Yes, it’s on to what is ambitiously billed on the Bluray cover as “series one” of Class, the spin-off that has thus far completely passed me by. I dutifully downloaded the first couple of episodes when they appeared on BBC Three, but I hadn’t got round to watching them by the following week. As this project was well underway at this point, I decided to just delete them and hold off so that the series would be fresh for my future self, who is now my current self.
Since then, and perhaps inevitably given the state of affairs with BBC Three, it’s become clear that there was no real need to stay up to date with it anyway. I’ve heard a few bits and bobs about the series, and none of them particularly good, so was surprised to find I quite enjoyed the first episode. I was cynical about whether a man in his thirties could get much from a YA drama about teenagers written by a man in his forties, but it was well-crafted and had a lot more depth than the start of Torchwood, which is its nearest point of comparison.
Admittedly, some of the dialogue did have a hint of “how do you do, fellow kids” about it, mostly when it came to April, the angsty one with the disabled mum who had her heart literally stolen by a smoke monster. Becky from Coronation Street is pretty good as Miss Quill, the super-strict teacher slash undercover alien freedom fighter – a sort of cross between Captain Jack and Mr Bronson. She’s joined by Charlie, the nerdy school weirdo slash undercover alien prince who’s basically Sarah Jane’s Luke but with a slightly more up-to-date haircut.
Then there’s Tanya, younger than the others having been moved up a year, who we know the least about at this stage but who seems like she might be the most likeable character. Completing the gang is Ram, who starts off as the stereotypical jock and what passes for the class clown in a class of super-gifted kids, but who will presumably be changed by the quite shockingly gruesome sight of his prom date being eviscerated in front of him. He probably won’t be so unrealistically good at football now that his leg’s been chopped off either.
For the most part it’s like watching a decent CBBC drama, but those occasional moments of unflinching horror, along with a bucket or two of blood and the odd utterance of the word “shit”, place the tone somewhere in the middle of the two previous spin-offs. It’s clearly setting its stall out as a British Buffy, and I enjoyed the knowing references to that and other shows with a similar premise. I only worry about whether it has the resources to pull it off – the effects on display looked good but it’s clear they have to be used sparingly. Shadows make for a very cheap monster.
The school itself is unrecognisable from its recent appearances, despite the presence of the same headmaster, having been upgraded to something much more swish and modern than the bog standard inner-city comprehensive where Clara worked. It’s still clearly supposed to be the same place though, with all that history, thanks to little touches like “S Foreman” appearing on what seemed to be a memorial wall, along with “D Pink” and “C Oswald”. Does that mean Susan’s actually dead, or just presumed dead after she disappeared from that junkyard?
Anyway, it’s a good job the Doctor turned up when he did, otherwise this would have been a very short spin-off series. This gang of misfits were seriously out of their depth, so they’d best buck their ideas up; he can’t turn up to save their necks every week, and it remains to be seen whether the remaining seven episodes will be as enjoyable without the big crowd-pleasing cameo to structure the story around. But on first impressions, definitely some cautious optimism, tempered only by the knowledge that what I’m watching was a complete flop by most metrics.
Seriously, it’s definitely better than Torchwood.