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Vastra, born Va’stra, (The Red-Eyed League) was a Silurian detective who shared a house at 13 Paternoster Row with Jenny Flint, her maid and eventual wife, in Victorian London. Alongside Jenny and the Sontaran nurse Strax, Vastra investigated unusual activities. Vastra employed Strax as a butler in London while Jenny became the maid to cover any possible gossip.
Vastra was born 65 million years before the 19th century. (The Cars That Ate London!) As a little girl, she saw dinosaurs and learned to identify their gender. (Deep Breath)
In the 1880s, Vastra had awoken during the construction of an extension of the London Underground and sought to take revenge on the innocent tunnel workers responsible for the accidental deaths of her “sisters”. After Vastra had slaughtered at least five commuters, (A Good Man Goes to War) the Ninth Doctor convinced her not to give in to her rage. (The Lost Dimension) At The Doctor’s insistence, she ceased her attacks on the tunnel workers and instead integrated herself into humanity’s Victorian culture. (A Good Man Goes to War) Against The Doctor’s advice, Vastra spent some time performing as The Sensational Scaled Siren for Henry Gordon Jago, (The Lost Dimension) and also performed in Jago’s “Monstre Gathering”. (Madame Vastra) At some point, The Doctor also told her of his species, the Time Lords, sharing many secrets about them, including the Untempered Schism, the Time Vortex, their ability to regenerate, (A Good Man Goes to War) and the fact that he was the sole survivor of the Last Great Time War. (The Lost Dimension)
After finding lodgings above a gin palace in Cheapside, (Madame Vastra) Vastra hired a human woman named Jenny Flint as her maid, (A Good Man Goes to War) after The Doctor saved Jenny’s life during an adventure with Vastra, (The Name of the Doctor) that saw them rescuing her from being molested by the Tong of the Black Scorpion. (Madame Vastra) Vastra’s relationship with Jenny eventually became romantic. (A Good Man Goes to War)
Though The Doctor claimed he was responsible for Vastra being a member of “polite Victorian society”, Vastra claimed it was due to her saving the Queen from a Zygon plot. (The Lost Dimension) Vastra gained the title of “Madame” and took up residence at Paternoster Row. (A Good Man Goes to War) After spending some time as a bank robber, (Madame Vastra) she eventually became a detective and consultant to Scotland Yard, solving cases that they could not. (Vastra Investigates) Due to her proficiency in the field, some referred to her by the title of “the Great Detective”. (The Great Detective)
In 1881, Vastra visited Egypt and was mistaken for a god. On another occasion, Vastra and Jenny battled some Cybermen in Japan’s history. (Madame Vastra) She and the Doctor also encountered fairies. (The Lost Dimension)
THE BATTLE OF DEMONS RUN
at the behest of Scotland Yard, she tracked down Jack the Ripper in 1888 – and ate him. Immediately thereafter, she was summoned by the Eleventh Doctor to help rescue Amy Pond and her baby, Melody, from Demons Run. Vastra agreed to join him, intent on repaying The Doctor for changing her life when they had first met. Accompanied by Jenny, Vastra arrived at Demons Run with an army of Silurian soldiers. By this point in her life, she referred to The Doctor as an “old friend”, and a mutual respect had developed between the two.
When The Doctor began his assault of Demons Run, he gave Vastra and Jenny the task of hijacking the control room. After unveiling himself as a disguised Headless Monk before Colonel Manton and the soldiers of the Church, Vastra and Jenny drew swords on the guards watching the monitors. They then deactivated the lighting to enable The Doctor to slink around in the dark, prompting the Church and the Headless Monks to attack each other in the disarray. This allowed Sontaran nurse Strax, a platoon of Judoon and some of Vastra’s Silurian allies to subdue the soldiers.
The pair awaited The Doctor in the control room, preventing one of the guards from escaping in the meantime. When their allies finally arrived, she witnessed the enraged Doctor confront Colonel Manton and Kovarian. Shortly after, Vastra and Dorium Maldovar hacked into Kovarian’s files and discovered scans of Melody’s DNA, noting that Amy’s child had been born with traces of Time Lord DNA.
