TV "A mixed reaction so far then." The parish circular's letters page this month is almost completely filled with reader commentary on Class, mainly the first three episodes and it's fair to say that as often the case with the mains series, the first impressions run from very positive to utter despair. The general consensus is that it isn't as good as either SJA, Torchwood or its obvious source Buffy The Vampire Slayer, barely feels like it's set in the Doctor Who universe, runs a bit rote and generic, all criticisms which even appear to an extent in one of the positive reviews, albeit to give the writer something to defend against. It's notable that DWM itself isn't carrying reviews of individual episodes, although that was also true of the other spin-offs which in some cases even waited until a shiny disc release. Perhaps they've decided to wait until the television broadcast.
Here we are at episode six so it's about time to grab the confession stone and say how I'm really feeling about the show. Despite being relatively positive about the first three episodes, the subsequent two parter simply didn't work for me and numerous problems are piling up in the negative column. Apart from Tanya and Quill, I simply don't like any of the characters enough to make the emotional connection of wanting to see what happens next with them. Also, what's the point of setting the thing in the Doctor Who universe if you're not going to make a virtue of its rich heritage? For a show call Class, only two and a half episodes have been about the school with its panoply of story opportunities. None of the actual plots have been that interesting and almost all of them feel like a rehash of something else without the necessary clever spin.
There's nothing especially wrong with doing a detention episode; most teen shows set in high schools get around to it eventually. As here, they tend to be a way of knocking out a cheap installment because it's all set in a single place be it a library or classroom, and in putting all of your characters in a room and forcing them to talk, you can effect change in the relationships going forward. One of the best episodes of Dawson's Creek was their detention episode, Detention, a loving homage of The Breakfast Club (as these things usually are) in which all of the emotions which had been bubbling under rose to the surface. My So-Called Life also managed to sneak one into its slender episode count and even though that has Rayanne inadvertently handcuffed to the wrong bed instead, the results were the same as the friends rally together.
The set up is relatively ingenious, with the aforementioned sentient mineral forcing everyone to go a bit Edge of Destruction oscillating between blind panic and wanting to murder each other in between confessing their darkest thoughts. In most shows, a longer lead time manufactures incident which leads to such thoughts amongst the regular characters which will inevitably spill out due to being stuck in a confined space together all day. Here the stone force them to confess their secrets in a much shorter time with a modicum of plausibility. Transferring them all to another dimension without an exit creates an extra level of claustrophobia, just like a prison, of being stuck in a place for an eternity with people you can only barely stand the sight of. Or travelling to London and back on by train as is the case with me once a month at the moment.
But as anyone who's watched large section of the Davison era without the dvd commentary turned on will know, watching people who say they're friends but really aren't bicker incessantly isn't especially entertaining, especially if they're not particularly witty by design. However much you can withstand Detained presumably depends on how much you're invested in the characters and since as we've discussed Tanya's about my limit, I could really care less about the emotional lives of the others especially since the confessions they make aren't particularly revolutionary or unexpected. The writer is so desperate to see his characters in conflict, he daren't have April and Ram confess actual love for each other and give us a warm tickle and a reason to root for them. In his universe, everything has to be hard.
Plus as we've discussed, because the audience is having to constantly fill in the blanks in some of these friendships the emotions wrought here don't ever quite hit as hard as they should. When Tanya describes how she feels about herself in relation to the older teens, we haven't seen this lot working as a group for long enough across these episodes to see the dynamics of that unfold. They only realised they were friends at the end of #1, they're barely together in #2 and the structures of #3, #4 and #5 keep all of them relatively isolated. We haven't even had a simple scene of all of them hanging in a coffee shop or in the school canteen. In rushing to hit these emotional beats, the writer hasn't done the necessary narrative spade work, so interested is he in making Quill the most autonomous and interesting figure in a show which should be about the kids.
Which leads us to next week which looks to be mainly a spectacular Quill showcase which will explain (a) why she locked them in detention and (b) where the budget of this episode went much as Midnight then Turn Left did back in the day. We've returned to what looks like double banking, folks. Again, it seems like another episode not utilising the school rendering the notion of setting it in Coal Hill entirely superfluous. See above. Hopefully it'll be anomalously amazing even if it has nothing much to do with what we expected this series to be about given the Doctor's own mission statement right up front. Will we finally meet the