The Mahogany Murderers

A smashing new entry into the Companions Chronicles from Big Finish, The Mahogany Murderers reunites Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter as Jago and Litefoot from the lauded 1977 Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng Chiang…

I’m a sucker for “event drama” – as an occasional listener to big finish’s output, I’ve previously listened to first adventure The Sirens of Time, first Eighth Doctor audio Storm Warning, anniversary story Zagreus, Unbound classic Sympathy for the Devil, a couple of Bernice Summerfield adventures and a Sarah Jane, among others.

This dipping in and out of the Big Finish range isn’t perfect, but it does allow me to fully appreciate some of the wonderful casting and stories the company produces. Those listed above have been absolute gems, and while the overall quality of Big Finish’s output is high, I feel lucky to have heard some classics.

The Mahogany Murderers from Big FinishThe Mahogany Murderers falls squarely into the bracket of “classic”. Reuniting Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter a mere 32 years after The Talons of Weng Chiang brought us the colourful archetypes of theatre impresario Henry Gordon Jago and pathologist Professor Litefoot was a master-stroke of casting that enables two fine veteran character actors to hold the listener in the palm of their hands for the full 60 minutes.

Charged with reuniting Robert Holmes most classic double act (and let’s face it over the course of a 20 year career writing Doctor Who Holmes had a few distinct duos) is Andy Lane whose previous credits include 2008’s Here There Be Monsters,  and novels Lucifer Rising (1993, with Jim Mortimore), All-Consuming Fire (1994), Original Sin (1995), The Empire of Glass (1995) and The Banquo Legacy (2000 with Justin Richards).

Remarkably, you wouldn’t even know someone had written this. These two characters leap out of the MP3 player like real living, breathing (if rather larger than life) people, and it is purely down to an effortless script packed full of superb characteristic dialogue – full of Jago’s trademark alliterations – that the two stars have been able to slip back into roles they played for just a few weeks in 1977.

Unusually for a Companions Chronicle adventure, Jago and Litefoot are joined by a third voice, that of director Lisa Bowerman as the barmaid of the tavern in which the duo meet up in to compare notes on their adventure. Other than these couple of moments of “spot the guest voice” the play is punctuated by the expert voice artistry of Baxter and Benjamin throughout the telling and retelling of an exciting and thrilling adventure taking place some of the most notorious locales of Victorian London.

Everything about the production is well-polished, from the simple realisation of a 19th century public house by that throughout the play is there in the background all brown and cream, smelling of stale ale and tobacco smoke. In fact it should have had its own credit.

I’m loathe to give too much away about The Mahogany Murderers – save that the title is accurate, the concept one that surprisingly hasn’t been touched upon in Doctor Who’s long history, and the villain of the piece remains shrouded in a slightly OTT European accent, and is never actually met…

With such remarkable characterisation however, the plot itself is a little limited, giving the feel of a first episode of something that seems to end too quickly, leaving the listener wanting more.

This however is a good thing – it opens up the possibility of further adventures for Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot, a series that I might just start listening to regularly!

The Mahogany Murderers is available on CD or via MP3 from Big Finish.


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