Using her knowledge of the Time Lord biology, Vastra and the Doctor were forced to speculate as to when Amy and her husband Rory had conceived their child. The Doctor deduced that their child had been conceived on their wedding night aboard his TARDIS whilst it was traversing the Vortex, resulting in Melody inheriting Time Lord qualities. Realising that their enemies had given up too easily, Vastra and Dorium left for the main hangar to meet up with the remainder of the Doctor’s army.
At this point, Headless Monks began surreptitiously slaying The Doctor’s allies as they made for the TARDIS. Thanks to Lorna Bucket, Vastra and her comrades had some warning about the trap, allowing them to prepare. After Dorium was beheaded, the monks attacked. Vastra wielded both her swords with great skill and precision, effortlessly defeating any Monk who challenged her. (A Good Man Goes to War)
Two days after the Battle of Demons Run, Vastra and Jenny utilised alien technology found at the base to heal Strax. The two then invited him to join them in their pursuits in Victorian London, which Strax agreed to. (The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later) Upon returning to 1888, Strax became Vastra’s butler, (The Snowmen) and she and Jenny were added to the Papal Mainframe’s “most wanted” list. (Madame Vastra)
At some point during the next four years, Vastra married Jenny. (The Snowmen) The pair were not discreet about the nature of their relationship. (Vastra Investigates) At some point, Vastra was gifted a sonic screwdriver. (The Crystal Throne)
After a melancholic Doctor took up residence in London following the loss of Amy and Rory, Vastra, Jenny and Strax summoned him multiple times for help, hoping to reignite his passion for adventure. They frequently attempted to do so by presenting him with a variety of mysteries for him to solve, but to no avail. The Doctor refused to deal with the mysteries, solemnly claiming he had “retired”. (The Great Detective) With little else to do, Vastra and her companions returned to their own investigations, which included at least one case involving identical twins, a poison undetectable to science and an ancient Egyptian curse. (Vastra Investigates)
At some point, Vastra tracked down Silas Ruckford, who planned to assassinate Queen Victoria and cause the downfall of the British Empire by blowing up Buckingham Palace with explosives. Vastra knocked Ruckford out of his carriage which had a bomb inside, and drove the carriage to safety before escaping the explosion. When Strax caught Ruckford, Vastra questioned him on whom he was in league with to be able to carry out this act. Ruckford committed suicide when he ingested a poison. After examining Ruckford’s possessions the following day, Vastra noticed that his boots had soil from an equatorial climate. Jenny pointed Vastra to a newspaper article which announced the grand opening of the Brazilian Rainforest exhibit at the Crystal Palace, which the Queen was going to attend. Vastra suspected the involvement of Lady Cornelia Basildon-Stone, the creator of the exhibit, in Ruckford’s plot.
That evening, Vastra climbed the exterior of the Crystal Palace to investigate the Palace exterior, while Jenny and Strax used disused service tunnels to find a way in. She noticed the Palace had been turned into a giant greenhouse after Lady Basildon-Stone replaced the glass with panes designed to amplify sunlight. After confronting Vastra, Lady Basildon-Stone announced that she had met one of her people the previous year, a scientist who had created the genetic splicer and shown her how to operate it before she killed him. Lady Basildon-Stone used the splicer to turn the London police gathered at the Crystal Palace into human-wasp hybrids, making them her “drones”.
When Vastra appeared to have wounded Lady Basildon-Stone, Basildon-Stone announced the battle was lost. She turned into a wasp form and grew wings, gaining the upper hand against Vastra. She announced that she had laid eggs inside the Palace, and that by dawn, the Palace would be filled with dense, heated air and the “drones” and Lady Basildon-Stone’s children would conquer and forge the “new British Empire”. Vastra shattered the glass roof with her sonic screwdriver and used her grappling hook to save herself from hitting the ground. Lady Basildon-Stone caught Vastra, and began to break her spine. Meanwhile, Strax threw a grenade into the genetic splicer. This caused Lady Basildon-Stone to become human while she was still holding Vastra in the air. Vastra got to safety, while Lady Basildon-Stone fell to her death. Eventually, without the genetic splicer’s power, the wasp genes became dormant in the “drones”, and they returned to human form. The hybrid eggs had also perished. After the genetic splicer was destroyed, Vastra lamented the loss of a part of her heritage and how a device meant for healing was made into a weapon. (The Crystal Throne)
In December 1892, Madame Vastra was contacted by Felicity Gregson due to her expertise as the Great Detective. Felicity told her about light with trailing smoke and fire that fell from the sky behind her house. She claimed that the crash site had been cleaned overnight, but she still had physical evidence to show Vastra in person. Vastra planned to meet Felicity in Ranskill Gardens, but due to being double booked at the Greek Embassy, she sent Strax instead. Unfortunately, Felicity was murdered before Vastra had a chance to inspect her evidence.
