Our intrepid sleuths, aided by the inestimable Leela, Sergeant Quick and Ellie from the Red Tavern, travel to Brighton, meet Oscar Wilde, take a turn on the Underground, and encounter the Ampthill mob…
Okay, one of the above isn’t strictly true, and it misses out the role that Colin Baker plays in proceedings, but it gives a flavour of the fun of this fourth series of plays featuring Robert Holmes’ brilliant creations from The Talons of Weng-Chiang, who end this season in a very different place from where they start out.
Nigel Fairs’ Jago in Love slightly feels shoehorned into the season arc – you almost wish the revelation at the end regarding the lady to whom Henry Gordon proposes didn’t happen, and that perhaps down the line, that was an avenue which he could pursue when his adventuring was finished. It’s still a great chance for Christopher Benjamin to shine.
Litefoot’s dislike of Oscar Wilde comes to the fore in Beautiful Things, courtesy of John Dorney. There are certain echoes of one of Dorney’s earlier plays, but this is a great standalone story, and probably my favourite of the set.
Matthew Sweet’s The Lonely Clock is a timey-wimey affair, that gives rather more for Louise Jameson and Lisa Bowerman to do as Leela and Ellie, which culminates in a cliffhanger which, for some reason, is telegraphed as early as the first few minutes of the very first story (and, to be honest, I wish it had almost been anything but what it is!)
The final story sees script editor Justin Richards take up the pen to wrap everything up in The Hourglass Killers, a sometimes thankless task normally left to Andy Lane. This wanders perilously close to seeing Jago and Litefoot guest star in their own series – something that David Richardson comments on with regard to their appearance with Tom Baker and Mary Tamm next year – but it’s a fun story that includes an almost unrecognisable Terry Molloy .
All four stories are enlivened by the very Holmesian (Robert, not Sherlock) double act, Mr Kempston and Mr Hardwick, played by Christopher Benny and Mike Grady. They link right back to Big Finish’s very first Doctor Who release, and make for a fine audio equivalent to Fury from the Deep’s Mr Oak and Mr Quill.
Verdict: If this had wrapped up the infernal investigators’ adventures, as apparently was originally the plan, they would be going out on a high. 8/10