Class Series 1 Episode 3 Review – Nightvisiting

class nightvisiting tanya adeola vivian oparah lankin patrick ness ed bazalgette big finish bbc three ya

Nightvisiting went above and beyond, grounding the story quite heavily with its core characters. In an impressive break from the norm, Class focused here on an aspect of grief which isn’t typically considered: anger. More specifically, though, that’s anger at the deceased; Tanya (Vivian Oparah) ultimately defeats the Lankin because of her anger directed at her late father. It’s a very clever take on matters, which allows Nightvisiting to give a very nuanced and subtle take on the grieving process – the anger at those who have died is something which isn’t discussed very often, perhaps out of guilt, but it’s a facet of mourning which is unavoidable. In juxtaposing Tanya’s anger at her father with a very clear love for him, Patrick Ness weaves a very subtle, yet very true, picture of loss, which is portrayed fantastically by Vivian Oparah.

Another strong early episode, with a great performance from Vivian Oparah.

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Class Series 1 Episode 2 Review – The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

class ram fady elsayad the coach with the dragon tattoo patrick ness ed bazalgette episode 3

Primarily, then, this episode deals with Ram (Fady Elsayad), and his reaction to the trauma he suffered in the series debut. It’s an impressive tale of PTSD and insecurity, as Ram deals with both the emotional damage of his girlfriend’s death, and the physical damage of losing his leg. Elsayad gives an impressive, nuanced performance; there’s a real sense of Ram as a multifaceted character, trying to be brave in the face of danger, dealing with his insecurities in petty yet understandable ways, and ultimately finding a sort of solace amongst his group of friends. Certainly, on the strength of Elsayad’s performance, it’s clear that Ram is beginning to become one of the show’s standout characters.

Another Class review; this one particularly focuses on Ram, Tanya and the show’s early aspects of character development.

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Class Series 1 Episode 1 Review – For Tonight We Might Die

class doctor who patrick ness for tonight we might die fady elsayad greg austin sophie hopkins vivian oparah ed bazalgette

Class starts as any typical Doctor Who episode might: someone’s running from a monster in a darkened corridor. In beginning this way, there’s a clear connection to the parent show; we know right away that, at the end of the day, what we’re getting out of this is going to be engaging, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be an adventure. And yet immediately Class subverts this with their titles sequence, emphasising that in spite of the similarities to Doctor Who, Class is very much its own show with a fresh energy and its own identity.

I was quite fond of the opening episode of Class – it felt like a pretty competent beginning to the show, with a lot of promise for what was to come.

This is the first of a series of reviews I wrote about Class when it was first airing. Given how long ago that now was, and how much I still find myself thinking about Class, I’m planning on writing about them again… at some point!

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Doctor Who Review: The Woman Who Lived

doctor who the woman who lived review catherine tregenna series 9 steven moffat ed bazelgette maisie williams peter capaldi rufus hound

We need the mayflies. You see, the mayflies, they know more than us. They know how beautiful and precious life is, because it’s so fleeting.

So, with this episode, we’re beginning to see something of a departure from the traditional two parter structure of the series thus far. Obviously, this episode and the previous one are both connected, but here the level of connection is something that liberties are taken with. It’s a pretty wise choice; the format of the two parter was starting to struggle with Under the Lake & Before the Flood, to be honest, so mixing it up a little provides some much needed variety.

The two episodes are of course connected by Maisie Williams, who once again did a fantastic job here. This episode, I’d argue, is actually a better showcase of her acting skills than The Girl Who Died; the bitterness to Ashildr (or rather, ‘Me’) contrasts well with her more Doctor like qualities. A lot of that comes down to the writing, of course; Catherine Tregenna did a great job of finding a really interesting angle from which to examine what’s happened to Ashildr. Playing up her similarities to the Doctor – the long life-time, the adventurous nature – serves well to emphasis the changes that occurred as a result of her having to live her extended lifespan in a linear fashion, one day after the other.

