Doctor Who review: Jago & Litefoot: Series 1 is a strong start for the spin-off

Featuring werewolves, spirits, and criminal masterminds, the first series of Jago & Litefoot gives the Doctor Who spin-off a strong and confident start.

To mark ten years since Doctor Who‘s potentially greatest spin-off truly began, we decided it was worth re-listening to and reviewing the first series of Jago & Litefoot. Does it still hold up? Absolutely.

What really stands out about this release is how confident it is. There’s a strong and consistent tone throughout all four episodes, and yet at the same time, there’s plenty of variation, too.

For example, The Bloodless Soldier is your classic monster story with a strong tragic element. The next episode, The Bellova Devil, is considerably lighter and almost shifts genre. The Spirit Trap is a fresh take on the possession story, while The Similarity Engine acts as both a finale to the box set and as a strong sequel to The Mahogany Murderers, the story that essentially lead to Jago & Litefoot getting their own spin-off in the first place.

All four of these stories stand out on their own terms, and yet they all feel like they truly belong to this particular series. It’s not just the Victorian setting or even the characters themselves that help to keep things consistent. But what also helps is how well-written and defined those characters are.

Consistent writing and tone

When it comes to Jago & Litefoot, there’s no question that we have the much-loved Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes to thank for these brilliant characters. From their first appearance in the classic Tom Baker story The Talons of Weng-Chiang, they stood out as clear and well-defined characters. So if the writers of their spin-off didn’t write them properly, it would have stood out instantly.

Thankfully, everyone knew exactly how to handle these characters. They understood the strengths and weaknesses of both Jago & Litefoot, and how each character really needs the other. They work well enough on their own terms, but they’re both at their best together.

Also helping with consistency is the overall tone of the series. Throughout all four episodes, no matter how light or dark the story is, two elements stand out: humor and the macabre. And they’re both necessary for a series like this. It can be tricky to get the right balance for two very different elements, but it works. They each help to make the world feel more believable rather than detract from it.

The right balance

What also works well is the arc of Jago & Litefoot. Each story is enjoyable enough on its own terms, but at the same time, there are just the right amount of hints of an arc, giving us a real payoff in the box set’s final episode.

Dr. Tulp also works quite well as the box set’s main villain. Initially appearing in The Mahogany Murderers, it was a smart move to make him an even greater threat in this volume. The writers don’t overcomplicate him, they just make him an interesting villain with a great deal of power and control. Toby Longworth clearly had a lot of fun voicing the character and helps to really flesh him out after his original appearance.

But of course, what really makes this series work so well are the performances of Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter. They were absolutely brilliant in both The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Mahogany Murderers, and the same proves true in their own spin-off series. The chemistry between them is as clear as the characters they portray. Together with such incredibly strong stories and an extremely consistent tone and feel, they help to make Jago & Litefoot: Series 1 into an extremely successful box set – one that would only lead to even greater success.

Next: Rassilon will return in Gallifrey: Time War’s final series

Have you listened to Jago & Litefoot: Series 1? Do you think it was a strong start to the spin-off? Let us know in the comments below.

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