Alex Rose White takes a look back at Class
5 years after the last episode of Torchwood aired, Doctor Who has once again spawned a spinoff show. Class centres around a group of high schoolers and one teacher whose school is the location of rips in space and time, through which all manner of alien threats find their way to Earth. The characters are a diverse bunch that make an interesting group, made even more so by the fact that two of them are actually aliens rescued and dropped off on Earth by the Doctor. Like him, they’re both the last of their races, after the rest of them were murdered by the Shadow Kin. The Shadow Kin are the first threat the group at Coal Hill Academy face, and the overall plot of the series revolves largely around them.
The Shadow Kin are a race that are able to infect shadows and materialise from them, before killing people with the two large swords they tend to carry. They’re not particularly frightening-looking, and a scarier appearance might have made the show a little more engaging, but on the whole they make for decent villains. The story arc follows the continued conflict with them, as after the pilot episode, their King ended up sharing a heart with April, one of the main characters. As a result of the shared heart, April gains insight into the Shadow Kin’s race. The Shadow Kin are present in four of the eight episodes of the series.
The secondary plot of the show follows the plight of Miss Quill, one of the two characters who is an alien, and is prisoner/slave/bodyguard to the young Charlie, the other alien. Charlie is a Prince and has Quill in his servitude thanks to a creature (an Arn) in her brain that will kill her if she acts against him. It was placed there as punishment by Charlie’s people for past sins, and the situation often raises a lot of ethical questions about slavery, free will, and punishment.
Class combines the lighter feel of the Sarah Jane Adventures with mature themes more likely to be seen in Torchwood, making for something completely new and different. Topics like sex and relationships, family difficulties, grief and morality are all tackled head on, and while Doctor Who isn’t hesitant to allude to these things, Class is able to explore them with much more depth, as it isn’t under the same pressure to be family friendly.
Speaking of families, one of the criticisms of Doctor Who since Steven Moffat took over as showrunner is the reduced focus on the families of the companions. Rose, Martha and Donna all had important on-screen relationships with their families, the same of which cannot be said for Amy and Clara (or at least, not to the same degree). Class, on the other hand, introduces us to the families of several characters, and successfully makes the audience care about them. Ram and his compassionate Dad, Tanya and her brothers and strict mother still grieving for a dead father, and April with her mum paralyzed due to her estranged dad’s mental health issues all pull at the heartstrings in their own raw way and make the show and its characters feel grounded and real.
As well as character depth, Class is also probably one of the best shows on TV at the moment when it comes to diversity and representation. There are multiple well-rounded non-white characters, a beautiful same-sex relationship that isn’t stereotyped, and just as many well-written female characters as male ones. The ensemble is extremely refreshing and appeals to a wide audience.
The writing was generally good. There were no glaring plot-holes in the overarching story, and the filler episodes and sub-plots were all relatively engaging. The dialogue occasionally felt a little awkward, but given that most of the main characters are teenagers and two are aliens, awkwardness is probably to be expected. Other moments were extremely emotional and tear-jerking, showcasing both the skills of the writers and cast members.
Overall, Class is still finding its feet, but looks to easily become a very successful show. One of the most appealing factors is that most of the main characters are normal, everyday people. Their grit and resourcefulness in the face of adversity shows that you don’t need a sonic screwdriver to be able to fix things yourself, and at the end of the day, makes for some good TV.
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