I don’t normally comment too much on the cover designs of Big Finish releases, as they’re normally so brilliant there’s not much to say. I have to admit though that this story from Jago & Litefoot Series 11, The Woman In White is absolutely petrifying and eerie; it’s so simplistic and spooky, there’s something very unnerving about it. Anyway, now I’m feeling thoroughly uncomfortable from having to stare at it whilst writing this introduction, I’m going to get on with the rest of the review!
The great actor Henry Irving is not as great as he once was. In fact, he’s awful – a shadow of his former self. Worried that something may be terribly wrong, Irving’s assistant Bram Stoker enlists the help of an old friend – Henry Gordon Jago.
With Irving’s state deteriorating, Professor Litefoot also faces a challenge. He performs an autopsy on a man who has had all his bodily fluids drained from him. Can the detectives discover the connection between the great actor and the mysterious dehydrated corpse? And how does it relate to the Woman in White who supposedly haunts Irving’s theatre?
There seems to be a bit of a trend when it comes to these releases of Jago & Litefoot; that the stories that have pre-title sequences (both Jago & Son and The Woman In White so far) have been the ones that have really gripped me right from the off. The pre-title sequence I must admit reminded me of the Sherlock Special; The Abominable Bride; and I absolutely adored that story, so I won’t complain.
Like in Maurice, in The Woman In White we have a character who is actually someone fairly well known from history; this time the actor Sir Henry Irving. Now, I must confess that I didn’t know much about Sir Henry Irving before listening to this story, so I was very unfamiliar with his works or his private life; however I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing as it means that I’m totally open to any alterations in his timeline and I wouldn’t be annoyed or offended by them.
There’s quite a bit of Shakespeare in this story; as the majority of the plot revolves around the theatre, something that is rather appropriate considering all of the celebrations that have been going on to mark the Bard’s 450th anniversary of his death.
In my opinion, and you must bare in mind that I write these reviews whilst listening to the story so I don’t know the outcome whilst I’m writing this; but I would say that chances are that Henry Irving may be suffering from what’s now known as dementia. He’s getting older and becoming more and more forgetful, as well as more and more volatile.
At the theatre, more and more people start seeing this woman in white lurking around, and even mistaking Jago for the spectral vision. It’s not just the sightings of the woman in white that’s the problem though; people who see her are also seemingly destined to have bad luck; whether it be in small or more extreme ways.
Jago and Litefoot themselves seem to be part of two rather different stories for the majority of the story; with Jago investigating the mysteries of the supposedly haunted Prince Albert Theatre, and Litefoot investigating the death of August Augustus, who was dehydrated. I have to admit that I spent most of the story wondering how the two plots would intertwine later on.
When Jago and Litefoot do unite in the pub (well, where else would it be?), they get interrupted with their exposition by a certain Bram Stoker (coincidentally, this month Big Finish are releasing their version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula featuring Mark Gatiss) who wants to help his friend, Henry Irving. When it transpires that the separate cases that Jago and Litefoot have been examining could be linked; I have to say it felt as if it was more shoehorned in than a happy coincidence, which is a shame, as the revelation of the connection could have been revealed in a much more interesting way.
One of my favourite characters in this story was actually Bram Stoker. I half expected his character to be quite dark and broody, where everything was going to be bleak and serious; however the way he was portrayed in The Woman In White makes him appear more like a bumbling buffoon who’s trying to help but is in reality more of a hinderance.
Just a word of warning; what I may say in this paragraph may be considered rather spoilery for some people; however it’s an integral plot point that I can’t ignore, so I’m going to recommend that if you want everything to be a total surprise when you listen; then you just skip ahead to the rating, otherwise you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
We get given the impression that the Master has hypnotised Henry Irving and is seemingly conditioning him to become more and more violent and irate; especially towards Bram Stoker himself. Luckily for Stoker, Jago was on hand to hit him on the back of the head with a shovel.
It’s not long before Jago and Litefoot are separated once more; this time due to a hilarious incident in a tunnel. Jago finds himself surrounded by the mere husks of the deceased and a sinister female laugh. Litefoot on the other hand, accompanied by Stoker, are stuck in the same tunnel, with no other option than to keep heading onwards, towards the sound of something alive.
One thing that I love about Henry Gordon Jago as a character is that, even at his senior age, at his heart he is still a man. A man with impulses and desires and a soft spot for a pretty woman. The problem is though, these pretty women are the types of women who are likely to get Jago into a whole heap of trouble; and he can’t resist the song of the siren. Luckily for Jago, he’s saved just in time.
When we hear the woman in white; she seems to be just trying to grasp the English language, by repeating everything that Jago says; a lot like the monster from the planet Midnight in Midnight. What a petrifying episode that was.
There’s a scene in the last quarter of the story involving the woman in white, Jago, Litefoot and Stoker that I feel could be the best scene in the story; however I feel like due to it’s lack of action or narrative it would often be overlooked. All I will say is, I think we’ve learnt when Bram Stoker got his inspiration from…
When Jago, Litefoot and Stoker manage to find Henry Irving; I have to admit that Irving’s master isn’t at all the master I thought it would be. Simon Barnard and Paul Morris minded to absolutely fool me. The Master isn’t Irving’s master; in fact, it’s somebody entirely different. I won’t say who, but it will come as a shock to you, I guarantee it.
Luckily, in the last chapter; we get a glimpse of the Master who we all know is in this box set. Inspector Quick is still under his influence, and he now has the DNA of both Jago and Litefoot; this can’t end well for them.
Overall, The Woman In White is a rather mixed bag; there are some scenes that were absolutely terrific and perfect for this Victorian setting, however; I do think that the story could have benefitted from being slightly shorter, as some of the scenes did seem to drag somewhat. All in all though, The Woman In White is a fairly good story and it leads into what I’m hoping will be an absolutely stellar ending to the series in Masterpiece.
The rating system on the GallifreyArchive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Woman In White, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase Jago & Litefoot Series 11, it’s currently available both physically for £30.00 and as a download for £25.00, which you can purchase by clicking here!