Review by Jacob Licklider
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage has been a four set miniseries exploring the characters which Steven Moffat retconned as the Paternoster Gang in The Name of the Doctor and the third set to be released from Big Finish Productions is the first to actually live up to the “heritage” subtitle. Heritage 3 is three stories each taking a look at the family or society that each member of the
Paternoster Gang hails from. It’s also the first set to feel like there may actually be a story arc forming for the next story with hints of a coming apocalypse that Madame Vastra has her own little part to play on. I’d say more on that later, but it is all setup and saved for the final set which has been announced and will be released later this year with a special guest appearance which I will not spoil here.
Lisa McMullin provides the first story of the set with ‘Family Matters’, and is a story dealing with the Victorian tradition of a freak show. As this is a story being released in 2020, McMullin’s script looks at the freak show through a modern lens, with a message behind the story being that the normal, abled humans are the real freaks which is ground that has been covered multiple
times before. Sadly, this aspect of McMullin’s script falls flat as it doesn’t cover any commentary on the freak show that stories like Other Lives covered better. It’s really just used as an excuse to plausibly have other aliens in the plot, which makes the commentary seem a bit blatant. Leaving it as an unstated commentary would have been more effective and perhaps actually said something above the basic.
The rest of the plot works with Catrin Stewart’s Jenny Flint having to face her lower class family, a family of con artists and thieves who have arrived back in London with her brother. There are also people going missing in the city and there is a mystery, but the thrust of McMullin’s story is Jenny and her family which is interesting especially when Vastra is kidnapped and made a freak in the freak show. The sum of its parts however feels almost like there’s not enough to make this story that enjoyable. It’s not bad, by any means, but it doesn’t knock it out of the park like the other stories. 6/10.
‘Whatever Remains’ is next from a writer new to Big Finish, Robert Valentine, who decides to write what is kind of a prequel to Doctor Who and the Silurians, with the Paternoster Gang
heading up to Dorset. Valentine puts a twist on the Silurian story format, only relegating many of the lizards to smaller roles as not to intrude on the events of the Pertwee story, and use them to juxtapose how Madame Vastra has changed through her interactions with humanity. The Silurian woman has become someone who can actually empathise with the different species that inhabit the planet now; something that the Silurians which went into hibernation are unable to do as they’ve isolated themselves away from the world. Neve McIntosh gives a great
performance throughout, and her chemistry with Catrin Stewart as Jenny in this story in particular is perhaps their best outing together to date. There really is a sense of care taken with their relationship to one another and a duty of protection that comes to a head at the end of the story.
The plot itself is also a simple mystery straight out of Sherlock Holmes, something that is lamp-posted multiple times through the episode including a great one-liner from Dan Starkey’s Strax. It also deals with similar themes to Family Matters but tackles them from a completely different angle making the story work from a different angle. Valentine’s script’s biggest flaw is perhaps not doing much new with the format, but it moves along at a great pace and keeps the listener interested. 7/10.
The third and final story of the set is the one that kind of sets things up for the fourth installment in the box set series. Roy Gill provides ‘Truth and Bone’, a yarn guest starring two members of the Bloomsbury Bunch (a trio of characters from the first set) and playing off Victorian London’s perhaps unhealthy obsession with Ancient Egypt. There’s also a prophecy where a Silurian is destined to destroy the world and a completely bloodthirsty Sontaran which gives Strax some trouble. Christopher Ryan, Dan Starkey, and John Banks all contribute to the Sontaran characters in the story and all three give very different portrayals. Starkey is the most overtly comic, while Ryan gives Stonn a more situationally comedic performance, and Banks gets to play the over the top villain. While I am not a fan of stories where Sontarans are played for comedy villains, Gill does it well and adds enough of a bite to the story.
Truth and Bone rounds the set out nicely by tying McMullin’s and Valentine’s themes together into a nice little bow. Gill also does implement some nice twists and turns throughout the story to build up the stakes for a story that feels like a finale to the set. It’s a good mix of humour and drama to close out the set and show what The Paternoster Gang can do. 8/10.
Overall, ‘The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3′ is one of those Big Finish sets that is full of good stories to pass the time. It’s not an Earth shattering set that will change the characters and canon forever, but it is a good example of fun escapism for these increasingly weird times. 7/10.