J Fyler

There’s something inherently joyful, and a little something inherently advertorial, about the Short Trip double-bill 7.03 and 7.04 from Big Finish – together, these two releases form a long short trip, an hour-long adventure with the company’s breakaway stars, Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago. There’s no disguising the fact that they also star the Tenth Doctor, as conspicuously not played here by David Tennant, despite He of the Spikiest Quiff in The Cosmos having made his Doctorial debut in the sound booths last year. Quite apart from an opportunity for Victorian London’s finest to add to their Doctor-count though, The Jago & Litefoot Revival is a chance for Big Finish to show off at least something of how it intends to take the new series Doctors forward on audio, with or without the Doctor-actors’ direct participation.   

There’s an initial five minutes of what might, in the theatre, be charitably described as ‘business’ as Litefoot prepares to address one of Victorian London’s eminent societies for clever and curious gentlemen – and there are some lovely Easter egg references there – only to be interrupted by Jago blustering in. That leads to a handful of minutes that feels longer than it is, spent in simply legitimizing and explaining what Jago is doing there at all. That could really have been dealt with in a line or two, and arguably the audio would have been leaner for it, but fortunately, it’s all taken care of pre-credits, so once the Tenth Doctor’s theme music punches in, we’re off to the races with an adventure that sees Jago and Lightfoot in different countries, facing different villains, but more or less feeling the same sentiment – Jago & Litefoot is a tight unit, a magnet for the weird, the mysterious and the otherworldly, and after all these years of battling the bizarre together, they’ve become if not addicted, then certainly invigorated by their adventures, so that life without some eldritch attack or supernatural shenanigan begins to feel rather dull, the two investigators beginning to feel their actual age.

As a way to combat such torpor, Litefoot takes up an offer from his old oppo, Jean Bazemore, to come and take look at her archaeological dig on the island of Minos (We bet she says that to all the boys. Or girls. Or non-binary folk. So…erm…everyone, really), while Jago tries to get on at home, attempting to re-inject the spirit of the golden age of music hall back into London’s veins. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter begin to each advance their own storyline, and the contrast between them is well drawn by writer Jonathan Barnes, and given their own individual colour by director Lisa Bowerman. Benjamin’s Jago has to deal with some bizarre and serious arachnid infestation issues at the New Regency theatre, calling in an exterminator to put down the web-spinning blighters that are colonising his basement (don’t in any way take that as a euphemism). As such, the tone is an insidious cold and foggy London, Jago seeming to feel almost exhausted by the whole business – the acts lining up for a shot at the limelight are fundamentally useless, his life lacks adventure, his friend has scooted off on the holiday of a lifetime if you like mouldy old bits of rock, and to cap it all, he’s got spiders in the basement, which is enough to give any chap a case of the oopazooticks. Meanwhile Litefoot, following a thoroughly boring sea crossing, and a reunion with Joan, finds himself still filled with ennui, thinking about writing his memoirs and feeling like an old man, but the tone of the audio is warmer, more indolent and tinged with hot-boned torpor.

It’s Litefoot though who first advances boredom into adventure, finding an alien artefact and making almost reluctant use of it, while seemingly stalked by a mad-haired gentleman in a brown suit. There’s a clever division of storytelling labour at work here, as Litefoot’s threat is rather esoteric and otherworldly, a high-concept bit of weirdness with a highly arresting aesthetic that would be absolutely in keeping with modern Who. The raison d’etre of the villains is a little hokey, a little Tenth Doctor technogibber, and seems to suggest that at some point in life, everyone will have been visited by the implacable, impossible and creepy creatures that now threaten the Professor, but in terms of Something To Run Away From, they work very well in this setting, and when Litefoot finally meets up with the Man In The Long Brown Coat, you’ll be a hard-hearted Who-fan indeed if you don’t have a bit of a sniffle.

