Class is a welcome addition to the Doctor Who universe. Yes, its about teenagers. Yes, there’s angst, and weirdness and parents. But hiding below the surface is a strong show. Or at least a strong beginning of a show. This is your midseason review of Class.
I reviewed the first episode back in April when Doctor Who had its premiere. It was very much a YA teen drama: awkward kids getting ready for prom suddenly tasked with saving the world.
The leader of the group seems to be Charlie (a sweet, charming alien prince who’s the last of his kind and who is oblivious to the human world). But on second watch, the leader might actually be April (a sweet charming girl, with a hidden strength and undiscovered darkness).
There’s also Ram (a Sikh soccer star who loses his leg and sees his girlfriend murdered in episode one). Tanya, a Nigerian child prodigy who’s three years younger than the rest. And finally there’s Matteuz, a gay boy with a heart of gold and ultra-religious parents. Watching over the team is Miss Quill, an alien enslaved to Charlie as punishment for a war long lost.
Episode one, “For Tonight We Might Die,” is certainly the weakest episode for all the obvious reasons. There are introductions to be made, fan-service with the appearance of the Doctor, and a brief reference to Clara. The Shadow Kin is set up as the monster to set up the rest of the season. There’s gore (and much more to come). And there’s Coal Hill School, revamped and ready for business.
Episode two, “The Coach With A Dragon Tattoo,” is ripped straight out of the Bailey School Kids. It wasn’t very strong, but it does deal in some good material. The monster-of-the-week is Ram’s soccer coach who has a murderous dragon tattoo. But more importantly, it focuses on Ram dealing with the loss of his girlfriend, a prosthetic leg from the Doctor, and some PTSD. Eventually, he tells his father what’s happened.
The parents in this show are actually stellar, being present when necessary and being strict when need be. For example, in episode three, “Nightvisiting,” Tanya must face an alien version of her deceased father. The dead have returned and Tanya’s grief is in full force. The exploration of grief and closure at the forefront. Sure, Tanya and her friends save the day. But in the end Tanya returns to her often overprotective, but also loving mother.
“Nightvisiting” also introduces two couples: Charlie and Matteausz and April and Ram. Charlie and Matteusz are lovely and heartwarming. Matteausz has been kicked out of his home for being gay, so more of that conversation is sure to abound. But he’s also now tasked with keeping Charlie honest about his role as the last prince of Rhodi. They talk love and genocide. You know, average teenage boys stuff.
April and Ram make no sense to me, as Ram’s girlfriend has just been murdered in front of his face. And I’m pretty sure Tanya has a crush on him. Their relationship pops up out of nowhere, but teens will be teens. In this crazy world, they need to cling to some who knows what they’re experiencing. You know, like an alien invasion.
Episode four, “Co-Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” deals in April. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and April is no exception. In fact, she might be the most capable of murderous rage, with or without alien help. Episode four is where the show really picks up. I suspect it will not be monster of the week for much longer. A fully fledged plot line would be a welcome change for this show.
I’m honestly surprised how much I’m enjoying Class. Watching a teenage soap opera is fine with me. Watching an alien show is certainly fine. But I had reservations when I heard about Class. However, this show did something that surprised me, something very smart.
The show is more like Buffy than Doctor Who. Each episode follows a character as they deal with very real life problems. The alien aspect is tertiary. There’s no escaping after the villain is defeated. There’s no Tardis to whisk them away.
Instead, they must deal with each other, with teachers, with parents, and with responsibilities that may be too big for them to even imagine. Nonetheless, the show puts forth great effort to accentuate how the world works when the Doctor isn’t there to save everyone. Class is Baby Torchwood. It’s Doctor Who on Freeform. So, why not give it a try?