For those who have been following my ramblings about Jago and Litefoot, a series that has a distinct feel of the Great Detective, I feel the urge to go full on Sherlock. “…if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case [of Jago and Litefoot] than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Swan Song’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” I think that’s how the quote went. More or less. Last week I was saying how that story was a bit “filler” and didn’t really capture my imagination. I wondered if perhaps the stories of Jago and Litefoot had outlived themselves and the writers were coming to an end of their tether. I even cheated oh-so-slightly by seeing the next story’s cover artwork and thought it was possibly the weakest of the series so far (reminding me a bit too much of Christopher Eccleston’s The Unquiet Dead) and it made me think it was well and truly over. How very wrong I was!!!
John Dorney opens this story in modern times with a time experiment that allows the scientists to see into the past where three Victorian era people are watching them like ghosts. Shortly thereafter, we are back with our heroes, Jago, Litefoot and Leela as they see ghosts appear wearing clothing from the future. We’re in for one of those perspective bending time travel mystery pieces that keep me hungry for more… and walking in the neighborhood for miles just to hear the whole thing in one go. And it does not disappoint. If you remember the first story of the season, Dead Men’s Tales, we get to discover why there was a time distortion then too and we confirm my suspicion that Mr. Payne is the villain of this quartet.
As usual the series is chock full of wonderful moments. When Jago is asked to quote Shakespeare and uses “never a borrower nor a lender be”, Litefoot comments that he’s surprised Jago knows that quote. I laughed out loud and anyone watching me walk the neighborhood probably wondered about me. In fact, there are a number of fun moments like having Leela commenting on learning “Cock-a-knee” (cockney). And I love it when things get a bit “meta”. Leela finds out that Jago is referring to a play and says “Plays are stupid things. Why would anyone waste their time listening to people pretending and why do the people pretending waste their time pretending when they could actually live for real?” I don’t know Leela, ask Louise Jameson, she’s a lovely woman who brings smiles to many. Maybe that’s why!? (I know, it’s in fun and take it in kind! And I suspect Louise knows it too!)
Of the supporting cast, Alice steals the show, but the moment I heard her, I had The IT Crowd‘s Katherine Parkinson in my head, so I kept seeing her in my minds eye. Imagine my surprise when I got home and found out it was someone else. Abigail Hollick plays Alice and she steals the show. Her story is a sad one: a girl in a wheelchair who is working on time travel experiments that never gets the timing quite right. Her ending monologue is stunning. And her end coincides with a sad future of Henry’s theater after he dies… but that’s not for 50 years so let’s not talk about that now. However, when the plot starts to wrap up, we begin to understand why these coincide and its incredible, coupled with stunning music from a classic play. I am not discourteous enough to explain it because it would be too great a spoiler for too fantastic an episode. However there’s an absolutely beautiful speech that I feel needs to be highlighted.
Jago: “I know, I know it hurts. We’ve all had our hearts broken. It’s a fact of life. But you carry on. You move on. You don’t give in to hate, to anger!”
Alice: “But they hurt me!”
Jago: “But they didn’t mean to. No one ever does.”
Alice: “I feel such pain!”
Jago: “Love is pain. It’s the risk, every time you open you heart and let someone in, but you take that risk and you bear the consequences. You’re better than this! …Theater is about anger and anguish, betrayal and loss, but it’s also about joy and hope and compassion and love.”
Wow. I was mesmerized. I think this answers Leela’s question and I think Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin and Louise Jameson could all explain it, but the delivery is so heartfelt that the audience feels it. That is what theater is about, and what story telling is and a good writer brings that out. We fans have lost those we love and been hurt by those we’ve trusted and betrayed by the person we wanted to see being good again. But the story is about more than the rough times! It’s about those greatest of treasures: joy, hope, compassion and love.
Jago and Litefoot fall into the Doctor Who universe and what greater universe to illustrate all of those wonderful qualities. I’d say that’s what has kept the show alive for near six decades. It constantly reminds us to travel hopefully, and to always try to be nice but never fail to be kind and to laugh hard and enjoy the pile of good things and always see the world through rose tinted glasses. This story was firmly a part of that universe and I was utterly delighted by it. It was a perfect story for a beautiful day.
But there is still a final part to this set, and Mr. Payne has come to destroy the world. Can the next part compare to this? Only one way to find out… ML