Meanwhile, as Litefoot’s storyline has taken up most of the Doctor-narrative in this episode, we come back to chilly old London town for the ending, with Jago, a thoroughly inept juggler and an exterminator who’s really not sure what he’s got himself in to. There’s a good deal of fun in the Jago section as we head to the end of the first ‘act’ of The Jago & Litefoot Revival, including things it would be cruel to spoiler for you, but there’s great balance too, as HGJ discovers himself stuck in a basement, facing a creature that embodies the other end of his investigative partnership with Litefoot – far less esoteric, far more giant and scuttly and body-horror based. When the two first met up, that balance was baked right into the DNA of The Talons of Weng Chiang – there was a foe from the future, boiling girls down to an energy drink, which was pretty esoteric, and then there was a giant, scuttling rat quite ready to rip your head off. This time out, Litefoot gets the energy-concerns, and Jago gets the giant scuttly beggar. As we say, there’s a clever balancing act here, the tone of Litefoot’s storyline being in the warm and dealing with dangers more of the mind and an otherworldly nature, while Jago, friend and fleecer of the paying public, finds himself faced with something ugly and primal and physical and terrifying, stuck in a chilly basement with a really bad juggler. As an example of what would happen if you picked the dynamics of the Jago & Litefoot series apart, it works hugely well. As an advert for non-Doctoral Doctor Who stories, it’s a case that hardly needs making – most of the Companion Chronicle range did the same thing for Classic Who fans, telling stories that were Doctor-adjacent or indeed had him in a starring role, but voiced by actors other than those who played the role on TV. The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act 1, reintroduces the idea but aims it at the New Who generation. Jago and Litefoot, which is to say Benjamin and Baxter, aided and abetted as ever by Bowerman behind the scenes, are pretty much cast iron certainties in terms of bringing in the punters these days, but if you were concerned that the New Who Doctors wouldn’t work in the audio format without their particular actors to voice them, the Litefoot storyline, taking up most of the run time here as it does, should be more than enough to convince you that your fears were groundless. Settle in, Geekbrothers and Nerdsisters – the second act will be beginning shortly…

Big Finish Reviews+ Jago & Litefoot Revival Act Two by Tony J Fyler

The Jago & Litefoot Revival, Act 2

By Tony J Fyler


At the end of Act 1 of Big Finish’s two-act Short Trip bringing Jago, Litefoot and the Tenth Doctor together – or at the very least, Litefoot and the Tenth Doctor together – we were treated to an extra surprise, as, while George Litefoot was running away from a bunch of spectral cowboys on the Greek Island of Minos in the company of He Who Makes Machines That Go Ding, back in London at the New Regency theatre, Henry Gordon Jago was trapped in a basement with a juggler!

No…wait, hang on, let’s have another go at that. Dooby dooby dooby, New Regency theatre, Henry Gordon Jago was trapped in a basement with a giant scuttly thing from outer space!
Yes, that’s more like it. What Act 2 of The Jago & Litefoot Revival makes clear very quickly is that if there’s one thing you never trap in a basement with a giant scuttly thing from outer space, it’s Henry Gordon Jago.

While Litefoot’s storyline of The Gentlemen of the Dice – a great, esoteric-as-all-hell creation from writer Jonathan Barnes – chasing him all over Minos for reasons not entirely unconnected with his harmonica-playing (everyone’s a critic!) took up most of Act 1 of the two-part story, the majority of this episode is spent in London the company of our favourite loquacious theatre manager, as he fends off a fiend with a friend, racing through the stews and streets of Victorian London pursued by a bug that just begs to be CGId into existence.
Now, here’s where things get complicated. George Litefoot’s on Minos at exactly the same time as Jago’s running through London.

Litefoot’s running with the Doctor.

So’s Jago.

We know of course that the whole ‘My Tardis is a good five minutes’ walk from here’ routine has been used before to explain why the Doctor, any Doctor, can be in a zillion places at what is precisely the same time – or indeed a zillion times at what is exactly the same place. But what Barnes does in Act 2 of the Jago & Litefoot Revival is cleverer than that. More delicious than that. And really, when all is said and done, rather more poignant than that.
And that’s all the clues you’re getting about that.

