I’ve been talking with some friends about “buddy shows” and I can think of no better than Jago and Litefoot. The two of them are buddies, but they are so mismatched, you have to laugh. While I find Litefoot the more respectable character, who, if one had to choose, one would prefer to be in life, it’s Jago that you have fun trying to emulate! As a matter of fun fact, I wrote a sentence today for work about a “bad batch of badges bandied about by a bunch of boys” and short of referring to myself and a colleague as “boys” the rest was actually a real thing, but more importantly, it was utterly the influence exerted on me by the great Henry Gordon Jago! When he mentions that he owes money to creditors, Litefoot asks why. Among other reasons, part was: “…owing to the severance to the seven sword swallowers on account of the sad slip in safety that rendered them six.” And it’s not just the alliteration that makes it so much fun either. Comment after comment has me literally laughing out loud.
Another thing is that I happen to be a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. This story makes sure to let us know that the Great Detective’s influence is strong. Beyond Jago mentioning that he’s no Sherlock Holmes, he also wears a huge beard which “might have even fooled the Red Headed League”. Need more? Conan Doyle, before settling on the names of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, was considering Sherringford Holmes and Ormand Sacker. In this story, Ormand Sacker is a Scotsman of unusual tastes! Wait, one more, just to prove my point. Litefoot comes up with a brilliant theory: “Once one has expunged those things that are clearly impossible from ones thought processes, such as revenants returned from the grave,… then that which remains, disregarding its relative unlikelihood… may well be the truth of the matter.” (As Sergeant Quick accurately points out: “this theory of yours could do with condensing into a pithier form of words…”)
But what’s the plot? Well, in a nutshell, there’s the group call The Far-Off Travelers that help people “die” to then restart their lives elsewhere. A person pays quite a fee to do this. They take a potion, and “die” only to be revived later with a whole new life. Except… it’s a scam. So, as Jago says of the recently departed, “there’s a lot of it about!” Of course, it’s a bit more sinister than that and that strange Dutch doctor, Talp, is involved again, though he remains unseen by our protagonists. And there may be vampires involved too. But you’ll have to listen to find out because, as someone once said: “spoilers!”
“Look here, you secretary person!” If there’s one complaint I have it’s that the writer, Alan Barnes, didn’t act a bit more like Sherlock Holmes when doing the research for this story. Jago is encased in concrete shoes to be thrown into the river; a particularly unpleasant means of disposal that the secretary says came from an American named Al Capone. That may be true, but these stories take place in the 1890’s. Capone was born in 1889. So unless he came up with that idea in his first 11 years of life, it’s almost impossible to fit into the story successfully.
“I can’t hear you due to your enormous beard!” Fine, fine, it’s too minor a quibble to make any bones about. I loved the story and more than that, I love spending an hour with these two fine people. It would be impossible for me not to recommend these stories. If you haven’t done so already, get a few of these and give them a listen. You will find yourself laughing out loud with two of the best spin-off characters Doctor Who had ever created. ML