This is very obviously influenced by The Phantom of the Opera (Greel’s broad-brimmed hat and cloak silhouette is pure 1925 Lon Chaney), with some moments, like the chase through the theatre flies, that are impressively filmic. These, plus location filming at night and the BBC’s ability to convincingly present Victorian Britain, mean this looks even lusher, if a lot grimmer, than The Masque of Mandragora. Even the maligned rat and a huge money spider are kept in the shadows so we don’t see the budgetary limitations.
The script, too, continues to be immensely quotable, with names like ‘Nellie Gusset’ and phrases like ‘pixilated leprechaun’ liberally strewn about by Jago, while Chang has a sort of poetry to his dialogue: the Doctor is ‘tall, with wide pale eyes and hair that curls like the ram.’ Professor Litefoot, though much more straightforward, still manages to get his teeth around a sentence like, ‘a poor perisher who was chewed by a giant rat, having been stabbed by a midget’ and even Greel has been taking lessons in loquaciousness, telling Chang, ‘You must bring another linnet to my cage’.
Greel is also living in dread of the mysterious Time Agents, briefly pondering if the Doctor might be one, then concluding, ‘A Time Agent would not ask questions. A Time Agent would know.’ It’s a tribute to Holmes’ casual world-building and characterisation that this script has not only resulted in 14 series of Jago & Litefoot audios from Big Finish, but an entire backstory for Captain Jack Harkness.
This is another great episode, and another Season 14 Part Two that pairs the Doctor up with another investigator, although Litefoot’s police pathologist is more used to working with the dead than either Poul or Spandrell. Leela continues to seem more innocent and savage than she did in Boucher’s scripts, but I love the way she’s characterised, particularly the scene where she compliments Litefoot’s ‘good knife’ in the Sevateem equivalent of pleasant small talk.
Next episode: The Talons of Weng-Chiang – Part Three