"For Tonight We Might Die"
Original Airdate: April 15, 2017
Doctor Who spin-offs were, at one time, fairly common. There was the short-lived The Sarah Jane Adventures and much-loved Torchwood. Now, there’s Class. If we had to compare Class to the two other televised spin-offs of the longest running sci-fi show in history, it’s much more Torchwood (though with a lot less sex). There’s a bite to the humor and an excited energy that would feel very at home with Jack Harkness and his crew. And yet Class is something wholly different than Torchwood or Doctor Who, in the best way possible. It’s possibly the most grounded Whovian show and the most human, even if some of its main characters are not.
Let’s start with the humans first. At Coal Hill Academy, we meet April MacLean (Sophie Hopkins) who is very much the teacher’s pet and is also in charge of the autumn prom. For the duration of the episode, we’re going to pretend like that’s a normal thing even though I’m not entirely sure. April is severely lacking in volunteers and is decorating alone in the gym at night when a shadowy creature attacks.
At the same time, Tanya (Vivian Oparah), a gifted younger student, is at home tutoring school soccer star Ram (Fady Elsayed) over Skype. When she’s also attacked by the shadows, she turns on every light in her room as Ram stays on Skype to comfort her.
April needs the help of math teacher, Ms. Quill (Katharine Kelly), who hands her an alien gun to shoot at the shadowy form in front of her. Except classmate Charlie (Greg Austin) steps in at the last moment because the gun kills both its target and the person wielding it. Quill is frustrated by Charlie’s valor because it means Corakinus, king of the Shadow Kin, escapes, but not before April becomes his Horcrux, so to speak. While the gun didn’t kill either of them, it does mean they now share April’s heart, so killing one means killing the other.
OUT OF TOWNERS
As she deserves some explanation, Charlie reveals to April he’s an alien. Given Charlie’s awkwardness and lack of any pop culture knowledge, April isn’t surprised. Finally, a character in the Doctor Who universe that doesn’t look shocked when learning about aliens who look like humans. Depending on who’s speaking, Charlie was either prince of the Rhodians or an overlord and fought in a war against the terrorists or freedom fighters called the Quill, who shared their planet. When Ms. Quill and her kin were defeated, an alien creature was inserted into her brain telepathically linking her to Charlie and making her his forced bodyguard. She can’t even wield a weapon now.
Doctor Who and its spin-offs are always at their best when dealing with human problems in an alien world. Is Ms. Quill’s punishment extreme? Would death or imprisonment have been better? Can forced subservience grow into genuine understanding and compassion for one’s former enemy and prevent further civil wars? The answers almost don’t matter because while the Rhodians and the Quill were busy fighting, the Shadow Kin infiltrated and slaughtered the whole planet. Ms. Quill dutifully saved Charlie’s life and they were both rescued by the Doctor, who then dropped them off on Earth.
THE MONSTER MASH
Looking out for (or trying to make) her friends, April tells Tanya and Ram everything and while they believe her, they’re also distracted by the upcoming dance. April flies solo because Charlie asked Matteusz (Jordan Renzo) instead of accepting her fumbling proposal. Ram and girlfriend Rachel arrive in style while Tanya’s mom only lets her daughter go provided she writes a paper about the experience after. Sheesh.
All things considered, it’s not the worst part of the night. Not far into the dance, April — thanks to her shared heart with Corakinus — knows the Shadow Kin are on their way. Ram sees them first when Rachel is killed right in front of them and his leg is cut off when he tries to fight back. The students all run except for Charlie, Tanya, April and Ms. Quill, but they’re useless against the Shadow Kin. What they need, is a doctor.
And just like that, he’s there. Okay, Ms. Quill called him earlier, but his timing was still impeccable. The Doctor helpfully points out Corakinus is after the Cabinet of Souls, a sort of box that contains the souls of the dead Rhodians that can be used as a weapon... somehow. Charlie does have it but it’s empty; it was merely a fairytale told to Rhodian children.
Corakinus is pissed he can’t have his weapon. Before he can hurt anyone else, April threatens to kill herself and thereby him. Instead, Tanya turns on the lights and the Doctor gives them a boost with the sonic. As the Shadow Kin retreat, Corakinus tries to take April with him. Ram knocks him out with a chair. That’s right; the dude who just lost one of his legs saves the freaking day.
The Doctor fixes the rip in time and space the Shadow Kin were using and then fixes Ram’s leg. He gives the teen a prosthetic alien leg instead. Before the Time Lord leaves, he warns the new band of friends that Coal Hill is an epicenter of sorts (or Hellmouth, if you will) for alien activity because of his frequent visits over the years. So the new sci-fi Scooby Gang better be prepared.
Ms. Quill would just like to be off. The Doctor insists she and Charlie stay to help and really, they don’t have much choice. They don’t have a time machine of their own. But Charlie does have his own secret. The Cabinet of Souls isn’t empty after all.
- As much as I love the Doctor, especially Capaldi’s Doctor, I don’t think this episode truly needed him. The dynamic between the students both with each other and Ms. Quill as well as the diversity of characters was more than enough for me to buy in without needing the Time Lord. That said, I never say no to a little more Capaldi on my screen.
- There’s a moment where the Doctor sees a memorial wall at Coal Hill and stares for several seconds at the names Pink, RD and Oswald, C. I cry silently.
- Ms. Quill is my favorite simply because she’s deadpan hilarious. See: “No wonder this country only exports Downton Abbey." “Leave us! We are decorating!”
- Also, she goes from sarcasm to pretty terrifying in 2.5 seconds. See: “You think you know what waits for you here. You think the same plan will work. But I am what waits for you, and I am war itself.”
- Charlie: Anything? Ms. Quill: Yes, there was a huge attack I'm keeping secret from you. Charlie: I should've put a creature in your head to make you nicer. Ms. Quill: Yeah, should've, but didn't.