Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax
|Doctor Who universe character|
From left to right: Vastra (McIntosh), Strax (Starkey) and Jenny Flint (Stewart), in the 2012 Christmas episode "The Snowmen".
|The Paternoster Gang|
|Home era||19th century|
|First appearance||"A Good Man Goes to War"|
|Portrayed by||Neve McIntosh (Vastra)
Catrin Stewart (Jenny)
Dan Starkey (Strax)
Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax (sometimes known as the Paternoster Gang, together with the Doctor) are a trio of recurring fictional characters in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, created by Steven Moffat and respectively portrayed by Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey.
The three characters first appear in the sixth series episode "A Good Man Goes to War". Madame Vastra (a Silurian) and Jenny Flint (a human) are a married couple. In later stories we see them living in London during the 19th century. Strax, a Sontaran, is on his first appearance a nurse caring for wounded soldiers on another planet. They are all recruited by the Eleventh Doctor to help him to save Amy Pond, but despite the success of the rescue, Strax apparently dies in the battle. He is, however, shown to be awakened by Vastra and Flint a couple of days later in the webisode "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later", and then became their butler in the 19th century.
Since their first appearance, the trio have appeared various times to help the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, even having a central role in the first half of "The Crimson Horror". They will appear in "Deep Breath", the first episode starring the Twelfth Doctor.
They also have their own spin-off novella, Devil in the Smoke, and the trio have appeared in several online "minisodes," with Strax additionally appearing in a series of "Field Report" videos posted to the Doctor Who website. The three characters became popular with audiences, with the presence of an inter-species same-sex married couple also leading to some attention.
Vastra is a female Silurian warrior from prehistoric Earth who was awakened from hibernation in the 19th century when her lair was disturbed during the construction of the London Underground. Initially enraged, and after slaughtering five commuters, she was pacified by the Doctor and eventually overcame her race's hatred of humans to become a part of London society and a consulting detective to Scotland Yard and a possible inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes stories. Among her unseen adventures is her capture of Jack the Ripper, whom she eats (she finds him "stringy, but tasty all the same"). She hired a maid, Jenny Flint, who assists her in her investigations and whom she eventually marries.
Jenny's backstory shows she was turned away from her family because of her "preferences in companionship", and saved from attackers by Vastra, who took her on as an employee. The Doctor was present at their initial meeting, during which he saved Jenny's life. She shows herself to have acquired extremely formidable skills as a hand-to-hand combatant and a swordswoman. She has also become familiarized with future concepts involving technology.
Strax is a member of the warrior Sontaran alien race forced to serve as a nurse, healing the injured as a punishment for being defeated by the Doctor during the Sontaran invasion of Earth. In "A Good Man Goes to War", he states that he is nearly 12, suggesting that this is quite old for a Sontaran.
Storyline within in the series
In their first appearance in "A Good Man Goes to War", the three, along with others who owe him favours, are chosen by the Eleventh Doctor to help him save Amy Pond from Madame Kovarian and the Order of the Headless Monks at Demon's Run. At the time, Strax is a Sontaran "nurse" taking care of the wounded soldiers on a battlefield as part of a penance imposed on him by the Doctor. They fight together against their enemies and succeed in saving Amy, but Strax is mortally wounded and appears to die after saying his last words to Rory Williams.
In "The Battle of Demon's Run: Two Days Later", a webcast set two days after the events of the episode, Strax is awakened by Vastra and Jenny, after they heal his wounds, and accept their proposition to join them into 19th Century's London. He subsequently becomes their butler.
They then appear in "The Snowmen", trying to convince the Doctor to come out of retirement (into which he has retreated after losing Amy and Rory in "The Angels Take Manhattan"). They help the Doctor's future new companion Clara Oswald to find him and support them in their fight against the Great Intelligence. A high fall kills Clara, whose death indirectly lets the Doctor defeat the Great Intelligence.
The trio - and more particularly Jenny - have a central role in the first half of "The Crimson Horror", set in 1893, in which they investigate a series of strange deaths. They travel to Yorkshire, where Jenny infiltrates a suspect community called Sweetville, led by Mrs Gillyflower. She finds the Doctor, kept prisoner in Sweetville, and the trio reunites to help him defeat Mrs Gillyflower, by sabotaging the rocket she was planning to use to poison the skies. They discover that Clara appears to be alive (the Doctor's companion being another version of the one seen in "The Snowmen", coming from another era), but the Doctor does not explain why to Jenny, as he himself does not know the answer at this time.
The three characters reappear in the seventh series finale "The Name of the Doctor", where they organize a meeting in a dream with Clara and River Song. During the "conference call", the three are captured by the Whisper Men, minions of the Great Intelligence, who uses them as bait to bring the Doctor to his tomb on the planet Trenzalore. After the Doctor arrives with Clara, the Great Intelligence scatters itself across the Doctor's timeline to destroy him. As history changes, Jenny disappears and Strax forgets his alliance with Vastra and attacks her, forcing her to defend herself. She points a weapon at him and it glows, but Strax disappears suddenly, leaving Vastra bewildered and calling his name. After Clara enters the timestream to save the Doctor and undo the Great Intelligence's changes to history, Jenny and Strax are restored.
In October 2013, McIntosh stated in an interview that the characters were due to return in Series 8. It was later confirmed by the BBC that the characters were set to return in the feature-length premiere for the new series, entitled "Deep Breath".
Casting and development
Starkey previously played Commander Skorr, one of the Sontarans in the double episode re-introducing the species, "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky". He also portrayed another Sontaran character in "The End of Time", the Tenth Doctor's final episode and two more in "The Time of the Doctor", the Eleventh Doctor's final episode.
In November 2013, the long-running children's show Blue Peter announced a competition for fans aged 6-15 to design 'sonic devices' for the characters, with the three winning designs appearing in Series 8. The following month the winning entries were revealed as a Sonic Hatpin, Sonic Gauntlet, and Sonic Lorgnette for Vastra, Jenny, and Strax respectively.
Steven Moffat has said that the BBC suggested a spin-off series about the characters, but he rejected the idea given his other commitments.
The three characters have met with positive reviews from critics who praised their chemistry, as well as the humour concerning Strax and his Sontaran warrior habits, often at odds with the context. Nick Setchfield of SFX called Strax "just the right side of crowdpleasing." Discussing their first appearance in "A Good Man Goes to War", Dan Martin from The Guardian called the three "the finest thing about it, lighting up the screen with every appearance." He called their return in "The Snowmen" wonderful, calling Strax "scene-stealingly adorable". He also stated "with marriage equality so much on the agenda, the divine Vastra and Jenny can only be a good thing to have on screens at tea time."
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