Class: Nightvisiting

s01e03-1

Warning: spoilers.

Now this is more like it. This is the kind of intelligent, thematic, high-concept storytelling I was looking forward to from Class. It’s a welcome sign that Class will not feel itself constrained by its YA-ish concept and premise, that it will dare to experiment and test itself and try out interesting ideas. It’s learning from the experiences of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in this way, both of which played it fairly conventional and safe in their first seasons before becoming more innovative and bold, and therefore interesting, in subsequent seasons. Class looks like it’s skipping the “play-it-safe” part and is eager to try out the interesting ideas of its writers without unnecessary ado. That’s very satisfying.

And the idea behind Nightvisiting really is interesting, and the show ought to be congratulated not only for having the initiative to try it out but also for executing it so successfully. The idea of people’s deceased loved ones coming back and visiting them in the night is on a special level of freaky, a level I’m really pleased that Class is prepared to play on. Not only that, but the way this concept was brought to life was utterly freaky. Jasper, Tanya’s father (or rather, the Lankin imitating Jasper) was a profoundly creepy and unnerving figure. He was positively ghoulish, with his dead gaze and his moaning voice. It’s the kind of thing intended to scare adults as well as children—children are easily scared by ghosts and zombies, but adults will be scared by the idea of their deceased loved ones appearing at their windows as ghouls like Tanya’s father. It’s what makes the idea of the Lankin so wonderfully frightening even after being stripped of its supernatural affectations—no one wants to find their dead father, girlfriend or sister sitting at their window, ghost or not.

s01e03-2

Another strength of this episode is the character writing, which is, as I thought, turning out to be this show’s standout feature. Tanya was not reduced to a passive plot device by being tempted by the Lankin’s deception. She was written consistently with her character’s perceptiveness, intuitiveness and emotional strength by remaining aloof and sceptical of her “father’s” overtures, notwithstanding her grief and her obvious desire to connect with her father again, even if her defences did begin to melt eventually. A weaker and less perceptive person would have given in to the Lankin, as we saw. And Vivian Oparah delivers some exceptional, absorbing acting to vindicate her character’s writing, the moment in the denouement where Tanya channels all her resentment and anger at her father into the Lankin especially stirring.

Moreover, it’s a welcoming sign of Ram’s emotional growth and healing that his first reaction to seeing Rachel again, over whom he was grieving intensely in the previous episode, was to go “NOPE NOPE NOPE” and run to find his dad—and, failing that, April. It’s a gratifying development from the “Nobody understands my pain, I’m shutting everyone out, just let me wallow” that we saw from Ram in the previous episode. Ram is quickly becoming the show’s most interesting character, even if he still is a bit of a twat, and I’m very intrigued to see where his character will end up by the end of this season.

s01e03-3

And, oh my god, let’s talk about April. There’s an emotional strength and depth of character there we would never have guessed in the first episode, April revealing the hidden emotional turmoil that we now see defines much of her character. It’s an absorbing and touching revelation scene that sees April and Ram bond in, er, more ways than one. Who the hell saw that kiss coming? I’m not criticising—it was unexpected but it does actually make sense. April’s explanation of the way she puts up defences against the inner turmoil surrounding her father in order to stop her father continuing to hold influence over her and control her life speaks to Ram, who’s trying to recover from the trauma and the suffering he’s recently experienced. They bond on a very intimate, emotional level over their shared experiences with trauma and coping, and, in the passion of the moment, kiss. It works. It was a gamble which, although it could have failed badly with worse writing, actually worked out well.

Even Miss Quill is — slowly — becoming more layered, even if she’s still the show’s single-note comic relief at the moment—not that I’m necessarily complaining. I’m thinking particularly of the scene at the end where Miss Quill appears to express her disgust at the kids’ sentimental post-victory bonding session before stalking off, but, was it just me, or did it seem like Miss Quill was just a tiny bit disappointed that she wasn’t included in the kids’ celebrations? I think she does long for real personal connection like Charlie has found with the others, even if on some level she does resent the “arses of smart” she’s been charged with looking after. What else are we to make of Miss Quill’s insistence that she’s “deranged with grief” for her people, and her disbelief in Charlie’s apparent aloofness? If the show continues to write its characters well, we’ll see much more of Miss Quill before the season is over.