After returning home, Vastra met with Harry, who had discovered Felicity’s body in the snowman he had built with his friend Jim. While her appearance initially caused him to run out of Paternoster Row, Vastra gained his trust by saving his life with Jenny and Strax. She also paid Mr Ranskin, the man Harry worked for, to become his new guardian to ensure his protection from the people that wanted him dead. With the help of Jenny, Strax, and Harry, she discovered that Felicity’s evidence had been a wisp of fog, which was actually part of an alien force that took a fog-like form and planned to invade Earth and blot out the sun. This aliens force was defeated with snow. (Devil in the Smoke)
By this point, Vastra’s investigative exploits were believed by Walter Simeon to have been appropriated by Arthur Conan Doyle for fictionalisation in The Strand, in which he attributed them to his character, Sherlock Holmes. (The Snowmen)
DEFEATING THE GREAT INTELLIGENCE
Vastra and Jenny later confronted Walter Simeon about his Institute, with Vastra discovering that Simeon was using snow which possessed a telepathic field. This allowed the snow to build itself into the form of lethal snowmen by mirroring the thoughts of people around it. She noted that it could be utilised as a terrible weapon, with Simeon casually remarking that he had plans of his own and there was nothing she could do to stop it. As he left, Vastra called after him that even if she could not stop him she knew someone who could, and Simeon replied that he was looking forward to meeting him.
Vastra was later visited by Clara Oswald, whom she treated with some suspicion at first. Vastra and Jenny forced Clara to participate in their “one-word test”, where she would only be allowed to answer their questions with a single word to prove she was not lying. In doing so, Vastra contradicted herself by explaining in great detail The Doctor’s now-sullen exile in London, which Clara noted. After she offered to pass a message to The Doctor, but in one word only, Clara used the word “Pond” – coincidentally the surname of the Doctor’s former companion Amy. Impressed that Clara had figured out how to persuade The Doctor to help and convinced of her honesty, Vastra called the Time Lord and told him that Strax knew where he should begin his investigation. She then sent Strax to see if The Doctor needed any help but The Doctor sent the Sontaran away.
Arriving at Captain Latimer’s house, Vastra quickly informed The Doctor that Simeon was causing the alien snow to spread over Latimer’s estate. Meanwhile Jenny used a force field to trap the Ice Governess, who had been created from the drowned governess who had frozen in Latimer’s pond a year earlier. Vastra teased The Doctor, noting how much he had missed the thrill and excitement of such adventures during his brooding.
While The Doctor and Clara led the Ice Governess up to the roof, Vastra, Jenny and Strax remained in Latimer’s office to protect him and his children. After hearing a loud thump outside, they saw Clara lying in the snow with the shattered remains of the Ice Governess around her. The Doctor arrived in the TARDIS and took Clara’s body inside where Strax managed to bring her back to life. Vastra went to The Doctor and told him that Clara’s injuries were severe and that she was going to die. He and Vastra then took the TARDIS to Simeon’s institute, where they met Simeon in his office. After The Doctor erased the memories of Simeon’s adult life with a memory worm, the Great Intelligence took control of Simeon’s body and knocked Vastra to the ground before she could strike it with her sword. Simeon then attacked The Doctor but collapsed as the snow inside the giant snow globe in the office turned to rain. Simeon died and the Great Intelligence fled, having learnt to survive without a physical body.
