As producer David Richardson and script editor Justin Richards point out in the CD extras, there is no shortage of stories to be told about our Victorian heroes – particularly now that from time to time they will have some some Sontaran assistance! The four stories in this new set are all very different, but all are based solidly around the friendship and differences between the two men.
The set kicks off with Paul Morris and Simon Barnard’s Case of the Missing Gasogene adventure. On the surface it’s a classic locked room mystery – with the normal slightly surreal elements that the Scarifying pair bring to the table (Pipkins references indeed!) but it’s given an extra edge by the introduction of Jago & Litefoot’s biographer, very nicely played throughout box set by Toby Hadoke. His presence exacerbates some of the fault lines between our heroes – and also of course in dramatic terms it means that we see different sides of them mirrored through him. It’s a suitably offbeat way of starting the set.
The second story, Jonathan Morris’ The Year of the Bat is very cleverly constructed, and very much in the timey-whimey manner of the current TV series, but is a little more problematic. Based around a “yesterday box” that has been provided to our heroes by a Doctor, it’s one of those conceits that works extremely well within the confines of a one-off story, but not necessarily in a long running series. There are plenty of other options open that you would think our heroes would want to avail themselves of, and I did half expect it to reappear in the final story. That’s not to knock this tale or the appearance of different versions of our heroes played by Alex Lowe and Blake Ritson.
James Goss’ The Mourning After begins grimly and continues in that vein. It’s good to have David Warner’s Luke Betterman back involved and working with George, and the separation of our heroes gives an opportunity for both characters to reassess their feelings for the other (as you might expect from a Goss-penned tale!). Again it’s a clever story that pulls together all of its pieces at the end.
The set wraps up with Justin Richards’ The Museum of Curiosities, in which the author pulls off a trick as clever as any of Jago & Litefoot’s adversaries, wrongfooting the listener on multiple occasions, so you really aren’t sure until the very end which of the two major guest stars is the actual Big Bad of the season. He also bases the villain’s motivation (and mistakes) within the social confines of Victorian society, underestimating both Ellie and Inspector Quick at his peril. And then there’s the final scene which means you’ll probably get straight online and pre-order Series 11…
Verdict: One of the strongest series for Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot. 9/10