The Paternoster Gang- Trespassers 2- The Casebook of Paternoster Row

Posted in Audio by - April 28, 2024
The Paternoster Gang- Trespassers 2- The Casebook of Paternoster Row

Released April 2024


Looking to their past adventures to find clues about the trespassers close at hand in the oddly titled set The Paternoster Gang: Trespassers 2: The Casebook of Paternoster Row, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax begin their reminiscing with James Kettle’s ‘Anne of a Thousand Light Years.’ Delving into the class system that so overtly stratified Victorian society, the conflict derived from the highborn Anne declaring her love for the stablehand Albert drives much of this story as Jenny boldly decrees that love can conquer all no matter what anyone else may say. Of course, Jenny falling in love ad marrying someone outside of her own social circles provides a strong foundation for her actions as she fights through pushback from those individuals most affected, and this by itself is a strong plot element that truly allows Catrin Stewart to explore Jenny’s strength of will and compassion. Unfortunately, despite the usual comic interventions from Strax as he obsesses over weaponry and wholly misunderstands certain sentiments and statements given his Sontaran mindset, the remainder of the story falls somewhat flat. Even if she does sometimes require Jenny to keep some emotions in check, Vastra is typically presented as the most reasonable and grounded member of this investigative trio, and so adding in scenes of no real consequence to make her the centre of humour is tonally jarring and a net negative for the story as a whole. More surprisingly, though, is that even the inclusion of the fantastic Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor comes off as a missed opportunity. Undercover as a solicitor, the Doctor, of course, is vital to the advancement of the plot that sees Anne unwittingly part of the alien Glossyphant plan that could destroy all of Earth and further beyond. However, having him in a supporting role without directly driving events in person creates an odd imbalance in the narrative structure. For whatever reason, the always-energetic Baker occasionally imbues an overexaggerated graveliness to the Doctor’s voice in many portions; this may be an attempt to exaggerate the already-exaggerated humour of the script, but it’s a rare case of the Doctor detracting from a story that already doesn’t wholly successfully integrate its incredible guest star. Sticking strictly to the troubles of love across class and tonally choosing true drama could have been so much more effective and powerful, but ‘Anne of a Thousand Light Years’ as presented is a messy hodgepodge of ideas and tones that are simultaneously underexplored and overexaggerated.

In Gary Russell’s ‘Pater Noster,’ something is hiding in the sewers beneath London as a tie to Vastra’s ancient past reemerges. Again, having Vastra confront a Life Task to find the missing member of a race that can shift shape and matter itself which she accepted long before her hibernation that eventually saw humanity arise and dominate Earth is a brilliant core concept and brilliantly serves as a reminder of just how much Vastra has seen and experienced outside of this Victorian setting. However, the story itself playing out as a mystery to discover what form the missing chef has taken while clinging to life despite being separated from the collective alien whole it so desperately needs again fails to capture the imagination. This is primarily because only two primary supporting characters and thus suspects are introduced, and while the performances are suitably strong and absolutely do deliver the emotions needed to convey a people in increasing danger, it’s abundantly clear throughout- and especially after Vastra’s assured suspicions are disproven- what is truly occurring. The decision to show a fallible Vastra is a great way of further humanizing (for lack of a better word) this character, and the sound design quite successfully brings this unique setting to life, but because the story does so heavily intimate who is at the dangerous mystery’s core, it creates a strange sensation of the audience waiting for the lead trio to catch up rather than uncovering clues and jointly discovering the truth. Again, the performances of Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey, and Catrin Stewart more than capably carry the momentum of the narrative while again intermingling a sense of levity to a very serious threat, especially as discussions of just what fate should befall the being who has taken and killed so many over the years shows a more merciless shade of Vastra that the kindness and love of Jenny has mostly been able to temper. While the ultimate resolution is something of a mixed bag given the reintegration of the fascinating and powerful creature as Vastra completes her task that does rather curtail any sense of consequence from an Earth standpoint, ‘Pater Noster’ as a whole is another tale that can’t quite fully explore each of its many intriguing ideas, the biggest casualty of this being the lack of any sense of mystery about the culprit despite the narrative’s determination to pursue that angle for almost its entire duration.

Lauren Mooney and Stewart Pringle step away from the Torchwood range for Big Finish- while including a reference to the organization that is just starting up at this point- to close out this The Paternoster Gang set with ‘The Gentlemen Thieves.’ A one-man crime wave has been dominating headlines, a daring thief defying logic while being blamed for multitudes of crimes, even some occurring at the same time. When that man enlists the services of the investigative trio at their own headquarters to explain just why he is said to be incarcerated when he is obviously a free man at least for now, the mystery takes an altogether more dramatic and mysterious turn. While the narrative never necessarily strays away from the more comedic undertones of this franchise as fielding an improbable cricket team seems to be the primary motivating factor behind the strange goings-on before the uglier side of humanity and Victorian ideas about purity reveal themselves, the strength of this script is in bringing forth a surprisingly strong and resonant connection to Strax and the very foundation of the Sontaran race. Strax is a very emotional character to begin with, but Dan Starkey is particularly strong as Strax must grapple with an altogether different application of the Sontaran approach and the casual disregard for a dispensable life that others can hold. Within this set, ‘The Gentlemen Thieves’ best blends the comedic and dramatic elements as its narrative progresses, and a few surprises are in store as Vastra continues to look to these past adventures to try to figure out just who might be trying to deceive them in the present. As a whole throughout these three stories, this framing device never makes an impact since the advetures themselves are told like any other story with no narration or interjection, and so the end result is a very roundabout means of Vastra arriving at the conclusion that the deception has been around them since before their wedding. This discovery is absolutely something that could have been done in a much more concise manner rather than over three stories with little actual progress in the present made, but the flaw in the overarching narrative does not take away from the strengths of this particular story that wonderfully showcases this writing duo’s incredible range. The Casebeook of Paternoster Row as a whole is something of an oddity, however, with strange narrative decisions and forced humour too often detracting from the incredible chemistry of the leads and the wealth of opportunities that this setting continues to offer. Still, the cliffhanger ending suggests that the drama of the present will quickly gain more momentum and sets the scene well for the next set of stories.

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