The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3

Posted in Audio by - May 07, 2020
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 3

Released May 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With the beguiling trio of Silurian Madame Vastra, human Jenny Flint, and Sontaran Strax now firmly entrenched as a dependable leading trio for Big Finish, Heritage 3 now finally looks to delve more explicitly into the running subtitle of these The Paternoster Gang sets.

‘Family Matters’ by Lisa McMullin wastes little time putting the trio squarely into the middle of a mystery as the three must suffer through and begin to investigate a most unexpected break-in. While Vastra investigates and soon finds herself in the unhappy company of others with a distinctly atypical appearance, Jenny finds herself equally unhappy as her family finally comes to call. Naturally, these two threads intersect in a fairly predictable manner, but it’s nonetheless intriguing to see the misguided and dishonest nature from which Jenny arose and decided to leave at such an early age. Indeed, the exploration of the very nature of both Jenny and Vastra as well as the relationship between the two as they are together and separately thrust into surprisingly serious and dark places is an unqualified highlight of this release, and Catrin Stewart and Neve McIntosh are superb throughout to drive home an impressively wide range of genuine emotions.

With Strax once more relegated to more comedic relief, a role that Dan Starkey has perfected, the secondary alien plot that seems poised to have lingering effects throughout this set unfortunately fails to reach the same emotional highs. A prophecy is always an intriguing hook, especially given its typically obscure nature, but there simply isn’t enough time for this to meaningfully develop alongside Jenny’s very personal drama that rightfully should take centre stage. In a story that doesn’t necessarily feature the most memorable supporting characters despite their monumental importance, this is perhaps all the more unfortunate because it also takes away from the potential for even more of the juxtaposition between Jenny and her past to feature. Still, as the first of three stories designed to explore each of the three leads and their heritage, ‘Family Matters’ must be deemed a true success for Jenny and her chosen life even if the overall plot her family features in is fairly standard fare and the alien thread seems more like extraneous setup for future tales than a necessary plot component in itself here.

When a Dorset landowner disappears with the only clue the footprints of an enormous creature, the Paternoster Gang travels to the Jurassic coast in Robert Valentine’s ‘Whatever Remains.’ As should be expected, the plot makes the most of the natural features that such a setting allows, and while Jenny and Strax must handle unexpected admirers, Vastra must traverse alone into caverns that house an ancient secret that could forever separate her from her companions. This is unsurprisingly the story of the set in which Vastra’s heritage comes to feature, but although she is given a new purpose going forward following this adventure, it doesn’t quite manage to achieve the same level of intimacy as Jenny’s preceding familial tale. It’s nonetheless engaging, but just a few altered or additional lines could have added some clarity and needed definition to this intriguing dive into Silurian and Doctor Who mythology that is sadly resolved all too easily without all of the needed answers provided.

The Paternoster Gang naturally skews to a slightly younger audience than some of Big Finish’s other ranges, and Valentine perfectly incorporates a mystery that provides an almost childlike wonder with plenty of riveting set pieces and red herrings to keep every character and listener engaged. Strax once more leads a more comedic element, and Starkey and Stewart share and immense chemistry with Annette Badland and Robert Fitch at their sides. In this energetic tale that never loses its pacing, though, it’s rightfully McIntosh who does the heavy lifting as Vastra must come face to face with her people’s long-forgotten past and her relation to the present. ‘Whatever Remains’ may not end up being the most resonant story in this set due to its clunky exposition and rushed conclusion, but its ambition and heart simply can’t be faulted, and the engaging performances and enthralling soundscape ensure that even a story that looks to continue building for future payoff has plenty to offer in its own right should it be listened to in isolation.

As Sontar turns its attention to Earth as Requisitioner Skark looks to retrieve missing soldiers and as Stonn and Tom Foster of the Bloomsbury Bunch look to put their next profiteering scheme into action, the Paternoster Gang accepts an invitation to a very strange party in Roy Gill’s ‘Truth and Bone.’ This is a story that makes the most of its concluding position in the set, showing Vastra still yearning to reconnect with her own people without sacrificing the strengths of her current life; even with Strax’s own heritage storyline relegated somewhat more to the background than expected, the drama that results from the Sontarans’ arrival is always engaging and allows for plenty of momentous clashes and dialogue. ‘Truth and Bone’ carries a bigger sense of scope than many stories in this range, and Gill perfectly intertwines what has come before with an intriguing and vividly imaginative plot in the present to highlight a sense of cohesion that this range has not truly attempted to achieve to this point.

As always, the performances and soundscape are superb here, and pairing Starkey’ Strax together with Christopher Ryan’s Stonn once more is an easy highlight as the unlikely but intrepid heroes confront John Banks’s Requisitioner. Likewise, while Jenny is narratively tasked with uncovering the true villainous motives and their relation to the Silurians through her capture, Vastra and Foster and eventually Foster and Stonn also prove to be thoroughly entertaining pairings with emotional depth to ensure that no thread is notably weaker than any other. Some of the discussions leading to the climax are a bit too prolonged and pointed, but the payoff to the multiple groups of Sontarans in play is expertly executed and sure to leave a lasting impact. Indeed, although The Paternoster Gang as a whole is based more around pure fun and imagery within a superbly realized Victorian backdrop than on depth, ‘Truth and Bone’ delivers a riveting climax that brings together everything this range does best. With the Heritage subtitle finally being put into some context in this third set, the anticipation for the concluding set as Henry Gordon Jago stumbles upon this heroic trio remains as high as ever.

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