In the second episode of their own Doctor Who spin-off, Jago & Litefoot investigate a man who apparently has come back from the dead. But is there more to The Bellova Devil than they realize?
After the simplicity of The Bloodless Soldier, the second episode of Jago & Litefoot: Series 1 gives us something rather different. The Bellova Devil features several different plot strands, and not everything is as it seems.
The story kicks off with Jago finding himself in a lot of trouble. Having acquired a substantial amount of debt, he now finds himself hunted down by “the Manchester Mangler”. As you can imagine, this colorfully named villain doesn’t exactly provide a pleasant fate to his victims.
Litefoot himself has problems of his own, although none quite as life-threatening as Jago’s (at least, not at first). When a body that was declared dead is found again six weeks later, his fellow pathologist Dr. Sacker is facing a blow to his reputation. Did this man twice pronounced dead truly rise up from the grave? Or is there another explanation?
A subversive episode
The Bellova Devil was written by Alan Barnes. Barnes is something of a veteran writer for Big Finish – for a long time, he was script editor of the monthly Doctor Who audios, and even now, continues to write stories for the company. So he was a natural choice for Jago & Litefoot’s first series.
If there’s one word that I would describe many of Barnes’s stories, it’s subversive. Many of the stories he’s written have a very noticeable twist. So you go in expecting one story and often find yourself with another entirely. (This was especially true of this year’s Doctor Who audio Planet of Witches, which was a highly enjoyable story for the Fourth Doctor.)
This is definitely true of The Bellova Devil. At first, the story feels like a natural successor to The Bloodless Soldier, and it’s easy to believe that you know where the episode is going. But then the story gets a lot more complicated and we discover many twists and turns, especially in the last fifteen minutes. It’s actually refreshing to discover just how different this episode is, and yet it still feels true to these great characters.
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Speaking of which, we’re given a brilliant creation in the form of Dr. Sacker. A man who likes to enjoy the occasional drink while he works, he’s a great contrast to the professional Litefoot, and we’re given a great performance by Duncan Wisbey, who has a lot of fun with the role while still making him feel like a believable character.
In some ways, The Bellova Devil is just as important at establishing Jago & Litefoot as both The Mahogany Murderers and The Bloodless Soldier. Because it’s an extremely different story to both of these episodes, and yet it still remains true to both the characters and the unique feel of this series. Another strong and fun episode that shows off exactly what the spin-off is capable of.
Which Doctor Who stories have you enjoyed that subverted expectations? When do you think a good twist on a story works best? Let us know in the comments below.