What we’ll say in addition is that Barnes, more than Benjamin or Baxter (Jago and Litefoot respectively), has a great ear for dialogue, and brings it to play here to allow both our eminent Victorians a unique Doctoral experience at one and the same time. With Jago and his version of the Doctor, there are rather more verbal tics to clue us in to the character’s personality, allowing Jago to recount for us his experience of meeting the Doctor at a very particular point in the Time Lord’s life, when, to be fair, being chased by a giant, scuttling CGI beastie more or less meant it was Thursday. Meanwhile, Litefoot’s Doctor, if anything, is even more pin-point in terms of the when and the how of his being on Minos – he gives us a callback to a TV line that will make every listener smile, to explain exactly when and how he comes to be on the island to lend a hand to his old friend Litefoot with a weapon probably a little more effective than an elephant gun.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing, despite the surprises in store for Jago and the punch in the hearts that Litefoot’s Act 2 storyline delivers, is the way in which the whole, more or less reasonable thing is resolved. That takes us from having two seemingly separate scenarios into having one scenario that harks back to a number of Seventh Doctor stories – there are elements of Battlefield in the scripting here, and elements of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. Above all, what comes through is the character of the three leads, the Doctor, Jago and Litefoot, and how each of them is made significantly better, richer and fuller in character by knowing both the others, how, given any opportunity, they’d always go back for each other, stand up for each other, make unmakeable sacrifices for each other because each has proved their valour in the others’ eyes.

It’s all rather moving, really.

Whereas Act 1 was carefully balanced to advance one story to a crisis point and then bring the other forward to an earlier moment of peril, Act 2 is the headlong chase to conclusions of both strands, and especially to their entwined resolution, which is far less straightforward than either of the threats initially seem. But there’s still time for moments of quiet and moments of tenderness – Litefoot with his Doctor on Minos is particularly moving, but Jago’s Doctor is able to express a kind of intelligent regret that will seem familiar from the TV as soon as you hear it.

What we end up with across the course of these two extraordinary Short Trips, is more or less a love letter, to classic Doctoring, modern Doctoring, and to the characters of Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot and the actors who give them life too. It’s everything you’d expect and want from a meeting between Jago, Litefoot and the Tenth Doctor – importantly short of David Tennant’s voice – and it’s actually rather more than that too, Big Finish proving it’s better at keeping its air-punchy spoilerific secrets a secret than the BBC is currently able to do.

The Jago & Litefoot Revival might not win any awards. It won’t be the release of the year or anything so grand. But it is a couple of Short Trips that do more than they have to, proving the case for Doctorless Doctor Who for the New Who era just as the Companion Chronicles proved it for Classic Who, while delivering an hour of touching friendships, neat division of the world of Jago & Litefoot, and, as promised, a rejuvenation of both characters as they head into their thirteenth box set of adventures together.

Big Finish Reviews+ Jago & Litefoot 13

Jago & Litefoot 13

By Tony J Fyler

The audio adventures of Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, theatrical impresario, the have-a-go heroes of Victorian London who tangle with the uncanny and the bizarre at every turn, have long been a successful series in their own right. Arguably, as they head into their thirteenth box set of four hour-long adventures, they could be thought of as the most successful spin-off Doctor Who has ever had.

But Jago & Litefoot began in the dim and distant television days of the Fourth Doctor, in 1977, and it’s very much in the spirit of an anniversary celebration of those four decades since they first ‘met’ on TV that Series 13 sets out. This set is steeped well and truly in the blood of Weng-Chiang, and there are people reduced to their life-essences left, right and centre here, along with time travellers from the 51st Century, foggy, mysterious London stews and streets, the House of the Dragon, the Eyes of the Dragon, the giant rat in the sewers, the Cabinet of Weng-Chiang and its latticework key. This, while in no sense being the return of Weng-Chiang, is a set of four adventures that ring with the same energy as the Robert Holmes original, while taking us significantly sideways in time, to a world in which the Jago and Litefoot we know never got together to fight supernatural villainy, where they never got caught up in the fight against Magnus Greel and never got to meet the Doctor. Showing us a London in which Jago and Litefoot are not the intrepid infernal investigators we know and love allows us to see how far both they and we have come since their first encounter.
The Stuff of Nightmares, the Paul Morris story that kicks us off on round 13, is a mixture of potentially Freudian psychobabble and sci-fi that almost aims to throw you off and just get on with its own business. There are time-travellers with guns, weird dream inversions, with Litefoot imagining himself dead on his own mortuary slab, with Jago about to cut him open, and Jago dreaming the death of the consummate showman – drying on stage before a packed house. Their neuroses seem to be coming to get them, while all over town, a ruthless killer is looking for people who can lead them to Magnus Greel.

The Stuff of Nightmares belts along at a reasonable pace for most of its running time, but you will need to hang on tight towards the end, even if you know what people are talking about as they start spouting off about chrono-quantum. The ending is somewhat challenging, as Jago and Litefoot get to experience life as it was for time agents on post-Greel 51st Century Earth. A last-ditch escape plan goes interestingly awry, and our heroes find themselves in a London that doesn’t recognise them – at least, not together, and not in any of their familiar haunts.

