Exactly 10 years to the date of Torchwood’s debut, the latest Doctor Who spin-off blasted onto BBC3 in the form of Class. So was it any good? Well . . . kinda. There’s definite scope, but there were also many pitfalls, which we’ll get to shortly.
We’re going to take a look at each of the five core characters, before reviewing each of the two episodes.
Greg Austin is Charlie, a gay alien prince from Rhodia. The character is a Doctor Who cliché – he’s essentially Luke from The Sarah Jane Adventures. But it’s refreshing to have another gay character in the Whoniverse, and Greg Austin is a capable young actor, especially in his showdown with the leader of the Shadow Kin. I’m intrigued to see where Charlie is gonna go, and I can’t wait for his centric episode. I don’t buy the relationship between him and Miss Quill one bit, but I loved the fact that his sexuality was never an issue. He kissed Matteusz and it didn’t matter. I just wish that there wasn’t that awkward bit where April briefly wanted to take him to prom – we should’ve just been shown him going to prom with Matteusz with no comment on the fact that it was with another guy. But still, it was nicely done regardless.
Fady Elsayed is Ram Singh, a dick wannabe-footballer who is secretly friends with Tanya. Ram came across as a bell-end instantly, but that was the point. We were meant to think he was a dick. But he instantly became likeable when he showed his vulnerable side in the second episode. It was nice to see him struggling with the death of his girlfriend, rather than it just being swept aside.
Sophie Hopkins is April, a nice girl sans friends. We’re meant to empathise with April, and we do instantly. We’ve all been in the position where we feel invisible by our peers. There’s a vulnerability to April and I’m intrigued to see how far Hopkins’ acting will be able to stretch to show this. There’s scope for her story to be amazing, I feel.
Vivian Oparah is Tanya, a 14-year-old with a deeply religious mother. I like the friendship between Tanya and Ram, and I sincerely hope that they don’t go down the obvious route of having Tanya fancy Ram. Why not show that a boy and girl can be friends without romance being involved? I’m intrigued by her religious mother – that story can be exploited nicely for friction – and the fact that her dad has died previously. Overall, I like her.
Katherine Kelly is Miss Quill, and she is an utter dick too. I think we’re meant to be unsure about her – much like Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in his debut run – but I’m not entirely sure it works. Aside from a few witty one-liners, she’s pretty one-dimensional so far. I can’t find myself liking her anytime soon. The only way this will happen is if she becomes a character and not a running gag. It’s a shame, because Kelly is a great actress. Hopefully the character will soften a bit in future episodes.
For Tonight We Might Die
The first episode of Class was much the same as Torchwood’s. It zipped between storylines and characters at lightning speed to introduce everything, and at times it was hard to stay focussed. But this is a pitfall of many shows that are launching for the first time, so that can be forgiven.
Corakinus, the leader of the Shadow Kin, looked like the Pyroviles from series 4 of Doctor Who, but he was a decent enough threat. If the Shadow Kin are meant to be Class’ version of the Daleks, I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but they’re definitely going to recur. Having him tethered to April by a shared heart is the prime example of a cop-out storyline – it means Corakinus can’t be killed for the foreseeable future, and it easily sets him up as the main threat. Surely there could’ve been a better explanation as to why he couldn’t be killed?
The rift in space and time has also been done to death. Again, look at Torchwood. And, again, surely a better explanation as to why the threats are going to constantly turn up could’ve been sought? I just think these narrative themes are pitfalls of Class and they scream of rushed storytelling.
What did work was the introduction of the core characters, even if Charlie and Miss Quill being from another planet was kinda obvious. There were many nods to Doctor Who – most notably references to Clara Oswald and Danny Pink – and the Doctor himself showed up.
This was the only truly great moment of ‘For Tonight We Might Die’, and it served to remind us how much we’ve missed the Doctor. This year has been a long one. As always, Peter Capaldi was stunning as the Doctor. He delivered another great speech, dropped a few gags (particularly the dig at Ikea) and showed hints that he hasn’t completely forgotten about Clara. The Christmas special can’t come soon enough.
So, overall, ‘For Tonight We Might Die’ didn’t work all that well. Rushed and clichéd storytelling meant that this debut was inundated with ideas – like, for example, why was one of the Shadow Kin hunting Tanya in her bedroom, when her only connection to Charlie was that she was sent to Coal Hill? It just didn’t make sense!
The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo
This second episode worked A LOT better. Though the monster was rather forgettable (despite looking stunning), it worked well as a character piece to explore the aftermath of the demise of a loved one. Elsayed was pretty darn great throughout, showing that there’s more to his character than his brooding good lucks. I find it hard to believe that he’s really that popular, considering he wasn’t shown to have ANY other friends, but I loved the fact that he told his father what was going on instantly, rather than trying to hide it. Surely any decent father would make him move school, though?
Maybe a better way to introduce the concept of a killer tattoo would have been to have Coach Dawson recur throughout the series, with hints that something wasn’t quite amiss? I don’t know, it just all felt a bit . . . rushed. Though, that said, the conclusion was refreshingly executed, by showing that you don’t have to fight the monsters to beat them.
The death of Mr Armitage feels, I think, like a wasted opportunity. Having a constant die to the parent show would’ve benefitted Class more, I feel, even though Mr Armitage didn’t really interact with the Doctor all that much. I think there was so much more than could’ve been done with his character.
Again, I found it hard to like Miss Quill in this episode. Her storyline felt as though it was tagged on unnecessarily. Who are the Governors? And what do they want with Miss Quill? Hopefully, they intend to give her a better personality, or an actual decent storyline, because thus far she’s lacking in both. I think the only way her character can be redeemed is by showing the true emotional depth of Kelly’s performance, but since her people have all already died, I’m not certain how this could be achieved . . .
‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’ was a better episode than its predecessor; it worked well as a character piece but I do think Class is still missing something. What that something is I’m not quite sure. Class isn’t really bringing anything new to the table. It’s all rehashed episodes from Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and so far nothing has been particularly memorable. Hopefully this will change, but I have my reservations.