Similarly, positioning Maisie Williams as a more antagonistic figure feeds into this, and is effective for much the same reason; the fact we already know of her as a ‘Hybrid’ adds a certain tension to these moments, given that there’s a real possibility that she could become a fully fledged villain. It’s a very well done, considered and subtle performance, that’s helped by nuanced writing. It’s fair to say that Maisie Williams is going to go down as one of the strongest guest stars of the series, not because of her prominence, but due to a genuine abundance of skill.

doctor who the woman who lived review peter capaldi maisie williams ashildr me highway man catherine tregenna ed bazelgette twellfth doctor

Capaldi too is worth commenting upon; he does a wonderful job of selling the Doctor’s anguish and indecision with regards to Ashildr – it’s worth singling out the discussion of Ashildr’s journals as being a great moment for both Capaldi and Williams. Once again, we’re lucky to have Capaldi. (It was also nice to see Ashildr taking the role of the companion throughout this episode; though Clara was much missed, it’s interesting to see how Capaldi’s Doctor interacts with another character filling the companion role, particularly given Jenna’s upcoming departure.)

Admittedly, though, the strengths of the episodes are disproportionately weighted towards the part of Ashildr, specifically, and the performances of Capaldi and Williams; everything else was a little weaker in some regards.

Take, for example, the plot. Certainly it was a little thin – but, frankly, that’s both understandable and forgivable. The MacGuffin if far from the most important aspect of the episode – that’s Ashildr and the Doctor, and rightfully so. I’ve not begrudged episodes a weak plot before, of course, particularly when the focus is in the right place – and particularly in instances like this when the main object of their focus is pulled off so well – but I do feel like the thin plot had a little bit of an impact on this one. Not a huge problem – but it is noticeable.

Similarly, Rufus Hound’s standup section was… well, I actually liked it, for the most part. That sort of dodgy pun telling does actually appeal to me. Probably could have been funnier, though. Also undecided on the penis jokes.

It’s odd, actually – I started writing both of those things as complaints, before realising that I actually don’t mind them so much; a thin plot isn’t the end of the world, and I like puns. There’s just something about the episode that didn’t quite feel right; a little Doctor Who by numbers. It’s understandable, I suppose; Catherine Tregenna is on record as not being someone with a big interest in Doctor Who, which perhaps explains why we got something that – whilst very good – is certainly a departure from the norm.

doctor who the woman who lived review peter capaldi maisie williams ashildr me highway man catherine tregenna ed bazelgette steven moffat knightmare

I did have one technical complaint, though. Well, two, but one more significant than the other. The minor one was a couple of weird, jerky cuts between close ups and wide shots; it looked unprofessional, and a little sloppy. I suppose it may have been a deliberate directorial flourish, but not an effective one, to my mind.

The other, though, was the music. This is actually a fairly regular complaint, but it’s never been accurate for me before: the music was too loud and too obtrusive to be able to hear the dialogue. I also wasn’t particularly impressed by certain aspects of the score, though – there was one repetitive motif used whilst the Doctor and Ashildr were sneaking throughout the house that got rather grating rather quickly. (On the flip side of that, though, the theme for Ashildr was rather wonderful. I love that she got a theme at all, even, given that’s usually reserved for Doctors and Companions!)

So, a little bit of an odd one. Enjoyable, though. It’s certainly not traditional Doctor Who, but I much preferred it to this season’s previous attempt at traditionalism. We’ll call it an 8/10.

Related:

Doctor Who series 9 reviews

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Doctor Who Review: The Girl Who Died

doctor who the girl who died review jamie mathieson steven moffat ed bazalgette vikings maisie williams title card

I’m the Doctor, and I save people. And if there’s anybody listening who has any kind of problem with that, then to hell with you!

Every so often, the question of who the next showrunner will be comes up. Mark Gatiss, Chris Chibnall and Toby Whithouse tend to be logical choices; Neil Cross looked like a possibility at one stage, and Peter Harness seems like he might be putting himself into the running now.

Another name that tends to come up is Jamie Mathieson – which is understandable really. His two episodes last year, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline were amongst the best of series 8, and I think it’s fair to say that his first two episodes comprised the strongest debut of any new writer across the whole of the Moffat era, and perhaps the RTD era as well.

And, typically, I’m not so inclined to agree with that crowd – Jamie Mathieson is great, but he’s not got any showrunning experience, so he seems an unrealistic choice – but after this episode, to hell with what’s realistic. I think Jamie Mathieson would be a fantastic choice to replace Steven Moffat, when the time comes, because he really clearly gets it.