Realising that the rain was caused by the grief of the Latimer family and by Clara’s tears as she lay dying, The Doctor and Vastra rushed back to the house. Strax sorrowfully informed them that Clara only had a few moments left. At Clara’s funeral, and upon learning her full name – Clara Oswin Oswald – The Doctor told Vastra and Jenny that he had met Clara before and that she had died twice, causing him to believe that there was another version of her somewhere in the universe. Leaving the confused Vastra and Jenny in the graveyard, he ran to the TARDIS intending to search for her. (The Snowmen)
In 1893, Mr Thursday came to Vastra so she could look at a photo of his deceased brother, Edmund. Realising Edmund’s eyes showed an optogram of the Doctor, the trio headed north, where Jenny infiltrated Sweetville to find The Doctor. Vastra recognised the symptoms of Edmund and others inflicted by the “crimson horror” as that of the repulsive red leech’s poison.
Vastra and Strax later followed after Jenny. They rescued Jenny, The Doctor and a version of Clara from the 21st century from Mrs Gillyflower’s pilgrims. Before Mrs Gillyflower could launch a rocket containing red leech poison, Vastra and Jenny prevented the venom from being put in the rocket. Angered by being unable to poison the world, Mrs Gillyflower attempted to shoot The Doctor and his friends. Strax shot at Mrs Gillyflower, causing her to fall to her death. Afterwards, Mrs Gillyflower’s daughter, Ada, crushed the red leech. (The Crimson Horror)
While on death row for the murder of fourteen women, Clarence DeMarco told Vastra: “The Doctor has a secret, you know. He has one he will take to the grave. And it is discovered.” Vastra stopped Clarence’s execution until she understood what it meant and was also given the space-time co-ordinates to The Doctor’s tomb on Trenzalore. Vastra held a conference call in a dream with Jenny, Strax, Clara from 2013 and Professor River Song in the Library. The call was interrupted by Jenny’s murder at the hands of the Whisper Men. River woke up Vastra and Strax, keeping the link with Clara.
To get the attention of the Doctor, the Great Intelligence used the Whisper Men to take Strax, Vastra and Jenny’s bodies to Trenzalore. There, Jenny was revived and River, unheard to the Intelligence, spoke the password to enter the tomb, The Doctor’s name. Inside the tomb, the Intelligence entered The Doctor’s timeline, the time winds shattering him into a million pieces, each echo of the Intelligence undoing every one of the Doctor’s victories.
Jenny died in the new timeline without The Doctor, while Strax forgot his friendship with Vastra and became aggressive, forcing her to kill him. Clara reversed these effects by entering the timeline and undoing the Intelligence’s changes, saving The Doctor wherever he went. The Doctor then decided to save Clara by entering his timeline himself, telling the Paternoster gang that the TARDIS could return them home with the fast return protocol if he didn’t return. (The Name of the Doctor)
ENCOUNTERING THE NEW DOCTOR
Along with Jenny and Strax, Vastra arrived at the Thames to find that a Tyrannosaurus Rex had appeared in the river without explanation. She was even more surprised, however, when the beast threw up The Doctor’s TARDIS. There she met The Doctor, newly regenerated into his twelfth incarnation, along with his companion Clara. She took The Doctor back to her house and used a psychic trick in order for him to sleep off his post-regeneration trauma.
When the dinosaur was reduced to nothing more than smoke and ash through the process of spontaneous combustion that night, Vastra and Jenny began investigating nine similar murders plaguing the city. While The Doctor investigated on his own, Clara discovered a cryptic ad in a newspaper which led them to Mancini’s Family Restaurant, which was being used by a group of Clockwork Droids from the 51st century as an organ-harvesting factory. Vastra waited outside the restaurant while Clara and the Doctor investigated, and when she received a distress signal from the pair, she and Jenny cut through the clockwork decoys populating the upper floors of the restaurant. They managed to get down to the droids’ crashed ship, where The Doctor and Clara were being accosted by the droids’ control node.
