With three entertaining stories, Big Finish launches another Doctor Who spin-off range, and this time it’s Catrin Stewart, Neve McIntosh and Dan Starkey in The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1. Fans have long hoped this trio (Jenny Flint, Mme Vastra the Silurian and Strax the Sontaran) would make it to audio, and their arrival in their own series is most welcome (though they did appear together on this year’s Eighth Of March release).
Jonathan Morris opens proceedings with The Cars That Ate London! (no obvious connection to the 1974 horror comedy The Cars That Are Paris), and electric cars on the streets of London go out of control while a new power plant has mysterious power outages. To this add the visionary insight of industrialist Fabian Solak (Alan Cox). With three members to the gang, splitting characters apart to investigate different aspects of the puzzle works well and as the layers of mystery unfurl, we find out just what is happening before putting the world to rights. There’s a mild ecological commentary buried in this almost steampunk tale, but also plenty of comedy (mostly centred on Strax) and it’s a great start to the series.
Roy Gill explores the Victorian obsessions with photography and the afterlife in A Photograph To Remember with both a mystery and superb new characters, chief (perhaps) of which is Christopher Ryan’s Stonn. Yes, the ‘Bloomsbury Bunch’ are in London, another Sontaran, Silurian and human. It’s both another take on the Paternoster Gang and a chance to explore the wider Victorian world and ask just why Mme Vastra and team feel they have the moral right to do what they do.
Last is a Paul Morris masterpiece, The Ghosts Of Greenwich. Broken time, apparitions and a mysterious cloaked figure all lead the team to the Meridian Line and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Lucy Briggs-Owen helps the team as would-be astronomer Charlotte Mayfly, held back by Victorian sexism. It’s a cleverly balanced tale – when the midpoint twist happens, Paul has several threads at play making it a pleasing second act. Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey get to take their characters into new territory and even if the ending has an inevitability, it’s still a good story, well told, performed and directed.
The overall casting is top notch as ever, including Trevor Cooper in several roles, and Joe Kramer is responsible for sound design and music. On the strength of this release, we must surely be treated to more releases in the Heritage collection, and the sooner the better.