The Girl Who Died  is a very funny episode – which is what you’d expect, really, given that Jamie Mathieson used to be a stand up comedian, and Steven Moffat used to be a sitcom writer. So, two writers with a background in comedy, and you get one of the funniest episodes we’ve had across the entirety of Peter Capaldi’s tenure. Lots of things to appreciate here; the introduction of our alien Odin works very well, especially just after the Doctor’s dismal attempt at convincing the Vikings he’s Odin. I was also rather fond of the cut from “you’re ready to use swords” to the village in total disaster. That was quite effective as well. Honestly, very funny episode.

Oh, and the Benny Hill theme! That was rather wonderful as well.

doctor who the girl who died review jenna coleman maisie williams ashildr clara oswald jamie mathieson ed bazalgette steven moffat

The cast all did very well here too. Peter Capaldi is excellent. I don’t single him out enough, do I? It feels unfair, honestly. But it’s difficult to properly analyse his performance, particularly in a review like this. One day I might have to do a video review, picking out and commenting on every facial expression he pulls; for now, though, I’ll have to just refer to them more generally. Essentially every line he delivered was pitch perfect; the Odin jokes, translating for the baby, and his weariness after Ashildr’s death. Extremely well portrayed; once again, you’re reminded of how skillful Capaldi is, and how lucky we are that he’s the Doctor.

Jenna Coleman finally got something substantial to do this week, which was nice. You could really see Clara’s development into a quasi-Doctor figure (was it just me, or was Jenna Coleman imitating Matt Smith’s body language during her confrontation with Odin?) and Jenna Coleman did a great job of portraying that. Very strong episode for Clara, there, both in terms of the writing and Jenna Coleman’s acting. Which is nice!

And, of course, Maisie Williams. There is something a little odd about watching her acting, because she’s very close to my own age. I feel like it contravenes some natural order that she is out being a successful actress at this age. Probably she should just have a blog or something. (Or maybe I should be a successful actress!)

But, yes, aside from my own slightly ridiculous hangups, Maisie Williams is really, really good. I understand the hype now – I’ve never actually seen her in anything before (at least not acting – I’ve seen her vines, and she has a great sense of humour) but I am inclined to search her other work, like Cyberbully and whatnot. She gave an excellent performance. Clearly, she’s a skilled actress. I’m looking forward to her return next week quite a lot!

doctor who the girl who died series 9 review peter capaldi jenna coleman twelfth doctor fires of pompeii jamie mathieson maisie williams ashildr me

My favourite part of the episode, though, aside from the jokes and the acting and the direction and the clever plot resolution, was the way it handled the Doctor, and his approach to the “rules”, as it were.

It was really, really well handled; the Doctor’s rejection of the rule that he can’t save Ashildr is fantastic, and Jamie Mathieson did a great job of writing the Doctor weary, tired of the death. In many ways, it felt like a rejection of the problems of Before the Flood, too – the Doctor isn’t just accepting a death because of “the rules”, he’s driven to actually do something about it. Because he’s the Doctor. And he saves people.

That is a rather wonderful vision of the character, and I’m glad it’s something that we saw front and centre this week.

(Also, on the topic of David Tennant and Pompeii: On the one hand, I’m inclined to question the conventional wisdom of using flashbacks to a seven-year-old episode in conjunction with a plot point that no one really cared about… but on the other hand, it must be said that they did use it rather effectively, and we probably saw the best possible use of it that there could have been. So, you know, I’m happy enough to forgive it, but it does make me wonder about the how close we’re skirting to the ‘too much continuity’ line.)

[And! I guessed the hybrid line, before Capaldi finished it. I wonder where that might be doing? The concept of the hybrid is clearly the series arc, though to what it’s building up to it’s hard to say. Something to do with the War Lords? The Doctor, half human? Perhaps Maisie Williams will return in the finale as the season big bad? Probably not that last one.]

So, yes. I’m extremely pleased with this episode. Honestly, it may well be the best of series 9 so far; funny jokes, a clever plot, excellent performances, compelling writing, and a fantastic depiction of the Doctor and Clara. And on top of that, it more or less manages to tell a full story in and of itself! Certainly, this is my favourite of Jamie Mathieson’s three episodes.

10/10

Related:

Doctor Who series 9 reviews

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