Rating: 8/10.

Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

s01e02-3

Eh. I guess every new show has its misfires—especially one as experimental and innovative as Class. When I say “misfire”, I don’t mean that it was awful. It was fine. Just fine. It holds up. But it doesn’t particularly impress. It’s just “meh”.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of really great moments in there, moments which, for me, vindicate my excitement about this show and my belief in its potential. But the script as a whole falls a bit flat because, at base, it just wasn’t that interesting a story.

The monster, I felt, was poorly conceived and did not make for a particularly interesting plot. I got the impression that the episode was making up for the lack of engaging plotting that could be wrung out of the dragon-tattoo-monster by saturating the episode with gratuitous gore. Yes, I felt the gore was excessive; this may be a mature show, and some level of gore and horror is expected in a show like this, but on this occasion I think it traversed into the territory of vulgarity and detracted from the story. Furthermore, the episode’s denouement was confusing and felt very artificial. It was clearly supposed to represent the culmination of Ram’s emotional development over the course of the episode (which is why I say it felt artificial), but it was so contrived that, having watched the episode twice now, I’m still not quite sure what happened in that scene.

s01e02-1

Where this episode did well, though, was as a character piece about Ram Singh. You’ve got to feel for this boy. When we first met him he was, let’s be honest, a twat, but God he’s been put through some horrific trials in the intervening two episodes. It’s so unfortunate that he’s had to go through all that, but for better or worse it’s brought out the person Ram is inside, who’s clearly a person of great passion and feeling and sensitivity. He’s not just the arrogant football jock we took him for at the beginning of the first episode, it’s beginning to become more clear now that that’s a front he puts on. He obviously had deep feelings for his girlfriend as his (very well written) emotional turmoil in this episode showed. Moreover, in his insecurity about not being able to play football we learned that his connection to football is very much an emotional connection—football is inextricably part of his identity and his self-worth, which is why it means so much to him that he can start playing again. In this way the final scene between Ram and his father was beautiful, just astoundingly well-written and exactly the encouraging, hopeful note this episode should have ended upon.

Moreover, I’m really liking the budding Ram-Tanya relationship. They’re two such very different people whom you’d think unlikely ever to form any kind of meaningful relationship, but Tanya seems like the only person Ram can talk to and open up to about his feelings and insecurities. I find their relationship really, genuinely interesting and I anticipate that this—character writing and relationships—will be one of Class‘s greatest strengths. I already love all the characters and the character writing has been exceptional across the board so far. Even Miss Quill, definitely one of my favourite things about this show, who continues to be simultaneously hilarious as the show’s comic relief and really, really interesting as an enigmatic alien character with a mostly hidden backstory.

s01e02-2

You can’t necessarily blame a young, energetic new show like Class for its misfires. I didn’t expect the whole of the first series to be amazing, or even good. It’s still feeling its way forward, testing its strength, figuring out what it wants to be and what it’s good at. Both good and bad is bound to come out of this process and, to be fair, this isn’t bad at all. It’s certainly enjoyable enough and has its moments of brilliance. It’s not nearly as unfortunate as what came out of Doctor Who’s early days of experimentation (you know the episode I’m talking about). I just hope that in coming episodes we’re going to see the brilliant as well as the “meh”.

Rating: 6/10.

Class: For Tonight We Might Die

s01e01-1

Warning: spoilers.

I’ll state my verdict of Class’s opening episode at the outset: I think it’s a really promising start to a show whose concept has simultaneously been met with mixed feelings by fans and heaped with fairly high expectations. I was not among those who felt disappointed by the announcement that Class was going to be the new Doctor Who spinoff (as opposed to… I’m not sure exactly), but my expectations of the show were pretty high, if only because of how excited I was. While we’ve only seen the first two episodes so far so it’s too early to tell yet, I think what we’ve seen has shown that Class is a show with enormous promise and potential. It has a cast of really interesting characters and talented actors as well as great intelligence and creativity in its writing. It feels a little bit like Torchwood’s early days at the moment — not completely sure of its direction or purpose — but the potential is definitely there for it to be a fantastic new sci-fi drama.

