Once again, it’s time for the customary series overview, here looking at Class.
I did my reviews of Class for Flickering Myth, rather than on my own website. You can find them all here, alongside the series rankings:
- For Tonight We Might Die | 9/10
- The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo | 8/10
- Nightvisiting | 9/10
- Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart | 9/10
- Brave-ish Heart | 7/10
- Detained | 10/10
- The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did | 8/10
- The Lost | 5/10
Every episode of Class was written by Patrick Ness, of course.
And, here’s the traditional graph. Love the graph.
Often when I come to make these graphs, I start to think that some of my scores were a bit overinflated – and never moreso than on this particular occasion. I suspect quite a few of these ratings are at least two points too high – Class wasn’t that good. It was decent, it was often well executed, and it was good. I am unconvinced that it was ever great, as such.
I guess the word I want is functional, really. Which is, you know, fine – just a little disappointing.
It might be – and I suspect this is a huge part of this – that my expectations were too high. Certainly, going into the series, I was expecting – well, I was expecting it to be perfect. Something visionary and life changing, taking everything I love about Doctor Who and yet carving out something entirely new within it. I now suspect, admittedly, that this is the sort of programme that really does only exist in the mind, and there was no chance for Class to live up to that ideal – so it’s unfair to expect it to, or to compare it against that.
Undeniably, there were lots of good things. I suspect the chief strength of the series will be remembered as the acting; the six leads (yes, Jordan Rezno counts) routinely gave excellent performances, and I think they often elevated the material they were given. It was also, actually, quite well directed at times – Wayne Che Yip, who directed both Detained and The Metaphysical Engine, should absolutely be given an episode of Doctor Who to direct. (Actually, I just checked his IMDb, and he’s credited as doing two episodes of Series 10 – this might end up being the best thing that comes from Class, actually.)
And, actually, it must be said, there were a lot of interesting things being thrown up by the Rhodian/Quill storyline, particularly in terms of how it often rejected the standard Doctor Who paradigms in terms of how it presented the legitimacy of violence. Simply by virtue of being new, it had the potential to be quite compelling.
It’s just that it feels, in many respects actually, that the main problem with Class is that it simply didn’t go far enough – as though it could, and should, have been a lot better.
I wrote an article a while back, extolling Patrick Ness’ virtues and talents as a writer; I’d recently read his book The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which was both excellent and felt like a clear archetype for Class to mimic. I suspect that, had Class been a lot more like The Rest of Us, it would have been a better series; in the end, it rather felt as though Class wasn’t quite to the standards of the rest of his work. I don’t know why that is, exactly – I’d guess it’s simply a result of this being Ness’ first attempt at screenwriting for television, and just not being as experienced with that medium as he is novels.
I do wonder, actually, if Class might have been more effective as a novel. It often felt as though many aspects of the show were heavily underdeveloped; a result, I suspect, of both the format of the show (eight episodes, with 2 two-part stories) and the manner in which these episodes were structured. The series was front-loaded with introductory & backstory pieces that relied on monster-of-the-week storytelling, before devoting the rest of the series to setting up the finale. Certainly, moreso than has ever been the case with Doctor Who, I suspect Class might actually have really benefitted from an American style 24 episode season – it just needed more time. Time for consequences, time for growth, and time to stay still.
Though, mind you, nothing would have solved the bloody Shadowkin. Honestly. What were those even for? Useless bloody things.
At this point, there’s just one question left. And it’s not one with a particularly clear cut answer.
Where next for Class?
In story terms, it’s clear enough where the next series would go; dealing with April’s resurrection, the fallout from the genocide of the Shadowkin and the deaths of Ram and Tanya’s family, and of course the Governors and ‘the Arrival’. But in practical terms, are we likely to see it?
Probably not. Class has, to put it bluntly, not done amazingly in terms of ratings, both on its original BBC Three broadcast and during the BBC One repeats. While it’s yet to air in America, the fact that it’s been so delayed since it’s UK broadcast hardly inspires confidence that it’ll be a ratings hit. To an extent, you can’t help but feel that the handling of Class was mismanaged, from the advertising to the scheduling – but no matter what well-meaning critiques you make, the end result is going to remain the same.
(I also suspect the departure of Moffat and Capaldi is going to be something of an issue – if, as appears to be the case, the Chibnall era is to be marketed as a clean slate, Class could well be an awkward hangover that hasn’t really justified its continued existence. At most – and even then, it’s unlikely – we might see Patrick Ness write an individual episode of the main show to wrap up Class, but given how much Ness struggled with the more crowded episodes of Class anyway, I’m not convinced this is even a good idea anyway.)
However, frustrating though Class was at times, I’d still like to see a second series.
No matter what it turned out to be in the end, Class began as a show bristling with potential. It’s why Wikipedia quotes me as saying that “this is a programme that can and will stand on its own – and maybe even surpass Doctor Who, one day” – much as I hope that doesn’t end up my sole legacy, it is true.
There was a moment, early on, where Class felt like something genuinely new and fresh and exciting. The first few minutes of For Tonight We Might Die – the classically Who corridor sequence, before launching into a title sequence that subverts all expectations. That was the promise Class made – to be that show, that subversive, energetic, new show.
And while the promise is still unfulfilled, I think it might warrant a second series. So they can get it right next time.
Quick interjection from Alex of May 2018: Hello! I have no idea how much I agree with all of the above now, however, one of the big things I’d like to do in the future is a proper set of in-depth articles about Class. So, watch this space! Further elaboration to come.