Class Review: Familiar World. New Faces

Though the rumor going ’round is Doctor Who spinoff Class has already been canceled by the BBC, I quite enjoyed this darker take on the Whoniverse.

That said, after screening the entire eight episode first season I feel it’s a shame the network bungled the timing/release of Class going with BBC Three “online” and later broadcast. The series probably suffered from not having Doctor Who as a lead in. BBC America is airing Class directly after the tenth season of Doctor Who, but will our ratings inspire a renewal across the pond? I can tell you, I enjoyed the cast and Charlie’s overall arc enough that I’d definitely tune-in for a second season. While this new spinoff is no Torchwood, it turned out to be much more violent and creepy than I was expecting. I agree with reviewers that thought the series needed more time to find itself. Eight episodes is such a quick dip into these new characters lives, you know? Anyway, here are my thoughts on Episode 1 “For Tonight We Might Die.”

Class - Season 1 Episode 1
Courtesy of BBC America
I confess, I’m not a “long-time Whovian,” though I have been tuning in religiously since Matt Smith took over the Tardis in 2010. However, I did go back and binge-watch Eccleston and Tennant’s runs on Netflix, basically catching myself up on the mythology relaunch from 2005. Though I was aware of the Doctor, Torchwood was my introduction to the Whoniverse. I’ve read that Coal Hill first appeared in 1963’s Doctor Who premiere “An Unearthly Child.” Of course, I wasn’t even born then, so my intro to Coal Hill was when Clara Oswald taught English there.

The new characters were introduced quickly. Ram shoving poor Charlie gave me the impression he was going to be your typical bully, but he turned out to be nothing like what I was expecting. Speaking of which, Charlie’s an alien posing as a human student? Now there’s a twist I didn’t see coming. Our protagonist is the prince of the Rhodians, a storyline that can easily be further explored if the series returns for a second season. Though the way he turned down April for the prom was crushing, we soon learned that Charlie likes boys. I thought it was terrific that creator/writer Patrick Ness made that choice for his lead. Charlie’s relationship with Matteusz is one of the highlights of the show. The cast is beautifully diverse and it’s a shame more television shows don’t follow suit.

Class - Season 1 Episode 1
Courtesy of BBC America
Charlie’s strained relationship with Miss Quill is another interesting dynamic. She is the enslaved servant and protector of Charlie, and also an alien. What?!? Katherine Kelly is pure perfection as Quill, and I instantly fell for the snarky character. Boy was she mean… breaking Charlie’s phone, calling April a spinster and subtly insulting Ram. Yeah, you could tell right away that Quill was going to be fun to watch. No spoilers, but the character did not let me down as the series progressed through to the finale.

It wasn’t long before Tanya was chased down the street by a creepy shadow. Ram caught a glimpse of one as well at soccer practice, but Tanya was targeted. It surprised me a bit that Tanya and Ram were pals, or at least study partners. I mean, she’s so smart and he seemed to be the wise-cracking jock. I liked that I couldn’t figure him out in five minutes. How awful the way Ram lost his girl, right? That’s bound to cause some serious issues. Overall, the young actors are wonderfully cast which is one of the main things required to hook me.

Class - Season 1 Episode 1
Courtesy of BBC America
April’s character was a much more familiar trope. Though a tad cliché at first, she proved to be more resilient than your typical damsel in distress. I think writer Ness worked hard to turn the sci-fi tropes we’re used to on their head. That makes for a much more interesting series in my opinion. Besides, April now shares her heart with the king of the Shadow Kin, Corakinus. Clearly, these are storylines that require time to develop. While there are no fillers in these first eight episodes, many questions will inevitably be left unanswered.

Class - Season 1 Episode 1
Courtesy of BBC America
Now, let’s talk about Peter Capaldi’s quick cameo. While the Twelfth Doctor and his adventures haven’t been my favorite, Capaldi is such a great actor 12 grew on me. I loved the fact that the Tardis (and a figure of legend) appeared and saved Charlie/Quill from the Shadow Kin. What a wonderful way to tie in the new spinoff with the larger Who mythology. The Doctor is responsible for dropping the prince and his protector at Coal Hill Academy. I just loved that reveal! It’s sadly ironic that Capaldi’s first line on Class was, “You know, I never thought that was possible… dying well” considering his Doctor will be regenerating this season. Sure, part of the reason Doctor Who has lasted more than 50 years is the series rebooting itself with a new Doctor every few years. Still the process is always heartbreaking and it’s going to be tough bidding Capaldi adieu. His entrance was perfect and the Doctor reminded us he was the caretaker at Coal Hill at one point. Including the Doctor in the Class pilot was brilliant brand synergy and the appearance worked beautifully. Did you notice the new screwdriver?

The Doctor’s presence did not take the focus off the new characters. It was more like a passing of the baton to the younger generation. It’s true, he can’t be everywhere. The kids (and Quill) are now in charge of keeping Coal Hill safe. That’s right, the team are all officially “mates” and ready for whatever space/time throws their way. Trust me, things are going to get crazy.

In Closing…

I thoroughly enjoyed the Class pilot, it’s characters and Capaldi’s brief cameo. Sure, some of the visual effects were questionable, but the terrific cast helped keep me engaged the entire hour. The planets looked pretty cool, no? If these eight hours are all we’re going to get of Class, I think that’s a real damn shame. The series has tons of potential. If you enjoyed the pilot, keep tuning in weekly. Perhaps the American broadcast numbers will be impressive enough to convince the BBC it deserves another go. I’d be thrilled to hangout again at Coal Hill next year. How about you?

Class airs Saturdays following Doctor Who at 10/9c on BBC America.

  • Chuck

    Doctor Who and Class air Saturdays on BBC America.

  • Floy Joy

    Although I admire your enthusiasm for Class I don’t share it. The link with Doctor Who is flimsy at best and just having the Doctor breeze through in episode 1 is not enough to make it a true spin-off. Both Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures had a popular WHO character in them which was a hook from the start. You already had a character to care about. That is usually the point of a spin-off-character(s) from the main series have proved worthy of their own series. The link in Class is the school (!?) which is now an “Academy” and completely different from the old school anyway. If the stories and acting were of the same quality as WHO it might have worked. But, alas, it isn’t and doesn’t. The ratings will have to be VERY good on BBC America for BBC UK to continue with it. Unlike a previously cancelled BBC Fantasy series “Atlantis” Class has already lost it’s UK audience after season 1. So, unlike that series, it will find it much tougher to get a second season. And, frankly, I really don’t think it deserves it.