Series three comes to a conclusion with another time distorting adventure featuring our intrepid adventurers and Leela as they go up against season baddie, Mr. Payne. But Payne is not the villain we think and he’s motivated by the greatest of emotions: love. What strange tale does Big Finish have for us this time?
As usual, the series uses the final act to tie everything together (and I’m not surprised, if perhaps a trifle disappointed, that the second story was truly filler). The finale is extremely well told and incredibly enjoyable. Not unexpectedly, the banter is outstanding really showcasing some of the finest moments of the dialogue between our heroes, but Leela brings so much more to the table. Some marvelous examples can be found when Jago says Litefoot is tucked up in his bed, just as he should be; Leela is surprised and asks, “tucked up in the professors bed?” (Jago explains that he meant asleep in his own bed!) Later Litefoot says that sense went “out the window” when discussing the strange happenings and Leela asks “something went out the window as well?” And as Jago discusses Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Leela, she exclaims, “A wolf gang? Where?” But Leela is not the only bringer of humor. Jago does have his moments to shine too. Leela asks if there is anything that doesn’t frighten him to which he says, “I look forward to finding it!” However, the funniest moment is surely when Leela thinks everyone is shouting battle cries and bursts out with Tarzan’s call. (How much fun these actors must have, eh? And they get paid for it!)
But it’s not a comedy sketch, even if Leela has learned about comic timing. Payne’s motivations are made clear: he wants to rescue his wife, Shania, from a time experiment and creatures gave him the ability to do it. (If you are not chuckling over this, perhaps I need to spell it out. His wife’s name is Shania Payne. Well, I found it funny!) The creatures obviously have ulterior motives and Payne ends up being a “not so bad guy once you get to know why he does what he does” sort of chap. Mind you, I’m doing some quick talking here; this all takes place brilliantly over the course of the hour but the most amazing part is how it ties in with the previous story, Swan Song.
As much as this was a great final chapter for season 3, I was put off by some things. When one of two Jagos gets killed, Litefoot is surprisingly calm when telling the other that his other self “fell foul” of a timebomb. (Tough sentence to say!) His “sorry” was literally as if someone ate the last chocolate covered strawberry. Yes, disappointed, but you know, you’ll get over it. I realize he doesn’t see them both as the real deal but still, not knowing which is which should have given him greater pause. I was also troubled by Nikola Tesla’s presence, which seemed to be totally insignificant. It could have been Tom Tesla from down the block and it wouldn’t have made any difference in my mind. Maybe I missed it.
On the other hand, the cast is so fantastic that everyone has a chance to shine, even Ellie who returns a favor to Litefoot while his house is being fixed up. Sgt Quick has some great moments talking about late night renovations, spiral staircases, and load-bearing walls. And there is a truly marvelous piece of dialogue as Jago and Litefoot debate where is home to Leela, time itself or a jungle. (She tells them they are both right.) Leela’s departure, which I knew was coming, was also very touching. And that lead to a dilemma…
I seriously debated about stopping the story in the last few minutes because I knew beyond a doubt that there would be a cliffhanger that would make me want to press on, and indeed there was. Dr. Claudius Black arrives, voiced by… well, best I give you the odd cliffhanger too. Alas, like me, we will wait to find out what Dr. Black is really here for. But that wait must be a bit longer than I want it to be. The reason I debated on the final few minutes was knowing it would be a little while before I got back to writing these. The national lockdown has reduced my driving and 95 degree heat makes “walking while listening” nearly impossible. (If I pass out, I might come to some stories later, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?) I will get back to Jago and Litefoot and the mysterious Dr. Black but like Leela, that has to remain stuck in time for now. ML