Following their superb return to the world of Doctor Who in The Mahogany Murderers, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot have been reunited in a series of four full cast audio adventures from Big Finish.
Starring Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter as the eponymous Jago & Litefoot, The Bloodless Soldier kicks off with more of the 19th century London of legend – bizarre corpses, smoky streets, noisy taverns and people hawking freakish abilities to theatrical impresarios.
As with The Mahogany Murderers (by Andy Lane), The Bloodless Soldier allows the two stars – first seen as strong guest characters in the 1977 Doctor Who adventure The Talons of Weng Chiang – to effortlessly slip back into these two archetypal roles as if they had never been away. It is amazing to think that they have only worked together once prior to recording the first series of plays (a second has been announced) of which The Bloodless Soldier is the opening episode of.
Benjamin of course has a long history appearing in Doctor Who – he also appeared in 1970’s Inferno, as well as 2008’s The Unicorn and the Wasp. Baxter meanwhile works as both a stage actor and a scriptwriter, keeping him busy away from television.
A terrible evil has been brought back to London by soldiers returning from service overseas – a bizarre mutation that can spread when bitten by the infected, devolved beast. With mysterious deaths occurring, Sgt Quick (Conrad Asquith) calls upon eminent pathologist Professor Litefoot. At the same time, his friend Henry Gordon Jago is being courted by an agent keen to sell him a unique new act – some sort of man-beast.
Justin Richards does a great job in opening the series – The Bloodless Soldier is a little familiar in places but most importantly is has many a great moment between the two stars. I really cannot impress just how good Baxter and Benjamin are here. Any fan of Talons would be hard-pressed to tell the 21st century portrayals of Jago and Litefoot apart from those recorded in the mid-1970s.
As with The Mahogany Murderers, Lisa Bowerman performs directorial duties as well as appearing as barmaid Ellie; this episode features a full cast that features Alex Lowe, John Banks, Robin Bowerman and Alex Mallinson as the soldiers.
While the ideal audience for Jago & Litefoot might be fans of the Fourth Doctor adventure The Talons of Weng Chiang, it is by no means a prerequisite for listening; similarly, if you missed The Mahogany Murderers and are in two minds whether to purchase that or Series One, there is no need for you to have first heard the earlier recording.
This is great stuff, featuring two veteran character actors practicing something very close to magic – it can’t be easy resurrecting characters who had otherwise outlived their usefulness in early 1977, and it is testament to both the actors and the man behind Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot – former Doctor Who script editor Robert Holmes – that listening to Benjamin and Baxter again after all these years feels like revisiting a favourite chip shop or rediscovering a long-forgotten brand of sweets.
Jago & Litefoot: Series One is now available from Big Finish – we’ll be reviewing each episode from the boxset over the next few weeks.