If you’ve ever come across a mention of Doctor Who spin-off Class without a comparison to Buffy The Vampire Slayer then congratulations – we haven’t. Normally such a link would be a good thing, but in truth the similarities turn out to be rather minimal, making its pseudo-tagline more than a tad misleading.
Taking place in the legendary Coal Hill School – home of many a supernatural smackdown over the years – the cast is fittingly young and fresh: arrogant jock Ram (Fady Elsayed), caring mother hen April (Sophie Hopkins), child prodigy Tanya (Vivian Oparah), sensitive alien Charlie (Greg Austin) and his guardian/prisoner Andrea (Katherine Kelly) make up the ensemble, and all do a great job of keeping you invested in their stories and somehow staying relatable in a world that makes it challenging to do so.
For the most part this is a good thing. Patrick Ness’s writing follows very much in the Steven Moffat tradition of never leaving anything unsaid when there’s the opportunity for a monologue, but it all feels less self-indulgent here. The focus is more on combining rollicking adventure tales involving surprisingly terrifying monsters and imbuing issues into them rather than focusing solely on the latter. That characters’ sexualities are casually mentioned without comment or judgement is a particularly welcome development.
While it’s nice to see a show aimed at teenagers that doesn’t talk down to its viewers, at the same time it is unremittingly dark. Doctor Who spin-offs (Torchwood springs to mind – hell, even Who itself at times) have often had a hard time nailing down a tone, and Class has a similar problem, joking about extra-terrestrial occurrences one moment before presenting surprisingly graphic death scenes the next.
The overall effect is one that makes this show feel like one big introduction, but somehow it works. By the finale, you know each character inside out, and feel like you’ve been on a journey with them – even if it was a brief one. Touch wood a second series gets confirmed.