Theatrical Fellow: Jago is the only character that is so full of bluster that he will cower and beg for his life when he thinks he is in danger and state that he is a dangerous man and shouldn’t be riled the second he thinks that he is safe. Christopher Benjamin was right that occasionally the writers will overdose on alliteration when it comes to writing his character and I noticed that Brake held back a little bit and allowed Jago some more naturalistic sounding exchanges. It was quite refreshing. Thank goodness the theatre saved him from a life of crime because he’s rather too good at getting in places where he isn’t welcome.
Standout Performance: Raquel Cassidy’s Guinivere Godiva is starting make her presence more keenly felt and it wasn’t until this story that I checked out the cast list to find out who played the character. She has a terribly naturalistic way with the microphone that makes you feel as though this scene is playing out just out of sight in the next room. She also happened to be (by a stretch of about a million miles) the best thing about the godawful Rebel Flesh two-parter from season six of the new series. As a subtle menace threading though this season, she has been quieter than others in the past (David Collings still gets the award for creepiest villain) but I am more intrigued by her every time she turns up. Not putting all your cards on the table at once does have its virtues. Is Guinivere Godiva in cahoots with the Brain Drain killer…or she the killer herself?
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Paperbacks. They don’t seem like real books, do they?’
‘If you live a long time you lose so many people you care about…’
‘I think I inhaled the bounder!’
Audio Landscape: Traffic, shop bell, restaurant crowd, cocking a gun, a man ageing to death once he touches the book, crackling fire, underground train pulling in to a station, kettle on the boil, the humming Time Cabinet, Mr Sin’s snivelling.
Musical Cues: Howard Carter is still having fun with his music but I thought this was one story that could done with toning it down a little. It’s the darkest story of the season (thus far) but you wouldn’t be able to tell that if you were just listening to the music.
Standout Scene: We discover the props that Guinivere Godiva has been concealing and it turns out to be a collection of monstrosities that belonged to the Celestial Chang! More importantly that sinister little Homunculus…Mr Sin! I’ve complained in the past about Big Finish bringing back so many past elements but considering these were the tools that constructed the story which first gave us Jago & Litefoot I really can’t complain too much. They are inextricably linked in a way that it feels perfectly natural to have the piggy little nasty return. Frankly it surprises me that it has taken this long.
Result: Is this really the same Colin Brake who wrote Three’s a Crowd? In the slot usually reversed for Matthew Sweet or John Dorney instead we have a writer who, at best, has produced pretty average stories in the past. More fool me for getting ahead of myself and assuming the worst. Not only is this the best standalone story of the season so far but it’s also the best plotted and contains some of the finest surprises. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Joseph! The way Ellie’s nature is weaved into the storyline adds depth to her character and both Jago and Litefoot are given plenty of consideration too, the former underwritten for a change to allow his gentler side to come out and the latter continuing the season five thread of the good Professor being a fish out of water in the sixties. The characterisation all round is nuanced and all three actors are responding well to shifts they have been asked to make. The two Doctor Who adventures that bridged seasons four and five are given some consideration too, with one McGuffin acquired by Jago starting to gain momentum as this series progresses. There hasn’t been a knockout adventure yet but season five is showing a run of form that easily matches previous years. Frankly this is infectious listening, and the cliffhanger is a doozy: 8/10