The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3 is a welcome return for the Great [Silurian] Detective Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her maid / wife Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Sontaran butler Strax (Dan Starkey). The previous sets, Heritage 1 (June 2019) and Heritage 2 (October 2019) proved this Doctor Who spin-off can stand in its own right. These were enjoyable outings, but in Heritage 3, the series goes up several gears. The result? Three strong stories, each written by a great writer and created by strong cast, excellent direction from Ken Bentley and effective sound design.
We begin to understand just why the series centres on the idea of heritage. Interesting times lie ahead for the Paternoster Gang!
You can choose your friends
It’s chaos as usual in Paternoster Row when the circus comes to town. While Strax deals with a new guest, Jenny has problems; big problems in the shape of her family. Jenny very much wants to leave them in the past where they belong – instead they show an unhealthy interest in Jenny and also Madame Vastra. Lisa McMullin’s story Family Matters gives an intriguing insight into Jenny’s past and, with family like hers, it’s no surprise she hasn’t invited them for dinner.
Include the desire to add a new humanoid (but not human) recruit to the circus freak show, and this story gives the listener plenty to think about while they enjoy the escapades.
It ends with order restored, but one can’t help suspect Jenny may not have seen the last of her relatives.
It’s a trip to Devon for the Great Detective in Robert Valentine’s Whatever Remains. This is the first of three stories in quick succession for new to Big Finish writer Robert, including the lockdown story Shadow of the Sun (May 2020) and The Lovecraft Invasion (June 2020). It riffs on the theme of Vastra not being Sherlock Holmes, but there’s a lot more. Jenny and Strax gain the unwanted amorous attention of locals (there’s a brilliant performance by Annette Badland as landlady Mrs Slinger). Vastra has something else on her mind.
There’s plenty of mystery in a world of tunnels and caves; add to this a Jurassic heritage and it’s no wonder Vastra has plenty of reminder of her people’s past. Distracted, her relationship with Jenny suffers. It falls to Jenny to be the detective and solve the case. It’s pleasing the foreground detective story relies on nothing supernatural, alien or technologically advanced — it’s a solid story in a Holmes tradition and very satisfying.
This is also the story in which we start to see the shape of a bigger tale (dare we say arc?) hovering over the series, with Robert bringing some splendid ingredients to the Paternoster mix.
The past is always with us
Symmetrically the three stories share the focus among the members of the Paternoster Gang. In Roy Gill’s Truth and Bone we have several Sontarans and plenty of humour, but also something much darker. Roy develops the ideas from the previous story adding meat to the bones of the idea of the heritage series.
It’s also a return for some of the Bloomsbury Bunch from Heritage 2 — Sontaran Stonn (Christopher Ryan) and Tom Foster (Arthur Hughes). Strax and Stonn are wanted; Sontaran Requisitioner Skark (John Banks) is after deserters. They must be tried and executed for failing to live up to the Sontaran code. The narrative is neat in the way the main story entertains, yet builds a deeper plot linking back nicely the idea of heritage. Extend this with the opportunity for listeners to appreciate how even a race of clones can have differences and the story is complete. We are spoiled with a clever connection back to an idea first raised in a much earlier Big Finish Sontaran adventure. No spoilers here, and no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this.
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3 is the strongest set of Paternoster Gang stories so far. Big Finish are giving listeners a slow reveal over several boxsets. While this adds suspense, the wait for Heritage 4 (due October 2020) is also a challenge.
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3 is available on CD and download from the Big Finish site.