Episode 5 – Brave-ish Heart

This second episode of a two part story had a lot of questions to answer and to be honest it didn’t really answer many. It was just about an improvement on last week’s opening part, however the strange script often let the story down.

Last week I started with the negatives, so this week I’ll begin with what was good about the episode. Sophie Hopkins was again superb as she took centre stage in a faster paced episode. April is the character we’ve learned the most about in the last few weeks and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how stretched she’s been with personal, physical and romantic problems all at once. April’s story is something Patrick Ness has written really well and has been one of the highlights of the last two episodes.

The new head teacher was a very intriguing character and followed on from a strong debut last week. Not learning much about her background and being teased with stories about the governors overseeing her appointment has set up the last three episodes nicely. Who really is Dorothea? What does she want? How much do the governors know about what’s been going on at Coal Hill, or are the so called “governors”, not governors at all?  Her introduction has opened up a whole new range of possibilities of things that could happen. What’s made Coal Hill such a hot spot for alien activity in the Doctor Who universe? I hope the last few episodes answer a lot of these questions.

Despite loving following April’s story closely for the last few weeks, I can’t help but think some other characters have been underused. Tanya has been almost anonymous in recent weeks and in this week’s episode she reminded me of Mickey Smith in series one. Mickey though, was intentionally made to be ignored, that was the whole joke around him at first. Tanya just had the odd comical line this week to justify her inclusion. The story wouldn’t have gone any differently if she hadn’t been there. That’s a shame because there’s been plenty of air time in five episodes to give all four youngsters enough of a chance to develop their characters. Outwith half of episode three, Tanya has been so limited and I really want to see more of her in the final three episodes. Charlie too, began the series as one of the most intriguing characters and I really thought the series would be shaped around him and Miss Quill. Despite an attempt to make their situation relevant with the petals, Charlie and Miss Quill’s story in this episode didn’t really excite me. The petals were never really that threatening, and similarly to the Larkin in episode three, they were trying to invade London in the Doctor Who universe, so where were U.N.I.T? Twice now, the unwritten rules of an alien invasion to Earth haven’t been obeyed by Class, and that makes it quite hard to believe and to get invested in the plot.

I mentioned a strange script let the story down a bit, and what I mean by that is some very forced and out of place dialogue. There was a lot to like about the script. Finally the enemy, in this case the petals, were defeated in a solid and clever way. I liked the scenes between the new head teacher Dorothea and Miss Quill. They were well written and brought strong performances from both actresses who are excelling in their roles as powerful and edgy women. However when April and Ram were trekking across the Shadow Kin’s planet, they stopped in their tracks not once, but twice. Firstly to philosophically discuss life and secondly to talk about their potential love for each other. Putting such conversations in what should be intense scenes make them seem forced and I sighed each time they began to talk. It slowed what should’ve been action packed and gripping scenes right down, almost to a halt. The episode could’ve been so much better if it had run at a faster pace and the main plot hadn’t been sidetracked by meaningless and boring chit-chat.

To be fair, this episode was an improvement on last week’s, but it didn’t answer many questions. We never found out how April knew how to cure her mum, or how she knew how to cut holes in the fabric of time and space. Both those things were frankly farcical and too far fetched for the Doctor Who universe. April was the standout of the episode and Sophie Hopkins performed excellently to carry the episode by herself. The episode was slightly faster paced than last week and did entertain me more. It could’ve been so much better though if more emphasis had been placed on April and Ram’s plight, rather than their parents, who were given far too much air time unnecessarily. The Shadow Kin weren’t great either and I hope that’s the last we see of them. After a strong debut, they were ridiculed last week and this week they were undermined as April defeated the King in a sword fight.

Episode Rating: 6/10