Long before Jago & Litefoot took it upon themselves to become an investigative pair, they both had separate and fairly normal lives in Victorian England. If they hadn’t met the Doctor, it would have remained ordinary enough. They hadn’t even met at the opening of ‘The Talons Of Weng Chiang’ but, by the end, they made a great team. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The Doctor and Leela have arrived in London in search of a little theatrical entertainment and Leela is persuaded out of her skins and into some more acceptable attire. The Doctor is keen to show her the inside of a London Music Hall and, as they are proceeding to the Palace Theatre, they encounter a group of black-clad Chinese carrying a body. As Leela springs into action, the travellers are left with one subdued warrior and some explaining to do to a policeman.
Meanwhile, at the Palace Theatre, the act of the famous Chinese magician Mr. Li H’sen Chang continues and impresario Henry Jago looks on from the wings in admiration. He’s bemused by the ventriloquist dummy, Mr Sin, that Chang uses as part of his act as it’s almost life-like.
When a body is fished from the Thames, it’s the eminent Professor Litefoot who performs the autopsy and he is startled to meet the Doctor, sporting his outfit of the deerstalker and cape. Slowly, the respective parties are drawn together as they find out the startling truth behind the stage act. It would never have happened to Paul Daniels.
The novelisation by Terrance Dicks is comprehensive and once again suffers from an excess of adjectives but given that, the actual script, written by Robert Holmes is inventive, funny and ahead of its time, pulling in not only Sherlock Holmes but lots of other influences.
This audio version of the Target novel of the original TV series is read with verve by Christopher Benjamin, who played Henry Gordon Jago in the original show. His enthusiasm and ability makes the slightly meandering plot and the repeated use of the aforementioned adjectives almost acceptable.
This proved to be an agreeable book to listen to and there is a great deal of plot to absorb, some of which must have been rather cumbersome in the TV series but here it simply fills in the background of Weng Chiang or rather Marcus Greel from the 51st Century. If you would like to hear an imaginative prequel to this story then try Big Finish’s ‘The Butcher Of Brisbane’ by Marc Platt. If you haven’t discovered the ‘Jago & Litefoot’ further adventures at Big Finish, you are also missing a treat of invention. ‘The Talons Of Weng Chiang’ is where it all began and the outpouring of quality drama couldn’t have done it without this original.
The release of the audio books of the Target book range has been variable, showing the quality of the original novels rather than the always excellent presentation. Luckily, the readers and once again here Christopher Benjamin has performed the magician’s trick of transforming a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
(pub: Audio Go/BBC. 4 CDs 246 minute story. Price: CD: £14.50 (UK), Download: £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-44582-605-9)
reader: Christopher Benjamin
check out website: www.audiogo.co.uk