Jago and Lightfoot Forever
So who are Jago and Lightfoot? Well Henry Gordon Jago is a theatre impresario extraordinaire and Professor George Lightfoot is a pathologist for the Police, teaming up in Victorian London to solve mysteries of a slightly unusual nature. A more unlikely pairing you're never likely to see, but that's just it, you don't see them, their many adventures can be heard in audio dramas from Big Finish Yes you heard me, audio dramas! Yes they are still a thing, it's not like the old radio plays you used to listen to on the dusty old wireless on a dark Sunday evening, Big Finish produce high quality dramas equally as good as anything on TV or at the cinema, with incredible writing and wondrous soundscapes and of course the visuals are as good as anything you can imagine.
If you want to delve into audio drama for the first time then Jago and Lightfoot would be a great start point, and you know enough about them now to make a good start, but of course there's much more to tell if you want to find out more.
Jago and Lightfoot actually started as guest characters in Doctor Who's 1977 story The Talons of Weng-Chiang, they didn't really get together until the last couple of episodes, but as unlikely a pairing as they were, they made a great double act. So much so there were many musings over the years of giving them their own spin-off TV series, but that never materialised.
They were never heard of again until 2009 when Big Finish Productions, who had license to produce classic Doctor Who audio, suggested bringing them back for a Companion Chronicle. Ordinarily these were stories told by the former companions of the Doctor, of an adventure they had with him, told from their viewpoint. However so strong were these two characters that their first outing in audio form was Doctor-less in The Mahogany Murderers. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter slipped right back into their roles like they'd never been away, like they'd found some comfy old pullover that despite being 30 years old still fit and was the height of fashion. This lit the way for great things to come, as it spawned not 1, but 13 series of stories, a few specials, and even stories in the Doctor Who ranges with the good old Doctor.
So the pair set off on what they lovingly referred to as their Infernal Investigations, with the first season pitting them against a set of paranormal mysteries, along with regular characters Sergeant Quick played by Conrad Asquith (who played PC Quick in the original TV story Talons) and barmaid Ellie Higson played by Lisa Bowerman, who also did a stellar job directing the bulk of the franchise.
Over the remaining series they shook things up a fair bit, infecting a key character with vampirism, teaming them up with both Leela and the Sixth Doctor, facing them off against the Master, finding themselves in the service of Queen Victoria, taking a cruise, and even pairing up with Sontaran nurse Strax. Along the way they also found themselves with a couple of special trips in the TARDIS with the Sixth Doctor, getting accidentally dropped off in the Sixties afterwards for a season, had a couple of adventures with the Fourth Doctor in the his range and even had a part in the Sixth Doctor's final adventure.
A wonderful pair of short trips saw them also meet the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor with Jago and Lightfoot retelling the story with both Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter skillfully capturing the spirit of both Doctors in their retelling. The final series 13 then spookily managed to neatly go full circle and goes right back to elements from The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
The reason I say spookily, and the reason for this blog, is that during the early planning stages for season 14, Trevor Baxter sadly passed away. So essentially Jago and Lightfoot are no more, or at least you might think so. Such was the love for these characters that the fans cried out for one last story, to salute these wonderful characters. Fortunately Big Finish agreed, and the idea of Jago and Lightfoot Forever was born.
Shortly after Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath, their record company dusted off a live tape and released "Live at Last" in an attempt to get a little more money out of what they perceived was the end of Black Sabbath. Ozzy famously remarked that it was like digging up a prostitute for one last .... (except Ozzy didn't use ....) But that's not what's happening here, this is not a cynical money grab by Big Finish, it truly is a celebration of the love for these characters and the rich texture of the world they inhabit. This shines out of every second of the story, from the quality of writing, to the number of actors that return to pay their tribute.
I must admit I started listening to this story with trepidation, I had fallen in love with all of these characters, I knew I was going to find it difficult listening towards the end, but press on I did. Of course in true Doctor Who style the story starts with the cliffhanger from the last story, so instantly we have Trevor Baxtor back from the dead, but only for a few minutes. Then Lightfoot goes missing, which is to be the main thrust of the story, and not surprisingly David Warner steps in, reviving the character of Betterman, to give a proxy-Lightfoot for Jago to play off. But Betterman isn't replacing Lightfoot, the story is written and played with sensitivity. The new pairing proceed almost in missing man formation, with Lightfoot's presence felt in many flashbacks and his absence sorely felt by Jago every passing moment. I imagine these scenes may have been incredibly difficult and painful for Christopher Benjamin and the rest of the cast to play, but orobably even more so towards the end.
It's probably not much of a spoiler, from the title Jago AND Lightfoot Forever, that they find him, so for the final scenes of the story Christopher Benjamin is serving up new lines for Trevor Baxter to respond to. Like so much acting today Christopher finds himself playing to an imaginary co-star, but in this case a dearly departed one who can never respond. Except of course Big Finish are miracle workers, they sifted through every line ever uttered by Lightfoot in the 13 preceding series and managed to craft some very convincing dialog for Lightfoot, with the other actors delivering setups and responses that most of the time make it very believable that Lightfoot is there. Sure there are odd lines that don't quite pull it off, but remarkable on the whole.
In the final scenes we get the Sixth Doctor and Leela returning to pay their respects, I have to say I was surprised at the absence of the Fourth Doctor, given Jago and Lightfoot's origins, but even so the story ends as a real celebration of the life of Jago and Lightfoot, and makes it clear this isn't the end of their adventures, simply the last one we get to hear.
It's a real bitter sweet moment when you realise they are going to carry on, but without you, and yes at this point I bawled my eyes out. But unless of course Trevor Baxter can return from "Beyond the Veil" then there will be no more Jago and Lightfoot. But Jago and Lightfoot is far more than just the two titular character, as well as Ellie, Quick and Betterman you have the whole rich landscape of Victorian London in which they exist.
They've already intersected with the new series via Strax, so perhaps instead of bringing Lightfoot from beyond the veil they could bring in Jenny and Vastra from behind the veil, and make the mysterious goings on of Victorian London be the main character of the odd story now and then that could draw on any number of the characters known to be in this world. Jago and Lightfoot Forever was a very fitting ending for the Infernal Investigators, and whilst their adventures go on, it's clear the series should not. But it would be nice, now and then, to have the odd story set in their world. It's always nice to go back and visit old friends from time to time.
If you've never tried audio drama before, you couldn't go far wrong bringing a bit of Jago and Lightfoot into your life.
You can buy Jago and Lightfoot Forever directly from the Big Finish website, either on CD or download. For every CD purchase a download version is also included, which can be played by the Big Finish App.
- Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago)
- Trevor Baxter (Professor George Litefoot)
- Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson)
- Conrad Asquith (Inspector Quick)
- Louise Jameson (Leela)
- Colin Baker (The Doctor)
- Rowena Cooper (Queen Victoria)
- David Warner (Dr Luke Betterman)
- Jamie Newall (Aubrey)
- Stephen Critchlow (Sir Humphrey Eagleton / Charlie Lucas)
- Producer David Richardson
- Script Editor Justin Richards
- Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs