Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax
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|The Paternoster Gang|
|Doctor Who character|
|Home planet||Earth (Vastra and Jenny)
|Home era||Prehistoric era (Vastra)[note 1]
19th century (Jenny)
41st century (Strax)[note 2]
|First appearance||"A Good Man Goes to War"|
|Last appearance||"Deep Breath"|
|Portrayed by||Neve McIntosh (Vastra)
Catrin Stewart (Jenny)
Dan Starkey (Strax)
Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax (informally 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 portrayed, respectively, 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 seen in his first appearance to be acting as a nurse, caring for wounded soldiers on another planet. They are all recruited by the Eleventh Doctor to help him rescue Amy Pond. Despite the success of the effort, 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"; he then became their butler in the 19th century.
Since their first appearance, the trio have appeared various times to help the Doctor, even having a central role in the first half of "The Crimson Horror" (2013). In 2014, they appeared in "Deep Breath", the first episode starring the Twelfth Doctor.
They also have their own spin-off novella, Devil in the Smoke (2012), and spin-off novel, Silhouette (2014), 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. In 2014, they appeared without the Doctor in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip in the storyline The Crystal Throne (DWM #475–476). The three characters became popular with audiences, with the presence of an inter-species same-sex 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, she slaughtered five commuters before being pacified by the Doctor. She eventually overcame her race's hatred of humans and joined London society. She became a consulting detective to Scotland Yard, and a possible inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes stories. Amongst her unseen adventures is her capture of Jack the Ripper, whom she eats (she mentions in "A Good Man Goes to War" that she found him "stringy, but tasty all the same"). She hired a maid, Jenny Flint, who assists her in her investigations and who is also married to her.
Jenny's backstory in "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later" (2013) 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 Vastra recounts in "The Name of the Doctor" (2013) that he saved Jenny's life. She shows herself to have acquired extremely formidable skills as a hand-to-hand combatant and a swordswoman. She is shown in all of her appearances to be entirely comfortable with post-19th century technologies, time travel, and the TARDIS; she is repeatedly seen using technology devices, and in the episode "Deep Breath", she is seen wearing and using the Sonic Gauntlet designed for that episode.
Strax is a member of the warrior Sontaran alien race. Strax was forced to serve as a nurse, healing the injured as a punishment for being defeated by the Doctor during the Sontaran invasion of Earth. This is contrary to the Sontaran's warrior instincts and mentality and as such, Strax has been known to occasionally slip back to his Sontaran ways and mannerisms. In "A Good Man Goes to War", he states that he is nearly 12, suggesting that this is quite old for a Sontaran. A running gag is Strax's inability to tell the difference between genders and his obsession with using violent tactics.
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 Demons 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. Before he can answer Captain Harcourt who came up with this penance, the Doctor arrives in his TARDIS to take him to Demons Run. 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 Demons Run: Two Days Later", a webcast set two days after the events of "A Good Man Goes to War", Strax is awakened by Vastra and Jenny, after they heal his wounds, and accepts their proposition to join them in London in 1888. He subsequently becomes their butler.
They then appear in "The Snowmen" (2012), trying to convince the Eleventh 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" (2013), 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 Eleventh 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 organise 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 Eleventh Doctor to his tomb on the planet Trenzalore. The Doctor unhesitatingly goes to rescue them, recalling their caring and concern for him in "The Snowmen" and feeling a duty towards them. After the Doctor arrives on Trenzalore with Clara, the Great Intelligence scatters itself across the Doctor's timeline to destroy him. As history changes, Jenny disappears and Strax forgets his friendship 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 "Deep Breath", the first episode of the eighth series, Vastra, Jenny and Strax arrive in central London to witness a dinosaur marching through the city and proceeding to cough up the TARDIS. Upon finding the TARDIS, they find emerging from it a recently regenerated Twelfth Doctor, who falls unconscious. The three, along with Clara, take him back to their home to rest, while they attempt to solve the problem of the dinosaur. However, the Doctor soon wakes up and tries to solve it himself, only to witness the dinosaur spontaneously combust, and Vastra informs the Doctor that there have been similar murders recently. The Doctor and Clara go searching for the culprit; when they are about to be killed by robots, the Paternoster Gang rescue them, fighting along with Clara until the Doctor defeats their leader, leading all robots to be deactivated and saving his friends. After the Doctor takes off, leaving Clara in Victorian London, Clara asks Vastra if she can stay with them. Vastra states that she is of course welcome, but she should have no doubt of the Doctor's return. The Doctor then indeed comes back to pick her up, and they leave the house to bring Clara back home.
Casting and development
Starkey previously played Commander Skorr, one of the Sontarans, in the two-part story re-introducing the species, "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" (2008). He also portrayed another Sontaran character in The End of Time (2009–10) and in between appearances as Strax in "The Name of the Doctor" (2013) and "Deep Breath" (2014), he played two more Sontarans in "The Time of the Doctor" (2013).
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. The devices were featured in "Deep Breath".
In an interview in the Doctor Who Magazine issue dated April 2015, Steven Moffat said that the BBC suggested a spin-off series about the characters, but he rejected the idea due to his other commitments.[additional citation needed]
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."
- Several mutually exclusive accounts are given for the home era of the Silurians that went into hibernation in the series. In Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970), the Third Doctor coins the name "Silurian" after discovering calculations of the age of the Earth inside Dr Quinn's office, "with particular reference" to the Silurian era, the era they purportedly come from. Later, in The Sea Devils (1972), the Third Doctor says that "Silurian" was a "complete misnomer" on the part of the "chap who discovered them", and that "properly speaking", the Silurians should have been called "Eocenes". In Doctor Who and the Silurians, the Silurian leader tells the Third Doctor that the Silurians put themselves into hibernation when their race calculated that a "small planet" was going to destroy Earth's atmosphere. The Doctor realises that this planet was drawn into Earth's orbit and became the Moon. In "Cold Blood" (2010), the Eleventh Doctor again mentions the Silurians went into hibernation because of the approach of the Moon, and according to the Twelfth Doctor in "Kill the Moon" (2014), the Moon had been orbiting Earth for a hundred million years before 2049. Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters (1974), the novelisation of Doctor Who and the Silurians, depicts the Moon's approach to Earth and the Silurians subsequently going into "total sleep", not realising the air in Earth's atmosphere would not be drawn away from the planet's surface as the astronomers predicted. The sunset the Silurian Okdel sees before going into total sleep is described as "the last time he was to see the sun for a hundred million years". In Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Silurian scientist claims that the Silurians used a plague to wipe out early apes when the apes raided their crops, while in "Cold Blood", Restac claims that the Silurians used to hunt apes for sport. In "The Crimson Horror" (2013), Vastra believes that she has seen the symptoms of the "crimson horror" before, claiming that this had happened about 65 million years before 1893. In "Deep Breath" (2014), Vastra recalls seeing a dinosaur when she was a "little girl".
- In "A Good Man Goes to War" (2011), the battlefield where Strax is taking care of the wounded is captioned "Battle of Zaruthstra, 4037 A.D."
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Dr Simeon: You realise Dr Doyle is almost certainly basing his fantastical tales on your own exploits, with a few choice alterations, of course. I doubt the readers of The Strand Magazine would accept that the Great Detective is, in reality, a woman. And her suspiciously intimate companion. Vastra: I resent the implication of impropriety. We are married.
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