I think what I’m most excited about, just from these first two episodes, is the cast of wonderful characters. I can see that a great deal of thought and care was put into assembling this lineup of characters, writing them and casting the actors to play them. Each one of them is interesting and engaging and each one of them is a character I’m really excited to get to know better. There’s so much potential for character development for each of them, and to that end we’ve already seen some meaningful development with Ram, “the boy who hears applause every time he enters a room”, undergoing horrific trauma in just the first episode (not to mention the second). The events of the first episode have brought all our main characters together in what is no doubt the foundation of an involving group dynamic along the lines of BuffyTorchwood, Pretty Little Liars (take your pick). For my own part, I think my favourite character is April. She’s sweet and endearing, but there’s a toughness and depth there as well, and something tells me she’s going to have a fairly big role to play as the story develops.

s01e01-3

We can see that the show is definitely testing its strengths and trying to figure out what it is in just this first episode. We know for sure now, despite the innocuous title Class, that this is definitely not a kids’ show. It’s not just that the level of violence and gore and, as I have a suspicion we’ll see in coming episodes, sexual content is inappropriate for the children who enjoy Doctor Who, it’s also that kids just wouldn’t find Class interesting. It’s a mature show dealing with mature themes. I suspect that we’ll find that the show’s focus will be less on the monsters than on the character drama, the monsters perhaps serving as instruments and metaphors for the characters’ emotional struggles, development and coming-of-age, much like in Buffy.

Perhaps that’s why, ironically, the aspects of the show which seem like they’ve received the least attention and thought are the pure science fiction elements—the monsters and the sci-fi lore (concerning Charlie and Miss Quill’s backstory). The “Shadowkin”, for example, I found quite uninventive and lame. But I appreciate that this is a premiere episode and it’s more about introducing the characters and setting up the series than telling a riveting story in its own right, so I hope that more consideration will be given to the sci-fi side of the show in coming episodes.

s01e01-2

Also somewhat ironically, I think the Doctor’s guest sequence was one of the weaker points of this episode, just because when the Doctor arrived it suddenly turned from a Class episode into a Doctor Who episode, in the sense that the writing completely changed. It’s obvious the two shows have quite different tones, so the key-change felt slightly jarring. All the suspense and the drama the scene had built up was suddenly broken when the Doctor turned up and proceeded to crack jokes as though this were the cheap comedy episode of a Doctor Who series. The menacing figures of the Shadowkin suddenly looked like the lame and slightly comical CGI objects of the Doctor’s PG-13 comedy. That’s not to make any criticism of Peter Capaldi, who was as good as ever in the role, just that I’d like to have seen the Doctor written in a tone appropriate for this show.

As an aside, does anyone else get the feeling that Miss Quill is being written as the Whoniverse’s answer to the female Doctor controversy? It certainly looks like she’s being set up that way, given the way she’s been put into the role of defending the Earth with her young companions charges, and defending it without weapons in true Doctor-ish style. I have no complaints because I think Miss Quill is amazing, one of the best things about this show, and I’m excited to see more of her.

Anyway, that’s my verdict of Class‘s debut. A little weak in spots, not completely sure of what it’s supposed to be yet (although it has some very exciting ideas), but it’s a debut which reveals enormous promise and potential, which hopefully it will prove itself equal to capitalising upon. It’s a show we should all be excited about.

Rating: 8/10.

5 exciting new shows I’m excited about

There are a lot of upcoming new shows I’m excited about and I’m going to fanboy about all of them and you can’t stop me.