Their intervention forced the control node to flee in his escape capsule, followed closely by The Doctor, while the others fought off the advancing robots. Over time, however, they were overwhelmed and were only saved when the control node fell to his death from the escape capsule, deactivating his clockwork subordinates. Victorious, the group travelled back to Vastra’s house, where Clara was reunited with The Doctor while Vastra, Jenny and Strax returned to life as normal on Paternoster Row. (Deep Breath)
On 12 December 1894, Scotland Yard summoned the gang to the London Zoo to investigate a mysterious green fog which was laced with temporal radiation. During this case, Vastra was devolved by the radiation into a savage ancestor of the Silurians. Jenny was able to return Vastra to normal by reminding her of their love. (The Evolution Episode)
Near the end of 1894, Vastra and Strax went undercover as freaks at Holmes’ Travelling Carnival and Freakshow after detecting high levels of artron energy in the area. They were recognised as non-humans by Harrison Crane, a criminal with a stolen vortex manipulator who was responsible for the artron energy leakage. During a confrontation in which Crane demanded that Strax hand over Sontaran technology which could repair the vortex manipulator, Crane murdered the owner of the carnival before he himself was killed by Strax’s faulty technology. With the carnival ownerless, Vastra decided to rename it Madame Vastra’s Carnival Haven for the Wyrd and Unusual and have it remain a leaderless place for “freaks” to be safe. (The Case of the Dissolving Man)
When Strax failed to appear for two days, Vastra left a note asking for him at the Red Tavern. Returning to the tavern with George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, it was through reading the note that Strax finally realised that the pair were not Vastra and Jenny respectively as he had believed after being disorientated by Miss Multravers whom he had ultimately defeated with their assistance. (The Haunting)
When the gang investigated the Dream Doorway of Samuel Lumber, Vastra used her sonic hat-pin to seal the door. (The Dangerous Dilemma of the Dream Doorway)
After Jenny witnessed an explosion caused by the psychic powers of three women, she quickly returned to Paternoster Row and informed Vastra and Strax. Vastra observed the Danger Thinkers from a distance and noticed that they were going in the direction of the Houses of Parliament and that they had the power to read minds. Using these two facts, Vastra formulated a plan to defeat them. She had the gang hide in the entrance to Parliament and think thoughts that would confuse the Danger Thinkers. Vastra mentally recited Silurian poetry composed of mathematical equations and optical illusions. Combined with Jenny’s regular poetry and Strax’s thoughts of military training, Vastra mentally attacked the Danger Thinkers and knocked them unconscious. (The Insidious Ideas of the Danger Thinkers)
As one of the people that she had met during her travels with The Doctor, Vastra was included in a series of notes written by Clara when she was planning to confess to Danny Pink via phone call about her adventures with The Doctor. (Dark Water)
Shortly before regenerating, the Twelfth Doctor dreamt of Vastra along with some of his other companions. (The Doctor Falls)
While she shared some of the prejudices of many Silurians against humans, referring to them as “apes”, sometimes threatening to eat them, and saying that all mammals “look alike”, Vastra was much more tolerant and accepting of humans than many of her species. She apologised for her remarks about humans to Jenny and showed concern for the safety of the infant Melody. Vastra also showed suspicion when visited by Clara Oswald. However, she quickly warmed to Clara and was impressed when she was able to get The Doctor to return to save the world with a single word, something that Vastra, Jenny and Strax had been trying to do for a long time. When Clara was mortally wounded, Vastra showed concern and sorrow and later attended her funeral after she died. (A Good Man Goes to War, The Snowmen, Deep Breath)
Vastra was very honest, brutally so at times, and was determined to ensure the honesty of those in her company as well. She told Clara that the truth could be said in one word, whilst lies were just a string of words. She sometimes used the “One word test” to ensure that people were telling the truth. When Clara fell from a cloud, Vastra was sorrowful but bluntly stated that she was dead, despite the impact the pronouncement would have on the Latimer family, who had all been very fond of her. (The Snowmen) Her desire to ensure the honesty of others was also shown when she said she rather thought The Doctor meant it when he said he had retired. (The Great Detective)
