Verdict: 4 / 5
It’s been a long wait for the new series of Doctor Who for fans, and since the spin-off shows Torchwood disappeared and The Sarah Jane Adventures ended so tragically, it seems to be taking forever. Thankfully, the much-anticipated show Class (set within the DW Universe) has finally debuted, but what should fans expect?
For Tonight We Might Die sets the tone right from the start. Coal Hill Academy has featured in Doctor Who since the very beginning, and now there’s a new teacher in school: the no-nonsense Miss Quill, who makes it known early on that she can’t stand kids. There’s more to her than meets the eye though, and we learn that there’s a strange bond between herself and one of her students, Charlie. They’re aliens, stranded on Earth by The Doctor in a bid to protect them from the Shadow Kin. When the Shadow Kin arrive seeking to kill them and claim the Cabinet of Souls, Earth itself may pay the price for The Doctor’s actions.
We’re also introduced to three other students, the headstrong Tanya, the unappreciated April and the popular jock Ram. They all get dragged in to this interstellar conflict happening at their school, and with tragic consequences for them. But at the school prom, can the arrival of a familiar blue box and its timelord owner save the day?
The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo gives our unlikely heroes the chance to adapt to their new roles as the protectors of Coal Hill Academy and the space-time rift located there. Yet there’s little team spirit from Quill, Charlie, Ram, Tanya and April. Ram struggles with his physical rehabilitation and post-traumatic stress, while Miss Quill realises that she’s being monitored by a silent, mysterious figure who may pose a significant threat to her and Charlie’s lives. When several staff-members at the school are murdered by a dragon-like beast, it’s a race against time to solve the mystery…
This is a blend of the best of both Sarah Jane, with its focus on teamwork and mostly young teen characters, and Torchwood, with its adult themes and mature portrayals. This certainly isn’t for kids, with a fair amount of gore and swearing, but it’s certainly accurate in how it presents the characters. They’re teenagers with real-world problems, despite the sci-fi elements of the show. There’s social pressures within the school, pressures from parents and teachers, and issues like the loss of loved ones and coping with disabilities.
Even with an appearance by The Doctor in the first episode, there’s no magical wave of the sonic screwdriver that can bring back the dead or help outsiders to gain acceptance in society. This is more grounded in reality, and that is it’s strength.
The effects are typical of any Doctor Who show, and the sci-fi storylines have brought comparisons to a harder-edged Buffy, but that’s selling it short. The writing is intelligent and offers up some intriguing mysteries, without ever falling into the trap of being a “concept” show or coming across as a DW wannabe. Like the earlier two spin-offs, it has its own clear identity and doesn’t use its legendary predecessor as a crutch.
This is a character-driven show, and it’s hard to not like them despite all their faults. Miss Quill is a terrorist-turned-slave/bodyguard, quick with an insult and deriding everyone, whilst decrying the lack of interest her younger peers take in her problems. Ram is initially an unlikeable jock, yet by the end of the second episode he’s an incredibly tragic figure struggling to reclaim what he’s lost. These aren’t stock figures, they’re well-crafted creations of a show which knows what it’s doing straight away.
There’s bound to be some who find the tone of it too dark, or lacking in the sense of hope that’s usually associated with DW; but for many fans it’ll be an incredibly welcome addition. Like The Doctor himself, it’s complex, funny, entertaining, moody, serious and chaotic… and in a Class of its own.