Jago and Litefoot Series 9 was great, but not amazing if truth be told. A nice bunch of stories but nothing ground-breaking: almost as if the franchise were treading water a bit, waiting for the someone to turn on the metaphorical wave machine in the swimming pool of Supernatural Steampunk Shenanigans (gone a bit Jago, sorry).
Well, hold onto your hats, Ladies and Gents, because if that metaphor serves at all then Series 10 is a veritable tsunami!
The series opens with Simon Barnard and Paul Morris’s The Case of the Missing Gasogene. The writers’ names may be familiar from the Cosmic Hobo/Bafflegab Scarifyers series – and their script certainly will be. It is immediately recognisable as from the same stable, populated as it is with plummy, infeasibly-named aristocrats and their servants, suffused with gags, and possessing of an ingeniously off-the-wall plot. One could be forgiven for thinking, in fact, that this might be an old Scarifyers script that’s been dusted down and quickly adapted to the needs of the Hapless Hexagenarian Heroes (ooh, I’ve Jagoed meself again); and one could also be forgiven for thanking them for doing so, because it works brilliantly well. More, please.
Second up is Jonathan Morris’s The Year of the Bat, which is itself remarkable in a couple of ways. To begin with, it breaths new, and somewhat mischievous, life into an iconic image of a staple children’s story Victorian character. But more importantly – and one wonders if the timing of this release was intentionally close to the TV episode Before the Flood, which attempted the same – it really makes decent, clear and cogent use of the Bootstrap Paradox. Except… actually, and somewhat sadly, it doesn’t. Because as satisfying as the feeling that it’s done it so well is, there’s actually no bootstrapping going on here: the device in question exists before either end of the events-chain happened, and continues (one assumes) to exist afterwards. But the thing is, it feels like it uses the paradox better – and frankly, for any work of fiction, what it feels like is what’s important.
Third in the quartet is James Goss’s The Mourning After, in which Henry Gordon Jago appears to be dead and has been buried alive, despite his protestations. Again, it’s an ingenious script which takes the listener in a direction that isn’t directly revealed to be a wild goose chase, but which is definitely more – or probably less – than it appears to be. In turn, it reintroduces David Warner as Dr Luke Betterman (and for those who don’t know, Warner plays Harry Crow in the Scarifyers stories, so that voice appearing here so close to a Barnard & Morris script further cements the feeling that the two series are stable-mates)… and rather well sows a seed of doubt as to his motives…
Lastly, Justin Richards’s The Museum of Curiosities brings the series arc back down to the ground. Betterman’s motives are further explored, and the extent of his villainy (which, remember, may be ‘not terribly extended at all’ – trying not to spoiler here) finally revealed. Similarly, certain other recurring characters’ true, um, characters and motives are also made clear and brought to conclusion.
All in all this is a particularly satisfying series. The sound design is, as ever, excellent and immediately building of the fourth wall, if I may clumsily stretch the metaphor (and assuming that said metaphor even works for audio). Performances are engaging and believable throughout. And the stories themselves are ingenious, cheeky, funny and exciting in turn – the best for a while from a franchise that is always, even at its worst, rather good.
But the main thing about this series is that it just oozes a palpable sense of playfulness and delight. It feels like there was fun being had every step of the way in this production, and that doesn’t half make the listening experience a joyous one. Can’t wait for series 11 – hell, can’t wait for series 100!