FORGET Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of Victorian London was surely Madame Vastra, the fabled Lizard Woman of Paternoster Row, whose exploits alongside her allies Jenny and Strax have passed into legend.

Spinning out of the Christmas special The Snowmen, this self-contained story finds the trio of adventurers investigating an extraterrestrial smoke intent on invasion, a force which must be defeated without the assistance of the Doctor.

Silurian Vastra, her parlour maid Jenny and Strax the Sontaran make for an unlikely team, but are no less effective as a result, as they attempt to discover what it is that makes a snowman bleed…

Dan Starkey, who plays Strax on screen, is the reader of this audio-adventure, and does an excellent job with the variety of characters at play here, especially given that his natural voice is so different from his Sontaran alter ego.

For some reason Vastra and Jenny’s cross-species lesbian relationship is not mentioned here, despite being all-too-obvious on television, and the use of snowmen probably creates unnecessary confusion with the Christmas special, two flaws in an otherwise excellent tale.

Blending Victorian intrigue, Holmesian sleuthing and sci-fi humour to produce a first-rate little yarn, which certainly adds weight to the argument for a proper TV spin-off series for this unlikely trio, long-term Who writer Justin Richards brings the entire cast to life with his loving attention to characterisation. While it’s true to say that the simplistic plot could have done with a similar depth, the rich and descriptive language builds up an atmosphere which perfectly captures the best traditions of Victorian melodrama.

The absence of the Doctor is certainly not an issue, and in almost every way the story is better off without his looming presence, allowing the other characters a chance to shine. More please!