Written By: Roy Gill, Jenny T Colgan, Scott HandcockDirected By: Scott Handcock
Katherine Kelly (Miss Quill), Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh), Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean), Vivian Oparah (Tanya Adeola), Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski), Rhys Isaac-Jones (Thomas Laneford), Deirdre Mullins (Mab), Lu Corfield (Marta Vanderburgh), Scott Haran (Jason Campbell), Joe Shire (Aubrey Khan), Jasmine M Stewart (The Mayor), Liz Sutherland-Lim (Alicia Yan), Gavin Swift (Boris). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer Scott HandcockScript Editor Scott Handcock, James GossExecutive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
The brainchild of celebrated young-adult author, Patrick Ness; Class is certainly one of the more unfortunate Doctor Who spin-offs. Something which I found to be a great shame as the series was full of solid ideas and the potential was clearly evident from the start. When Big Finish got the rights to do Class, I’m not sure if anyone was actually surprised but this reviewer was certainly pleased. I enjoyed Class upon first viewing it and although it was certainly flawed, the cast, characters and general aesthetic clearly had a lot more to give. This first series of two-box sets features individual stories, each concentrating on 2 or 3 characters. It’s an interesting but ultimately fruitful technique that results in some highly interesting character based material.
The opener sets the tone for the series in style, concentrating on the characters of Ram Singh and April Maclean and taking many of its story beats from their character traits. So, the threat in this story is drawn from folk legends and stories (a particular passion of Aprils) but one that preys on a character’s ambition and manipulates them (Ram and his desire to be a football star). It’s clearly a well thought through story that manages to emphasise both of these characters weak spots and ambitions. Wonderfully it gives expansion to elements in the series, Ram and his robotic leg and his and Aprils relationship as a whole. The latter felt a little too quick in series and an element that perhaps more than any other needed a little bit more air-time. The two leads (Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins) are wonderful here and recapture their characters as if they’d never been away. It also captures the same level of darkness as the show, namely in the character of Thomas Lainford played wonderfully Ryhs Isaac-Jones, who is as tragic as they come.
Easily the highlight of the series, Life Experience is a non-stop romp. Taking the scenario of a secret lab experimenting on creatures falling from the ‘tears’, when one gets loose and Ram and Tanya are amongst those trapped inside. There’s plenty of laughs and plenty of wonderful horror moments with dashing’s of gore and nastiness. It may not provide the same level of character depth and exploration as the first and third story in this set but it’s a welcome break that demonstrates the versatility of the series. This story also features the largest guest cast in the entire set and it’s a superb collection of characters, all likable and amusing. I do hope that those who are able to return do in future installments, it would be a shame to waste such excellent characters and performers. A highlight was the performance of Lu Corfield, who puts in a wonderful guest appearance as the villainous Marta Vanderburgh. Her character makes an imposing but incredibly funny antagonist, delivering many of the wonderful moments of black humour that assist in making this story so enjoyable.
Don’t Tell me you Love me
Concentrating on the characters of Charlie, Matteusz and Miss Quill, Don’t Tell me you love me is easily the darkest and deepest story in the set. Scott Hancock has managed to create a multi-layered tale built around the simple premise of a parasite that enters a person’s mind and makes them unable to stop talking. The parasite then gets them to say things which may or may not be truths, resulting in interesting dynamics between Charlie and Matteusz when they start discussing aspects of their relationship. Throw into this mix the in dominatable Miss Quill played as always by Katherine Kelly and the result is a story that manages to explore all three characters, treat them equally and deliver an emotional packed punch in its ending. Unfortunately, the idea of a creature that makes its victims unable to stop talking does have…. some problems in the audio medium with characters talking on top of each other or without a break for minutes at a time sometimes getting a bit much through the headphones. Katherine Kelley, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo are all excellent in this story and I’m intrigued to see more of them in vol 02.
The first volume of Class manages to be incredibly successful at telling one-off individual stories within the run of the original series. In choosing to do this by concentrating on only a small number of the leads at a time, they have been able to further these characters in a way the television series was never able too. What’s more, the stories chosen wonderfully exploit character traits and expand series plot points further. Not only this but the atmosphere of the television series is captured seamlessly. Highly recommended.