Class: The Lost

So that’s Class done with then. I feel a little underwhelmed by the finale, in which a hell of a lot happened, and yet it feels like it never really got going. The choice of the Shadow Kin as the big bad didn’t really help. It had to be them because the whole series had been leading up to the Cabinet of Souls being opened, but it means that they’ve been the main baddy in four of the eight episodes, and they weren’t that good in the first place.

The stakes instead came from the sheer number of life-shattering disasters that befell the kids. It was an absolute bloodbath – Ram’s dad and Tanya’s mum being killed within the first few minutes. The pace was relentless, which was good for keeping the interest up, but it meant that there wasn’t much time to deal with these huge events, and so very broad strokes had to be used. It was exciting enough to watch, but no real substance.

On the plus side, this devil-may-care attitude did mean that by the time everyone was together for the final confrontation, I genuinely didn’t know what the outcome would be – it felt like anyone could die, and I wondered at one point if they were deliberately tearing apart the status quo, perhaps in the anticipation that there wouldn’t be a second series. In the end, April died, Charlie survived, and then April came back to life in the body of the dead Shadow King. That would have been a tricky one to sustain throughout a second series, but I kind of want to see them try.

An even better sequel hook was the appearance of the Weeping Angels. In retrospect, they should have used them as the main baddies for the finale instead, but what they seemed to be setting up for the second series looked exciting. It’s a shame that it’s never going to happen. Class is far from great, but it does qualify as “good”, and it’s the sort of thing that could have been a real success in a different era of BBC Three. Sadly, its commissioning came just at the wrong time, and the channel’s move online sealed its fate before it even began – nobody will sign off on a project this ambitious if it’s going to be seen by so few people.

It’s a failing of the television industry that shows like Class don’t seem to have a home any more. There’s an audience there that’s not being served in the same way that previous generations were at that age. Maybe Class itself wasn’t the answer, but it’s sad to think that despite the very mixed results attained by Who‘s various spin-offs over the years, it’s unlikely that there’ll be many more attempts.

RATING: 6

SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 6.14

  • Class series watched: 1 of 1
  • Class stories watched: 7 of 7
  • Individual¬†Class episodes watched: 8 of 8

So nearly there. Just one more thing to slot in before going back to proper Who

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Class: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

January was, let’s face it, an incredibly poor month for this blog. But thankfully, the work thing which stopped me finding time to watch an episode a day has finished for the timebeing, and this watch-through will be done and dusted by the time it’s back. Hopefully I’ll be able to blitz through the rest, and the finish line being in sight is definitely what’s motivating me at the moment – I feel like the desire to watch an episode of Class on a Saturday night is more down to moving a step closer to home than it is to do with actually wanting to watch Class.

Still, Katherine Kelly (who will always be Becky McDonald from Corrie to me) is by far the best actor in the show, so a Quill-only episode seemed like a good prospect. For the most part it lived up to it – it’s certainly the most visually interesting and impressive episode yet, which I guess explains the need for an accompanying bottle ep. It’s clear where the budget went, although there are still some telltale signs of stretched resources, such as a knife fight with the devil itself taking place off-screen, portrayed to us via the headteacher’s reaction shots.

But kudos is due for being able to realise so many different off-world environments within one episode, and for each of them being sufficiently distinct. It was a strange premise – hopping from one imaginary world to another in order to gather impossible items pertaining to alien brain surgery – but it worked. I wasn’t terribly keen on either of Quill’s cohorts, and the dynamic between the three was pretty stilted, but the quest was a noble one, so I went with it.

The removal of the Arn was utterly disgusting, but the shape-shifter man using his powers to heal Quill was a nice ending to the story, allowing her to go straight off to pursue her revenge. Except the story didn’t end when it should have done, leading to some unnecessary rumpy-pumpy, and a weird, hitherto unexpected war game scenario whereby the mysterious Governors forced Quill and her new boyfriend into a battle to the death, for no particular reason.

