Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE PATERNOSTER GANG: HERITAGE 3 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE PATERNOSTER GANG: HERITAGE 3 Review

Tony’s hanging with the gang again.

The Paternoster Gang are a group of characters who’ve been dying for their own spin-off since the first moment they coalesced on-screen. Understandably then, their first sequence of box sets on audio for Big Finish has quickly become a favourites with fans who enjoyed their on-screen antics, but also with those who enjoyed the likes of the Jago & Litefoot series, with its ‘coming together of opposites’ feel.

The Victorian setting, with its mixture of scientific reach and societal prudery, has been rendered well in the first couple of sets, bringing together both character comedy, alien shenanigans and a microscopic look at some of the elements of contradiction in a very peculiar age. In Heritage 3, there’s a degree more focus on where each of the Paternosters has come from, what they’ve had to overcome or escape from, and the courage it took to establish their family of successful outcasts.

In Family Matters by Lisa McMullin, we find out more about the background of Ms Jenny Flint – we meet her parents, find out what they did to earn their crust, and understand why she ran away from them. Without spoilering the plot details for you, this episode takes us from the respectable finery of Paternoster Row to the vivid, rapacious reality of Victorian freakshows, while using the Dickensian plot-twist of a long-lost relative coming back out of nowhere to good geeky science fiction effect.

While Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh) very nearly loses her cool – a recurring theme in this set, as her time among humans becomes harder to bear – it’s Jenny (Catrin Stewart) who’s front and centre in this story. She’s always been a character about whom we could stand to know more – how, after all, does a young Victorian woman become the lover, wife, protector and maid of a lizard-woman from the dawn of history, when her society would bar her from getting above her station and transgressing its rules in almost all of those roles?

Jenny Flint has obviously not had an easy life. She arguably doesn’t have one now with Vastra and Strax, either, but she’s fought the expectations of her family, her peers, and her society to achieve what she has – the love of a good woman, the respect of a fellow warrior, and a place where, beyond the façade they raise to keep society from its own scandalised morality, she can call home and mean it. This story takes us in greater detail into the nature of that fight, that flight from everything that biology promised as the Victorian daughter of the parents she had, and shows us in particular Jenny’s quest to be better in her own mind than the prospects of her stars.

There are moments here where the dynamic between Vastra and Jenny feels like it might topple, like the truth about Ms Flint’s background, always hinted at, never illuminated till now, might in itself prove too different, too dark, too somehow shameful for Vastra, and you’ll hear Jenny’s sadness, her fear, her need to prove herself different from everyone around her in her youth. It’s a plea to disregard everything but her, and it’s not that uncommon in relationships that break moulds or dare to reshape the world in their own image. This one point we’ll spoiler for you – there’s a falling together, a clinging to what they have, at least for now, that will flood you with relief in this story, because Lisa McMullin’s not scared to take you to the brink, to show us the truth that knowing where people have come from is sometimes enough to bring out the worst in us, unless we, like Vastra here, can find the healthy tipping point and fall further into, rather than out of love, to grow more respectful of the fight to escape than resentful of the starting point of the people we love.

Whatever Remains, by Robert Valentine, smashes a couple of worlds together – Vastra and the gang are investigating a mythical beast-legend that may be keeping a will from being honoured, giving off strong Sherlock Holmes vibes. It’s a similarity that doesn’t go entirely unnoticed by the locals, one of whom has the hots for that manly Mr Strax (seriously, you’ve not lived properly or well until you’ve heard Annette Badland try to flirt with Dan Starkey in full-on Strax mode). And there is a Holmesian mystery here – who’s who and what they’re up to becomes a focus of the storytelling to some degree.

More than that surface storyline though (a mystery incidentally that Jenny solves more or less entirely on her own, and which Strax…erm…doesn’t), this is a story of the temptation of heritage. Because underneath all the beast-myths, something has been stirring. Something which calls to Vastra from her girlhood, and something guarded by a protector who must be either vanquished - or replaced.

Without spoiling the story for you, there’s a Silurian MacGuffin of awesome power in this story, which is actually the heart and the through-line of the action, and which will rear its techno-head later in the set. But the legal inconvenience and mythical beast story has a solid resolution, and Vastra’s striding off alone, breaking the unspoken rules of the Paternoster family, comes back to bite her when she and Jenny have a confrontation about the way they live their lives. If in Family Matters, Jenny’s afraid and defensive, waiting for Vastra to decide or prove how strong her love is, in Whatever Remains, it’s Jenny that lays down the law – she loves Vastra against all the world and its say-so, but while she plays the role of a maidservant to keep the world happy, Vastra should never, ever treat her as second class, never treat her as an ape, because in that gulf of status, if either of them believe it, love can die and self-esteem can grow to demand its dissolution.

It’s grown-up stuff, all this, as the climax to a story that seems to start – and indeed goes some way in – with larks and Sherlock Holmes gags. But it’s so right it’ll give you moist-eye. So right it’ll remind you what love and self and shared existence means.

So – that’s not too shabby then, overall.

If it feels from this review so far like it’s all been about the relationship between Vastra and Jenny in Heritage 3, well…yes, their relationship is the focus of the first two stories. Story 3 though, Truth And Bone by Roy Gill, brings us to Strax, his past, his present, his self-definition and how the great Sontaran war machine sees him. It also brings back another Sontaran who’s led a life away from the Sontaran battle fleets, Stonn of the Bloomsbury Bunch, and essentially, Gill’s story examines the difference between the here and now and the there and then, how Strax and Stonn have evolved away from pure Sontaran ideology – and whether in fact, if given the opportunity to leave the primitive humans behind, they’d actually choose to go.

Strax perhaps more than either of the other two Paternosters has always been a character about whose backstory we’ve wondered. And in fact, the idea of what his choices would look like if ever Sontar came calling was a thing with which we conjured back when Peter Capaldi was the Doctor.

Here, the answers are played out to at least some degree, when a Sontaran assessor comes to see whether Strax and Stonn can be productively folded back into the ranks of the clone armies, or whether they’ve become too different, whether they’ve become something other than Sontaran.

While the focus of Gill’s story is firmly Sontaran-forward, part of the point of it is that he’s not just some random clone any more, that for all his stompy comedy bonkersness, he’s one of the most advanced, one of the most evolved Sontarans to have ever lived. So Jenny and Vastra, along with Stonn’s partner Tom, must act to save him…assuming he wants to be saved.

There’s use for the Silurian MacGuffin in this story, which gives Vastra more power than is ultimately good for her, but the story, and indeed the whole set, takes us deeper into the backgrounds and the foregrounds of our Paternoster heroes, showing us very clearly the differences between where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they hope to go in the future.

The Paternoster Gang – Heritage 3 is a joy from start to finish, but there are tears and gulping and snot along the way. Embrace it all – more time spent with the Paternoster Gang will make your life much better, because by their outsider status, their difference from the world around them, and the strength they find in each other to bring their power to the world, they’re about as epic a gang of heroes as you could wish to find.

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3 is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until July 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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