Episode 1 – For Tonight We Might Die
Like a lot of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures fans, I had my doubts over Class. There was no character link to Doctor Who, like the other two spin-offs had benefitted from, and four of the five lead actors and actresses were inexperienced. However, from minute one, Patrick Ness delivered a script that captivated and intrigued me right the way through the episode.
I’ve known I’d be reviewing Class for a few months now on this site, partly because it’s associated with Doctor Who, and also because there’s no Doctor Who to talk about at the moment. To be honest, I thought I would be on a downer reviewing the show, but I’m so pleased to have been proven wrong. I’m writing this episode one review before I’ve watched episode two, so hopefully that doesn’t disappoint. Episode one though, was as near to perfect as it could have been. From the trailer, I wanted to know why Coal Hill Academy looked different? Why did the main characters not wear a school uniform? How did Charlie, from another planet, find himself living as a human? And how had four seemingly contrasting young characters come together? All my questions, even the trivial ones were answered in a water-tight script, which Patrick Ness deserves huge credit for.
One character I was most pleasantly surprised by was Katherine Kelly’s “Miss Quill”, and it wasn’t because she was pleasant herself. Within ten minutes we were shown that the teacher was a killer and had manipulated a schoolboy into killing himself inadvertently. To be shocked so early on was brilliant and it left me wanting to find out more. The revelation she was living with Charlie was another moment that made me gasp. Hearing the TARDIS without seeing the Doctor a couple of times early on in the episode was clever too as it allowed us to get used to the cast. I also found the use of music clever. Mixing in music from the last twelve years of Doctor Who, with new music specifically from Class made the new show seem validly connected to Doctor Who, even before seeing the Doctor.
Greg Austin’s performance as Charlie was probably the standout from any actor. His rage when his race was being murdered in front of him, turned into a cool and calculated mood that Miss Quill couldn’t understand. It showed terrific range. He was a believable as an alien too, showing enough ignorance to general everyday life to stand out. Sophie Hopkins was also superb, as we learnt a lot about April. She started off as a seemingly innocent teenage girl but by the end of the episode she’d proven that April had a real steely core. Ram and Tanya didn’t have as much depth to their stories to allow their characters’ wings to spread, but there was enough there to be excited about seeing them develop in the coming weeks.
The direction of the episode and design of the set and monsters was also exceptional. The new and improved Coal Hill looked great as the shadows eerily stalked students around. As a BBC Three spin-off, there’s obviously not as big a budget for Class as there is for Doctor Who, but even the CGI was passable.
Of course the Doctor did eventually turn up, and again Patrick Ness deserves credit for introducing him at exaclty the right moment. We’d been allowed to get used to the new characters, and I for one had already warmed to all of them, so I was ready for the Doctor and so was the script. With around fifteen minutes to go, it was so good to hear Peter Capaldi’s voice for the first time since Christmas Day 2015. Seeing the Doctor work out that the new gang was capable of defending Coal Hill, at the same time as the viewer, was another clever touch. It made his decision to leave them at the end of the episode perfectly acceptable. I also liked the Doctor recognising Clara’s name under Danny’s on the wall, it was a nice nod to the past, though I hope the Doctor trying to remember his old companion isn’t something that regularly continues in series ten.
I’m finding it difficult to pick fault with the episode. I could nitpick that the school was still open like normal after the death of two children, including Ram’s date, but it didn’t interfere with the plot too much. And maybe the way the King of the Shadow Kin was forced through the tear was a bit simplistic. But overall, Patrick Ness, the cast and all the crew have done a stellar job of bringing Class to life. The episode never slowed down in what was a gripping forty-five minutes. The balance between drama, tension and humour was perfect and I’m left desperate for more. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series.
Episode Rating: 9/10