The boyfriend got bumped off due to the old back-firing gun trick, so that Quill could be sad and then vow to seek revenge, but it all felt tacked-on and superfluous. We were already on her side, and we already knew she was going to be “war itself” with her freewill back, whatever that means. The whole thing was slightly redeemed, however, by the final twist reveal that Quill has returned from her ordeal heavily pregnant, which at least gives a narrative reason for the earlier impromptu bonking on the gymnasium floor, and sets up an intriguing finale.

RATING: 6

Class: Detained

Ooh, a bottle episode. It’s actually come at a good time, as only yesterday I was complaining that the gang are hardly ever actually together, so an episode that’s just them and nobody else in the same small room for 45 minutes is quite a welcome change. Matteusz is there too, and at this point I’m really confused as to whether to consider him part of the gang or not. He’s not treated as one of the main characters, but he’s only missed one episode so far, and after what the group went through here, he’s definitely one of them now.

Trapped in a displaced classroom within an infinite void, the kids had nothing better to do than pass around the truth rock, which sparked up some very deep and very personal conversations. It was a great plot device; Class is often at its best when it takes the time to really explore its characters, and for all its various faults, I now feel like I really know these guys, and that they’re far more rounded and well-developed than Torchwood managed in four series.

It was a bit like Midnight, in that the characters were pushed to their very limits until they start displaying the very worst aspects of their humanity. It’s when you see people at their lowest that you really get to know them, and I feel like I understand many of them a lot more now, particularly Charlie. It’s interesting that the rock wasn’t quite affecting him in the same way as the others, as it implies that when he finally got angry and confessional, it was all him.

The only downside is that April and Ram’s promising relationship is now completely in tatters, having lasted all of one story. Worse still, Ram became an internet misogynist as soon as it became clear that his feelings weren’t reciprocated, becoming aggressive and abusive towards April for having the temerity to have her own emotions. I know that the rock was making everyone act like dicks, but it seemed to me that the way the dickishness manifested itself was all down to the individual – it made them act in a truthful way, and if that’s what Ram resorts to when he’s angry, that’s worrying.

Still, this was a tense and gripping episode, the best the series has offered yet. I’m also hopeful for the next one – Quill turning up at the end, having gained a scar and her freewill, was a great tease, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she was up to while this lot were in detention.

RATING: 7

Class: Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart / Brave-ish Heart

I decided to bash through this two-parter in a day, as opportunities to make progress have been so rare of late. I’m glad I did, as it managed to arrest the steady decline that’s been happening since the series started. I’m not sure it was actually any good overall, but it was surprising and intriguing at times, with an element of fun to go alongside the usual doses of violence and angst.

This was, predictably enough from the two episode titles that reference pop culture from years before the target audience was born, the story of April and her connection to the Shadow Kin from episode one. Badass April is actually a great deal better to watch than normal, slightly irritating April, and I quite like her and Ram together. The scene of them consummating the relationship was considerably more tasteful than I expected, with positive and important messages about consent, safety and respect. The Shadow Kin’s side of the sex scene was a little odd, but worth it for the King asking for “a moment of cuddling”.

All of this April activity stems from her dad being released from prison – the rule seems to be that if an important-sounding piece of backstory is introduced in one episode, it will drive the plot of the very next episode. Her family issues lead up to the highlight of the story – the unpredictable and shocking climax to the first ep, where April does something weird to her mum and then fucks off through a rift. The concluding part didn’t quite live up to the promise, though. I’ve never found the Shadow Kin that interesting – they’re a bit generic and are hard to decipher at times – so I didn’t really care to explore their homeworld.

Meanwhile, Coal Hill has a new head teacher, and the world is about to be ended by killer petals, which are multiplying exponentially and eating people alive. You’d think that having two massive high-stakes plots happening at the same time would be distracting and unsatisfactory, and you’d be right. So often it feels like Quill is taking part in a different episode to everyone else, and it’s a shame that the gang are so rarely all working together.

The two elements only came together right at the end – it looked for a while like Charlie might have to use his magic soul weapon to fix either one problem or the other, but in the end April just fixed both. The power seemed to come a little too easily to her at times – she not only took on the Shadow Kin single-handedly, but won convincingly. It’s weird that all this has happened and we’re only halfway through the series. This one felt like a finale, and it’s hard to know where they go from here.