Class

class2

Obviously. Naturally, with the extended wait between Doctor Who series, I need some new Who-related content to tide me over until Series 10. I’m genuinely excited about Class. I love the concept and, being a new fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m really encouraged by the constant comparisons between the concept for Class and Buffy. And, frankly, it’s about time the BBC produced another Doctor Who spinoff. Torchwood was great, but it’s been off the air since 2012 and left a big, gaping Who-spinoff-shaped hole in its place. While we don’t know much about Class yet apart from the bare skeleton of a concept, and the cast, it does look like it’s going to be a show that appeals to grown-ups as well as a younger demographic, much like Buffy did. In that sense it’s sort of midway between Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in terms of the audience it’s pitched at. I have very high hopes for it, and I’m excited to see where it will go.

Class is being produced by the BBC and will air in October.

Victoria

victoria

Because I need more Jenna Coleman in my life. I’m so excited to see Jenna Coleman in the starring role in a TV drama as high-profile and ambitious as Victoria. There’s no doubt Jenna deserves it. She acquitted herself with high distinction during her run on Doctor Who, visibly maturing into an exceptional actress over her three years’ playing Clara, and I’m really excited to see how she holds herself in what is no doubt the very challenging role of Queen Victoria. The production itself looks amazing, with (if you’ve seen the publicity shots and the trailers) very lavish period detail. Jenna stars alongside a star-studded cast including Tom Hughes, Eve Myles, Rufus Sewell and Tommy Knight. There are a lot of Who alumni involved in this production, too: Jenna is joined by Eve Myles (of Torchwood) and Tommy Knight (of The Sarah Jane Adventures), so there’s plenty for Whovians to enjoy.

Victoria begins this Sunday, 28th August, on ITV.

The Crown

the crown

Another exciting new period drama about a great Queen of England—this one about our own Elizabeth II, which follows the Queen’s life from her wedding in 1947 to the present day. The main reason I’m excited about The Crown is that it features two of my favourite contemporary actors, not only my favourite Doctor, Matt Smith, as Prince Philip, but also Claire Foy in the starring role of Elizabeth II. For those unfamiliar with Claire Foy, I can confirm she’s a brilliant actress who played played a number of minor roles in various series and films before coming to much greater prominence as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall and now in this series. I’m incredibly excited to see her in The Crown, maybe even more so than I am to see Matt! Look forward to it. It should be great.

The Crown will air on Netflix beginning 4th November 2016.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

lemony snicket

I loved Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books when I was a kid, and I’m so excited that the books are being made into a TV adaptation. I mean the 2004 film was good BUT THERE ARE 13 BOOKS DAMNIT DON’T START A JOB YOU’RE NOT GOING TO FINISH. In contrast, a whole TV series adapting the whole series of books has the capacity to really do justice to the stories (I’m a huge advocate for the adaptation of book series into TV series for this reason). Apart from the fact that it’s being produced by Paramount for Netflix, we don’t know a great deal about the series yet, although apparently filming has finished, so it should be released fairly soon. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and child actors Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes as Violet and Klaus Baudelaire. I can’t wait to see it. If you haven’t, I’d definitely recommend reading the books first if you’re going to watch it, not only because the books are amazing, but also because, as with any screen adaptation of a novel, you get so much more out of the screen adaptation if you’ve read the book first.

A Series of Unfortunate Events will air on Netflix.

His Dark Materials

his dark materials

Another one of my all-time favourite novel series, His Dark Materials, is being made into a TV drama by the BBC, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m thrilled that Philip Pullman’s wonderful trilogy is being made into a long-form TV drama, because, you know, the last time the trilogy was adapted onto screen, in the 2007 film The Golden Compass, it was kind of rubbish. Very rubbish, actually. Philip Pullman’s stories really demand the long-form TV format, so it’s gratifying and exciting to see that they’re finally going to get the treatment they deserve. There are some very impressive names involved in the production, too: it’s being written by Jack Thorne (who wrote the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and produced by Julie Gardner and Jane Trantor (who both oversaw Doctor Who’s return to screen in 2005), which should reassure us that the stories are in very capable hands. Apart from that, though, we actually don’t know much at all about the series. It was commissioned late last year by the BBC, but as far as I know no casting or writing has been done, let alone filming. It may be a while before we see it on our screens.

His Dark Materials is being produced by the BBC.


Which of these upcoming shows are you excited for? Feel free to fangirl/boy in the comments!