Class – From the Universe of Doctor Who: Episode 1 review/analysis (Heavy Spoilers)

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Thursday October 20th 2016. Shoreditch. London. The Rich Mix Cinema and venue rolls out the red carpet for the launch of the new Doctor Who spin-off no one asked for. Go check out the video Adam from TheGeeksHandbag is putting up if you want to see the event itself!

Episode 1: For Tonight We Might Die. We’re finally here. No full series of Doctor Who because 2016 was so full of national treasures! (thanks again BBC…) but don’t worry! He’s showing up in the last 15 minutes to give a vague speech before sodding off. But more on that later.

Class - casting announcement

I wanna prefix this with saying the young actors really pleasantly surprised me. I had high hopes for Katherine Kelly and she absolutely delivered. Miss Quill is a very powerful character, genuinely very engaging to watch and even in the emotional scenes Katherine brings a subtle blend of dark wit and spooky charm. She’s almost Twelfth Doctor esc I will say…

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I’ll be honest and say I didn’t have much confidence in the others mainly due to the fact I hadn’t heard of them before. And boy was I proved wrong. The actors handle themselves very well, and their on-screen chemistry works quite well and is bound to get a few fan’s hearts racing. To quote Charlie “They’re all very attractive”. It’s acted and directed much better than I expected.

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The actual characters they’re playing is where it starts to go wrong for me. It’s a school/college/academy/all-or-none-of-the-above and so naturally to build a TV show around them you default to the stereotypes. There’s the reclusive head girl type, the brainiac that the others don’t really to want to befriend, the one that stands out like a sore thumb as SOCIAL ANXIETY and the jockish baffoon who’ll no doubt turn out to be really emotional ‘deep down’. Establishing these characters requires a lot of clunky dialogue. “Having a prom date is good right? I’m taking Matteusz” CLUNK. Drink every time a line in the script is simply said to point something out the audience have already worked out. You’ll be drunk before the awful title song starts playing.

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And speaking of the script, I still can’t quite understand it. Let’s run through the series synopsis: The high levels of Artron energy at Coal Hill (which may or may not be a completely new building they never explain) caused by the multiple times the TARDIS has landed there caused the fabric of time and space to weaken in that area. Therefore aliens will spot it as an easy place to invade. So what else are we to do but get some sixth formers to defend it from all manner of space thuggery.

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The first episode sets up that Charlie and Miss Quill are from the planet of the bigots. Charlie is the Prince of the super-dooper posh, and Miss Quill is a member of an oppressed race we hardly see and with motives currently not known to the audience. Miss Quill does something vaguely troublesome and is made Charlie’s protector (for some reason). An alien species that appears to be a mix of the Pyroviles and Vashta Nerada quietly invade Bigot-Land and kill everyone except Charlie and Miss Quill (for some reason). The TARDIS turns up and saves Charlie and Quill as they’re now the last of their kind. I loved the inclusion of Flavia’s Theme here, and during a conversation I had with the composer Blair Mowat he pointed out we don’t actually see which incarnation it was that picked them up. We can assume it’s Twelve as Quill recognises him later and it’s his TARDIS prop they use…

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Miss Quill takes the form as a teacher at Coal Hill (seriously does that place just take the first person who turns up?) and Charlie takes the place as the socially inept young lad that the jocks pick on. There’s quite a nice bit of comedy as the ‘true form’ of their species is revealed mid sentence. The Doctor tells them to get along well and everything is good in the universe. However, those Shadow-Kin from earlier have some mega vendetta against Charlie and are hunting him across the cosmos. Luckily for Shadow-Kins he’s hidden in a school on a weak point in space/time so they’re able to open up magic space vaginas and infest the shadows before killing him. Now I’ve written that down it does seem a little odd…

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Meanwhile back at Coal Hill School itself there’s a prom going on (I think I loudly groaned in the screening at this point). Ram is taking his girlfriend and they’re so deeply in love (anyone that hasn’t worked out she is going to die doesn’t know cliches), April has gone alone, Tanya shouldn’t be there because she’s too young but she fancies Ram so she’s lied to get in, and Charlie is taking Matteusz (a man who looks so similar to Charlie I had to keep checking which was which). Because oh yes, this is 2016 and there’s LGBT+ everywhere. I will commend them on Charlie’s sexuality not being the main point of his character so they’re doing something right. The Shadow-Kin decide to invade mid dance party and kill Ram’s girlfriend. She’s on screen for so little time I literally can’t remember her name. Ram gets covered in blood and starts beating up King Shadow-Kin himself because of course he does.

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The school hears some commotion going on and panics. Miss Quill isn’t allowed to use guns (for some reason) and so enlists April’s help in shooting the Shadow-Kins. BUT! Quill’s gun is a magic space gun which pulls both shooter and target into the time vortex to disintegrate them both. Rather brutal really. Through some bizarre acts that not even I can work out the gun fires, but only takes April and Kingly Shadow’s hearts away. But April’s heart is being shared between the two of them? Nope. No idea. They introduce a concept with the gun, then IMMEDIATELY change it. So now April and King Shadow are linked. Right…

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The battle arrives in the hall where Danny Pink first saw the TARDIS in 2014 and Charlie can shoot the gun with no negative side effects (for some reason). There’s some valiant speeches about dying, yada yada, then the main attraction! Yes folks, Peter Capaldi turns up 15 minutes before the end, and he’s playing David Tennant! I really wanted to like The Doctor in this, but he’s so unnecessary! The world was almost capable to survive on it’s own with the little TARDIS glimpse earlier. But no, he’s here to do some sonic waving and talking. It really seems like Patrick Ness doesn’t know how to write for Capaldi, the things he says reeks of Tennant’s Doctor. Which is a shame really…

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Can I talk about the resolution to this episode? The Doctor turns up, bleats on for a bit, then Tanya turns on the lights. The Shadow-Kin are phased a tad, but then Doctor Who uses his sonic to boost something or other and REALLY turn on all the lights. That’s it. We save the day with some light bulbs. Oh boy! Seriously though, that was crap.

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The Doctor in his infinite wisdom decides to recruit the intrepid gang of teenagers that stumbled into the action as the protectors of Coal Hill. And I reckon this means there will be an alien a week, with Shadow Bloke turning up every now and then before leaving for the finale.

I’m glad I went to see this in the cinema, because I honestly think I would have turned it off on iPlayer. It did nothing to hold me. In fact I’m almost certain I got the episode jumbled up because it mostly blurred together into the dull and the shoddily written. So that’s that. By and large I didn’t like it. It’s not completely awful, there’s a lot appealing to demographics I have no wish to be in. I didn’t go in with high hopes, and I left with hopes even lower. I’ve heard from gentlemen who shall remain confidential that Episode 2 is a bit crap but we didn’t see that at the premiere. It’s got most of the right ingredients (good direction, capable actors, money to spend) but jammed together with a dodgy script and dragging it out for an hour doesn’t work. Now if you don’t mind I’m gonna go hide whilst all those Class fans I met at the premiere bay for my blood.

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