RATING: 6

Class: Nightvisiting

Ah. After a half-decent start, each episode has contrived to become progressive worse than the last, to the point that I can now see exactly why it received the lukewarm reception that it did. This one committed the cardinal sin of being dull, as it fails to create any sense of real peril, or credible stakes. I didn’t understand why the whole thing was centred around Tanya – sure she’s been through some shit, but the story seemed to imply that she was the saddest girl in the world, which I don’t buy.

Tanya is still a likeable character, and is perhaps the best acted of the main four kids. She’s not the only one with daddy issues; April’s is an alcoholic folk singer who tried to kill her and her mum, which serves as backstory to explain some of her quirky behaviour, although she’s not actually massively quirky. Everyone else has their encounters with dead loved ones too, and at this stage the previously commendable emphasis on character development starts to feel a little scattergun, and it lacks focus.

There are lots of attempts to sound deep and meaningful, but it’s all very adolescent – I know that’s the audience of the show, but I’m pretty sure I’d have found the dialogue shallow and patronising when I was that age. The worst offenders were Charlie and his Eastern European boyfriend – who’s suddenly back again having not turned up last time – who shacked up in bed to have tedious conversations about love while all the vaguely interesting stuff was happening to other people.

I say “vaguely interesting”. I was intrigued by the baddy at first, as it reminded me a little bit of the Zygons’ recent tactic of disguising themselves as people’s loved ones. There was also the element of them needing consent from their victims in order to do anything, which was also the deal with the Monks in Moffat’s last series. But there wasn’t much to it beyond that – there’s only so many times you can try and trick someone into touching you before it becomes a bit tedious.

And so Miss Quill decides to bring the plot to an abrupt end by just driving a bus into it. Because fuck it, that’ll do. The series is definitely veering into comical territory now, which is at least better than boring.

RATING: 5

Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

A little bit of a wobble for the second episode. It was far from terrible, but if it wasn’t for the Doctor Who connection, I’m not sure what would be compelling me to stick with it. I get the feeling that the show’s not quite sure who its audience is. It’s trying to be Buffy, but it also seems to be making its appeal narrower than it needs to be; just because your characters are teens, it doesn’t mean you have to aim so squarely for that demographic. The focus on character development and relationships is good, and that stuff’s universal, but it seems to fall down whenever there’s any sci-fi action required.

This is mainly because it veers worryingly into the realms of the silly, drawing unwelcome comparisons to Who‘s last “more adult” spin-off. There’s a lot of blood and gore – I’m neither for or against that in theory, but it’s used so frequently and with the same shots repeated so often that it loses all impact and just becomes comical. Especially as it’s always poor old Ram who seems to get splattered in the face by buckets of the stuff.

His recent experiences have seemingly turned him into a bit of a prick since the first ep. And do you know, he smokes. But at least he’s working his way through it, and it’s good that the show takes the time to examine the impact that all this insanity is having on our heroes’ lives. Well, apart from Matteusz, Charlie’s prom date who was there when the Doctor put the gang together but has seemingly since been dropped – we’re told he was “grounded” this week, but he doesn’t feature in the title sequence or main publicity photos with the others. A bit odd, really – is he the Class equivalent of Kelsey?

Still, after the gore count was upped with Mr Armitage’s recurring crossover character status coming to and end, the core group came together to defeat a monster without the Doctor’s help for the first time, and they achieved it by just having a bit of a chat and persuading it to leave. Like I say, it falls down a bit when it comes to the actual plot – why couldn’t the dragon have fed on cow blood from the local butchers or something, rather than killing all those humans? – which means that while it’s an enjoyable setting to spend 45 minutes in, it doesn’t quite satisfy in the end.

Oh, and also Miss Quill is Sherlock now, in a seemingly unconnected side-plot where she discovers an Ofsted inspector is a mysterious robot in disguise by noticing that his trousers are older than his jacket, or something. I assume that the robots will become important at some point in the future – that foreshadowing of “The Governers” at the end was far from subtle.

RATING: 6

Class: For Tonight We Might Die

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.

RATING: 7