However, despite her usually calm and collected nature, Vastra’s resolve had one weakness – her wife’s well-being. The normally composed Silurian openly wept over Jenny’s lifeless body, and threatened to kill her friend and comrade Strax if he could not revive her. Later, Vastra was quick to defend Jenny from the advancing Doctor Simeon and his Whisper Men. (The Name of the Doctor)
She was very loyal and protective, ordering her allies to protect Melody Pond at all costs. (A Good Man Goes to War) Vastra was an old friend of the Doctor and seemed to know him well. However, although she supported the Time Lord, she disagreed with his decision to stay out of the affairs of the universe. Although she understood that he was heartbroken and told Jenny that such tragedy affected everyone, she also felt that he had spent too much time sulking on his cloud and was therefore delighted when The Doctor returned to save the world. (The Great Detective, The Snowmen) Vastra had a lot of faith in The Doctor, claiming to the Great Intelligence that he had been “many things, but never blood-soaked”. Even after the Intelligence disputed this claim by listing people The Doctor had fought or killed, as well as terrible names the Time Lord would have by the end of his life, Vastra dismissed it, not believing that any of it was true. (The Name of the Doctor)
When Vastra got bored, she enjoyed eating comfort food in the form of local human criminals. (The Singular Case of the Blue Men of the Minch) Despite her taste in comfort food, Vastra could control her darker urges, and she spared two men when she and Jenny were helping The Doctor despite commenting she was hungry. She poisoned one of them with her venom, but this was only to stop him from calling for help. When her sisters died in hibernation, Vastra was enraged, but with The Doctor’s help she controlled her anger and did not seek further revenge on the humans who had awakened her. (A Good Man Goes to War, The Snowmen)
Vastra showed a considerable understanding of time and space and even the Time Lords themselves, knowing about the Untempered Schism, regeneration, and even how the Time Lords became what they were through prolonged exposure to the Time Vortex. (A Good Man Goes to War) She also believed that the universe did not make bargains, but was less sure when The Doctor gleefully told her that Clara was still alive in another era after her death. (The Snowmen)
Vastra was a fierce warrior who wielded two swords in combat. She held her own against a group of Headless Monks, surviving without any apparent injury. (A Good Man Goes to War) As she grew older however, Vastra’s reflexes may have slowed down slightly, she was quickly tossed aside by Walter Simeon when he was possessed by the Great Intelligence. (The Snowmen)
Evidently a member of the Silurian branch found in Wales, Vastra lacked the third eye common amongst other Silurians and also had the ability to extend her tongue over a long distance. This tongue was laced with a nasty venom, but it was not necessarily fatal. (A Good Man Goes to War)
Vastra was also well known for her exceptional skills as a detective. Indeed, her skills were so renowned that the adventures of Sherlock Holmes were believed to be based on her and Jenny’s exploits. (The Snowmen)
She had experience with telepathy, being able to trick The Doctor into “assisting” with “her ” sleep problems, and bouncing the help back at him. (Deep Breath) She also knew enough of telepathic fields to recognise potential danger when she saw it. (The Snowmen)
Vastra was able to speak with an accent reminiscent of those from the nation of Scotland. The newly regenerated Twelfth Doctor, who found himself with a Scottish accent in this persona, found solace in being able to understand Vastra when she did so. (Deep Breath)
BEHIND THE SCENES
Since their appearance, Vastra and Jenny have become quite popular among fans, with many wishing for a spin-off series based on their adventures. Steven Moffat addressed this, saying he considered a spin-off when he created the two characters, but would not have the time, though he would like to revisit them. Since their debut, Vastra, Jenny – and Strax – have returned for four additional episodes and three minisodes. Although no television spinoff materialised, they did receive their own short story series in The Doctor Who Adventures magazine called The Paternoster Gang Investigates and later The Paternoster Gang from Big Finish Productions.
* the Twelfth Doctor’s relief in being able to understand Vastra in Deep Breath is a reference to her actress, Neve McIntosh, who uses her natural Scottish accent in the scene.
* The reference book The Secret Lives of Monsters includes an excerpt from a book called A Study in Green in which Vastra, Jenny and Strax encounter Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Jenny bought all 200 copies of the book to keep it off the shelves.
* Vastra was supposed to appear as a hallucination when the Eleventh Doctor regenerated, along with other of the Doctor’s companions. In the end, only Amy appeared.
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