At the end of series six Jago and Litefoot were on the run, wanted by the government for a crime they didn’t commit.
‘The Monstrous Menagerie’ picks up the story with our intrepid chums “skulking about in back alleys like a couple of vagabonds”, but thanks to the remote machinations of their old friend the Doctor they are soon set up in digs at 221b Baker Street and introduced to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fresh from killing off his Great Detective.
Doyle’s tetchy defensiveness when asked about Sherlock’s return is a fun running gag, giving the story its preposterously pat, Bill-and-Teddish climax where he promises to write The Hound Of The Baskervilles in order to retrospectively contrive an escape from certain death.
More introspective and psychological, ‘The Night Of 1000 Stars’ welcomes back Leela in pursuit of a ravenous beast called Remorse, a poetic metaphor made flesh. Jago, pining for the stage, introduces each character’s disclosures as if they were theatrical turns, which is the sort of offbeat, fanciful device that this series revels in and thrives on.
The shadow of Sherlock falls again on ‘Murder At Moorsey Manor’, a quirky country house mystery with shades of Poe among the Agatha Christie tropes, while final story ‘The Wax Princess’ concerns Jack the Ripper’s attempt to become King of England by marrying a waxwork of Queen Victoria’s niece, animated by body parts harvested during his murders; again, the kind of bizarre grotesquery that works so well counterpointed against Jago and Litefoot’s reassuringly unflappable pragmatism.
Although embracing ridiculous plots, rushed conclusions and clunky dialogue describing visual action, Jago & Litefoot remains one of the best things about modern Doctor Who – arguably better than the show itself – for the effortless charm, charisma and chemistry of Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter.
Now in their 80s, their voices retain the power, humour and finesse of the glorious characters we first encountered in The Talons Of Weng-Chiang nearly 40 years ago.