May 10, 2017

[TV] Class: Series 1 Review

The Steven Moffat run of Doctor Who is probably notable for the many Doctor Who spin-offs that the show managed to trigger. Thus that point in time when we had the main show accompanied by Torchwood and The Sarah Connor Aventures active at the same time. They even got drawn into a season finale that had all these "Children of the Doctor" coming together to save all of creation.

The companion shows eventually died but the Doctor continued on and Russell T. Davies  took over the reins of the franchise. And he was pretty clear about not playing with Moffat's toys too much after the changing of the guard.

Class is the first spin-off show for the Davies run and the first for the Twelfth Doctor. It's definitely one that targets a younger audience, even younger than the one Torchwood managed to tap into. With only 8 episodes to tell a story with, the show can only explore so much. But our little ensemble cast managed to do a pretty good job.

Synopsis: Class is a BBC science fiction drama series written and created by Patrick Ness. Steven Moffat actually serves as a producer of the show together with Brian Minchin and Ness.

The show takes place at Coal Hill Academy, a school that should be pretty familiar to followers of both the Classic Doctor Who series and the newer one that began in 2005. There we follow several teens who for one reason or another end up being together at the right place and the right time - or perhaps otherwise. Either way their lives are tied to one another now  whether they like it or not.

One of the central elements in the show is Charlie Smith (Greg Austin), who is revealed to be the Prince of Rhodians but also the last of their kind. He was rescued by the Doctor and now Charlie is trying to live a normal life with Miss Andrea Quill (Katherine Kelly) acting as his very cranky bodyguard.

What I Liked: As far as a spin-off goes, there are some great moments that feel like Doctor Who but also feel nicely distinct. We get some monster of the week style episodes here and there but the meta-plot drives things from the first episode and don't stop for long. And that sort of tighter pacing really helps to keep you interested despite not really involving the Doctor. And I really, really love Miss Quill. She is a brilliant character with subtle complexity and a whole lot of bitchiness up front. Plus she has some of the best dialog in the series from episode to episode.

And without the Doctor puttering about, the show has a lot of room to really develop its characters. And that's where the show shines where they get to really define these characters in terms of who they are but they don't suck you into a vortex of back story. More information would be great, but what they give us are their core concepts - what drives them, how they deal with conflicts and all that good stuff.

And there's a gay couple, too.

What Could Have Been Better: The starting meta-plot with the Shadow Kin was a great start but then how we devolve into all these odd side plots and freak of the week stories make you feel like a lot of steam lost between episodes. There are some great episodes but also some weak ones or just weird pacing and weak editing. Some of the key character moments, especially the points of high emotion don't always land well.

I don't think the show needed more creative CGI monsters. I think it needed more nuanced stories and maybe deeper mysteries. Heck, I would have better appreciated an alien who didn't just come through the portal at the start of the episode. The whole bit about weak space around the school is an okay concept and one that pays tribute to the long history of the location as related to the show. However I'd like for aliens to have a bit more of an agenda than cosmic circumstance and other silliness.

TL;DR: Class is still an interesting side diversion from the Doctor Who world without needing to tie directly into the Doctor Who story. I do hope they get  a second season to figure out their story a little more beyond the Shadow Kin but that feels a little uncertain at the time of this review. Thus the show gets 3.5 coincidental intrusions into a world out of a possible 5.

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