Sunday, October 23, 2016

Class, Season One, Episodes One and Two: For Tonight We May Die & The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo

As a Whovian who is desperately missing Doctor Who, I latched onto this with some desperation. Damn you Moffat for taking away the Doctor for a year.  Class is yet another Doctor Who spin off (Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood) and it's based on the idea that Arton Energy has worn down the fabric of space and time and now aliens are able to slip into the school and cause havoc.  This makes sense, given the Doctor's brief position as a caretaker there and of course, Clara and Danny Pink both worked there as teachers. In the case of Danny, as a math teacher, much to the Doctor's surprise.

Okay, so that's the set up for Class. We are very quickly introduced to the main players: Charlie, Miss Quill, April, Tanya and Ram.   Right off the top, the most visible point is that two of the five main characters are of colour.  Class, doesn't stop there because Ram, is disabled, and Charlie is gay.  As much as I love Doctor Who, it certainly hasn't been as inclusive as it's often given credit for, so I was surprised by Class.

Charlie and Miss Quill are both aliens who have been brought to earth to live out their lives in peace by the Doctor because they are the last of their kind.  Everyone on their planet has been killed by the Shadow Kin - an alien race who moves in shadows and kills when in their physical form. This isn't the first time we've seen aliens who use the dark to their advantage in this universe.  An alien antagonist on Doctor Who has to either be outright ridiculous (yes, I'm thinking of the Daleks) or terrifying, like the Vashta Nerada who we met in Silence in the Library.  Unfortunately, the Shadow Kin are neither really.  I didn't feel the fear of the dark that the Vashta Nerada inspired with their ability to skin people alive, nor did I find myself laughing at their proclamations the way I do the Daleks.  In terms of aliens, the Shadow Kin felt kind of been there done that and not at all inspiring.

Miss Quill makes no secret of her desire to kill the Shadow Kin but she's held in check by Charlie, who's actually a prince.  It seems that Miss Quill has a device in her hand which puts her natural instinct to kill in check and she can only act to protect Charlie. Miss Quill, with her disdain of teaching and her love of violence is full of absolute win. Miss Quill very much feels as though she is Charlie's slave and he repeatedly defends his control of her as punishment for the uprising she lead on their planet. The Doctor also believes that Miss Quill needs punishment but for killing a student at the school.

The main characters all come together to defeat the Shadow Kin with a little help from the Doctor, who makes a timely appearance.  Having had the veil of ignorance blown, our little band is now tasked with fighting off whatever slips through to earth.

Miss Quill and Charlie play off each other brilliantly.  Like Miss, Quill Charlie feels the rage and the loss of his people.  He actually reminds me very much of the 10th Doctor, as he talks about how much he has to hold onto his feelings for the good of his people. Yes, channel Tennant! The sadness just rolls off of him.  Charlie is also the gay character I made reference to earlier.  He asks a boy to go to the prom with him and greets him with a kiss, though he cannot understand why his date's super religious parents are not pleased that their son is dating another guy.  As an alien, Charlie isn't familiar with homophobia. Given that Charlie's date really isn't in on the whole alien fighting thing as the rest of the team, I cannot help but wonder how prominent he will be as the show moves forward?

Ram and Tanya are our two characters of colour.  Ram is a football star (note how I pushed away the urge to type soccer here) and Tanya is a fourteen year old girl who is so smart that she's been allowed to skip some grades.  Tanya is the one who helps Ram with his homework and is clearly the smart one on the team. I loved her character from the word go.  It's not often we see Black girls positioned as smart.  Tanya actively talks about her Nigerian heritage and her strict mother, who has no time for teenage foolishness.  I particularly loved her mentioning to Ram that it was nice for the two of them to talk without any white people around. Yeah for acknowledging that people of colour need safe spaces.

Ram and Tanya support each other emotionally.  Ram has difficulty adjusting to his prosthetic leg (a gift courtesy of the Doctor) and the after effects of seeing his girlfriend slaughtered by the Shadow Kin. Everyone pushes Ram to talk about it but it's Tanya who gives Ram the space to be himself and leaves room for him to talk about it when he is ready.  Ram is so out of sorts that he attempts to explain away the space dragon who is the antagonist in episode two.  In case you'r wondering, the dragon didn't work for me either. Ram faces down his fear and accepts the situation which has been foisted upon him.  When he does open up, it's to his long suffering father.

Finally, we come to April.  April is another odd ball who just doesn't fit it.  She tries to ask a boy to the prom and is promptly turned down.  April asks for volunteers to help decorate the gym in preparation of the prom and no one shows up.  April is smart but friendless until her heart is split in two and she is forced to share it with the king of the Shadow Kin.  One of the things I like about April is her open acknowledgement of the way that people perceive kindness as a form of weakness.  When it really matters, April isn't afraid to sacrifice herself to save others.  Of everyone on the team, it's April who wants to talk about the morality of killing, even though they did technically kill the bad guy. April's character is nuanced and I cannot wait to see how she grows.

If I had to use only one word to describe Class, it would be smart.  Class is well aware of exactly what kind of show it is and actively makes references to The Vampire Diaries and Buffy.  When shit hits the fan and everyone needs to evacuate the gym, the adults are nowhere to be found.  It's the first rule of adolescent shows, adults are either absent or incompetent.  Class has no problem lampooning the very tropes it engages in, making it laugh out loud funny.

Class may not be Doctor Who, but it might be just enough to tide me over for now.