If The Stuff of Nightmares is the story that gets Jago & Litefoot off to a new set of adventures with a unique range of challenges, Jonathan Barnes’ Chapel of Night is very much the ‘anchoring’ episode of the set. Just the name, ‘Chapel of Night,’ feels like it should come with its own highly portentous musical accompaniment. What Barnes delivers is a second take on Greel’s original experiments, but divorced from his backstory – there are people being fed into machinery for nefarious purposes here alright, but the reason behind the villainy is brand spanking new, and takes advantage of the nature of this box set’s unique twist, a sideways-on look at causality and consequence, and what happens if things happen differently to how you understand them to have happened. There are some impressive vocal performances in this story – listen out for Teresa Banham as Mrs Bartholomew and Jeff Rawle as Toby Brokesmith especially, they light the story up – and you feel like you’ve heard something fresh by the end of it.

The final two stories act as something of a two-parter, and get down to the brass tacks of the premise that arcs through the set – if Jago, Litefoot and the Doctor didn’t stop Magnus Greel when they did, then firstly, who on Earth did, and secondly…are there another Jago and another Litefoot out there in alternative London somewhere, a Jago and Litefoot who never came together as infernal investigators?

How The Other Half Lives, by Matthew Sweet gives us answers to both those questions – if there’s no Jago and Litefoot, unified in their fight against infernal doings and villains, then in a Victorian London as full of infernal doings and villains as this one, someone else must have taken up the mantle so as to ensure there’s still a London left to be in. Someone else must have stopped Greel. And the vampires, and scientists, and murderers and model-makers, and Flickermen and so on and so on – someone else, essentially, must have had the adventures that in ‘our’ world have been had by Jago and Litefoot. Here we get to find out who’s done that.

More shocking though, we learn what the ‘other’ Jago and Litefoot have been upto, having never been brought together to have adventures. Litefoot won’t come as much of a surprise to you, but Jago…

Jago probably will.

Sweet gives us Jago and Jago and Litefoot and Litefoot – two for the price of each – and we’d be lying if we said it didn’t get rather confusing at some points, but there’s a particularly pleasing quest undertaken in this episode, which harks right back to The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

The adventure comes to a climax in Justin Richards’ Too Much Reality, while spurring a final mystery for the double-Jagos and double-Litefoots to solve – killings where the bodies simply fade away. Bringing everything round if not full circle, then satisfyingly close, Richards gives us falling stars, time and dimension-travelling chicanery, and a way to set our heroes on the path to home again, while proving to the other-London’s Jago and Litefoot that the life of infernal investigators is dashed exhilarating, as well as vital work. Our heroes manage to leave the trace of themselves as we know them behind, transforming the lives and pathways of their dimensional doppelgangers, and the set ends on a note that suggests things may be about to get a whole lot more complicated still – promising a fourteenth box set to come.
Jago & Litefoot 13 could be accused of having run out of steam and ideas – the notion of them travelling to a sideways dimension, meeting themselves, and teaming up to fight trans-temporal nastiness is perhaps hardly the most dazzlingly original basic premise, and the heavy mining of their own continuity, both in terms of Weng-Chiang and the previous box sets of their audio adventures, makes Series 13 seem at times really rather like a Greatest Hits collection.

But it isn’t that – it’s miles better than that. It’s a birthday cake, a party, with Jago and Litefoot revisiting some of the key ideas that brought them together, but never doing so in a notably clichéd way. The writers, along with Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter (Jago and Litefoot themselves), whipped along by stalwart Big Finish director Lisa Bowerman, make sure to give Series 13 enough meat of its own to make it, while being a birthday cake, both memorable and unique. Any successful double act is entitled to look back (or indeed sideways) after forty years. Series 13 is Jago & Litefoot doing that, but doing it with verve, flair and a remarkable energy. Series 14 will undoubtedly be different again, especially from the hints dropped at the end of this box set.

There’s yet to be such a thing as a bad Jago & Litefoot box set. This one takes the duo into one of their weirdest environments yet, and they come through it smiling, chuckling even, and heading, arm in arm to the Red Tavern. Where doubtless the world will be ending shortly.