‘Class’ Review: For Tonight We Might Die

October 20th, 2016
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...

One episode in and Class has already secured its status as its very own beast to be reckoned with – but it’s the beast that the Doctor Who franchise has been waiting for.

Believe it or not, but it was just over a year ago that the BBC announced that Patrick Ness had signed up to helm his very own Doctor Who spin off, and now the new term – and, as such, a new era – is finally about to begin. And oh, what a shining new era it looks set to be! If the premiere episode is anything to go by, we really are in for a treat…

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 12 months, here’s the premise of Class in a nutshell. Set at the pre-established Coal Hill School, which has been given a swanky revamp to become the prestigious Academy since its last on screen appearance over in the main show, the series follows the day to day lives of a dynamic group of sixth formers as they battle their way through the trials and tribulations of puberty and exams. Oh, and the odd extra terrestrial excursion, of course. You know, all the usual stuff.

The stars of the show – that’s Greg Austin as Charlie, Sophie Hopkins as April, Fady Elsayed as Ram and Vivian Oparah as Tanya – are instantly watchable, relatable and likeable, all of which were vital ingredients in establishing their authority as the Whoniverse’s next generation of honourable heroes. There’s a lot to get through in the opening episode but not one member of the ensemble feels wasted or unnecessary – they are each there to add something special and unique to the overriding and developing story arcs (of which there are many) and the narrative offers the right amount of insight into their personal demons to keep us intrigued enough to find out more, whilst reassuring us that these valiant teens definitely deserve our blessing. A special mention goes out to Sophie Hopkins as April, who gets way more – like, way, way more – than she bargained for when a night of prom preparations turns into a literal fight to the death. It escalates really quickly. Oh, and we take our hat off to Fady Elsayed, too, who loses two things very dear to him in the space of 5 minutes. Don’t worry, though. He gets one of them back.

Speaking of the prom, it’s the circumstances surrounding the gang’s unlikely but inevitable alliance that ultimately makes this episode such an enjoyable – if completely bonkers – ride. The party setting is the perfect backdrop for the events that escalate within the confines of the school corridors, which are being haunted by sinister shadows. A student has gone missing and we won’t say anything more about that, but suffice to say that the brilliant backstory and its accompany adversary – the terrifying Shadow Kin – is so rich, powerful and well crafted that it could warrant a spin off of its very own…

…which brings us to Katherine Kelly as the devilishly decadent Miss Quill. We recommend that you try to go into the episode with as little knowledge about her cryptic character as possible, as the reveal of her identity is definitely worth the surprise. What’s more exciting is where she’ll go next, as a vengeful villainess who, not through choice, is having to adjust to a life that uses words instead of weapons. Katherine is effortlessly fantastic and relishes every ounce of the role, which is one that will undoubtedly put her in good stead to go down as one of the most formidable female foes that this genre has ever seen. Watch this space, folks.

So, what genre is Class, exactly? Well, we know that it’s Young Adult and anybody familiar with Patrick Ness’ previous works won’t take long to feel at home in terms of its style and pacing. What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is that Patrick has managed to make it accessible for all. His snappy dialogue and one liners bring the story to life and it’s already clear that he’s created something that’s exactly like Doctor Who in every way… apart from the fact that it’s completely different. The timely appearance from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor himself only serves to remind us that it’s all part of the same mythology, however his guest spot – while appreciated – is fleeting and the episode would’ve worked just as well without it.

The premiere episode of Class shines a new light on a world that is already familiar to us, whilst planting the seeds for the stories and drama to come. It all kicks off with an awesome pre-titles sequence that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an episode of Buffy (that’s not us complaining), and the theme tune totally rocks. Basically, we’ve never been so excited to go to school.

The first two episodes premiere on BBC Three at 10am on Saturday 22nd October.

1 comment on this article
  1. JC
    October 22nd, 2016 at 12.52pm | #1

    NOTE: This post is a review and will/may contain spoilers.

    I went into Class with a closed mind. From the moment the BBC stumbled in their announcement by promising huge news about Doctor Who and then it being news about a spin-off instead, Class had left a bad taste in the mouth and every piece of news about it afterwards seemed to only confirm that feeling.

    As a Doctor Who fan though, I had to give the first two episodes a try.

    First of all, there is a lot of similarities between Class and Doctor Who if you’re looking for them and I’m not sure whether that’s a bad thing or not. The Shadow Kin in the first episode, for example, seem to be a combination of the Pyroviles and the Vashta Nerada and the Rift in space-time is reminiscent of the Cardiff Rift of Torchwood, which may be the behind-the-scenes reason why the characters can’t decide what to call it.

    Second, the level of gore. Let’s make no bones about it, Class is a gory show and proves why it advises that younger people shouldn’t watch it. In the first episode, we had a teenage girl stabbed through the heart and her blood splash over her boyfriend’s face, which was before the Shadow Kin chopped off his leg on screen. The 10th Doctor’s Christmas Invasion mishap it wasn’t. This only continued to a larger extent in Episode 2, where three people were violently skinned alive and again, blood was splashed over the same guy’s face (some luck he has there). This really isn’t for anyone that’s squeemish, but I’m of an age that I’ve seen enough horror films that it doesn’t bother me. It’s just something to note if you are.

    Thirdly, I liked the idea of the dragon in Episode 2. The CGI was nicely done and they created a dragon that was effective but also good and different to look at. I’m not exactly clear on how a dragon becomes a tattoo, Class seems to ask you to take odd things for granted without explanation (perhaps that’ll come later), but again for me, the relationship between the male and female dragons and the Coach was reminiscent of The Teller and Madame Karabraxos in Series 8.

    The Doctor’s presence in the first episode was ok, but him appearing so late in the episode signalled Patrick Ness’ stated intention for Class to stand on its own. The Doctor was there, but he wasn’t the centre of the show. He felt largely a secondary character, which is unusual for him. It’s interesting to note that the Doctor has appeared in Class, given the gory content of the show as well as the bad language, considering that I think I’m right in saying that the Doctor never appeared in Torchwood because they didn’t want him associated with a show with adult themes.

    I’m an aspiring Young Adult Writer myself and I hope to be published one day, so it was interesting for me to see what was done with Class, despite my own preconceptions about the show. For me, it definitely feels as though it’s walking the line between Young Adult and New Adult with its content, which again was Patrick Ness’ stated intention.

    I’m still not sure about Class based on the first two episodes. It is a gory series and although that doesn’t bother me, I still question why it’s being used to such an extent. At the same time, not being sure if I like it or not is progress from being sure that I’d hate it.

    I liked the characters and I can see their potential, but Class needs to be more than a bridge between Doctor Who and Torchwood. It’s right that it forge its own path and develop its own identity, but it also needs to stay linked to the Doctor Who universe it apparently wants to be a part of. That doesn’t mean that Daleks or Cybermen need to come through the Rift, I can already see that would actually ruin the feel of the show, but becoming complete separate from Doctor Who would defeat its opening premise.

    Episodes 1 and 2 of Class were interesting enough for me to keep watching. My pre-conceptions about Class may turn out to be completely wrong and if that’s the case, I’m fine with that.

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