Features Reviews TV

REVIEW: Class 1×02 “The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo”

After a shaky start with its opening episode, “For Tonight We Might Die”, Class certainly has to start pulling something clever out of its box of tricks in order to fully win me over. So has Episode 2, “The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo” done just that? Yes, and no.

My biggest gripe with Class is its tone. Similar to Torchwood we have a show that wants to be grown up but what the creators forget is that the mother-show, Doctor Who, isn’t an adult orientated programme. It’s a family programme that is aimed at every age group, mixing darker themes with child friendly themes. Though I am normally the first one to scream out “give us more violence”, in this case I am going to say “calm down with the violence”.

The strangest part was actually watching the first episode, seeing The Doctor stood next to Ram who was covered head-to-toe in blood. That image alone just looked completely out of place like the creators are really trying to mesh these two shows together and are failing miserably. It’s nice that they are making such strong connections, something that Torchwood didn’t really get to do until the massive cross-over event in Doctor Who‘s Series Four finale, but when the show’s tones and themes are at opposite ends of the spectrum it’s a little bit harder to connect the dots and take it seriously.

I mean, I love Torchwood. Brilliant show. But the thing I always had a grudge against was the extreme adult themes, particularly in the first series. How can you have a spin-off that creates a world that doesn’t represent the tone and style of the mother-show. By introducing strong violence, swearing, and sex you are adding in elements that aren’t present in Doctor Who. Yes they are obviously there but they aren’t explicitly shown. We have the same problem here with Class, a world that goes above and beyond the tone of Doctor Who but is still trying desperately to cling onto the idea that it’s set in the same universe.

Look at it this way, if Torchwood and Class are set in the same universe then why aren’t these elements seen in Doctor Who? Okay the correct answer is Doctor Who is family show but that’s not the point I’m trying to get across. Just because these other spin-offs are seen through the eyes of older audience members doesn’t mean you can add in adult themes for the sake of it, especially when it contradicts the world seen within Doctor Who.

In my eyes if Class is to be taken seriously as a Doctor Who spin-off, which I kind of don’t have a choice about because The Doctor himself has appeared in it (which is similar to when Russell T Davies forced Torchwood into the continuity by having it cross-over into the mother-show), I really need to see the show toned down. But I doubt that’s going to happen. Throughout the episode I was just shocked at how much violence they were trying to get away with. Teachers and staff-members being skinned-alive! This is the kind of shocking imagery I would expect from a Predator movie, not a Doctor Who related show. I know I’m ranting now but if this was the approach Patrick Ness wanted to take then I’m sorry but it doesn’t belong in this universe. It would’ve best served as an original show were I could appreciate it without worrying about so much continuity errors. I don’t need another headache, Torchwood: Miracle Day did enough of that.

I do kind of like how they are going with a realistic approach (though the characters still feel slightly stereotypical, but there getting there) but at the same time it is kind of bleak as a British person watching a Doctor Who related programme that’s concentrating on the harsh nature of British schools. Take it from me, secondary school was the worst part of my life and it shows through this spin-off in displaying the kind of people you encounter. Ram as a character is plain annoying through his constant attitude and mood swings. But again, he is a perfect representation of the modern British teenager (which isn’t something to be proud of).

Having the whole episode following him as the lead character was tiresome at first simply due to the fact that I hate his character. He’s a jock, and a chav, let’s end it there. But at least he does start to get character development, which by God, this show really needed. The characters in the first episode were just bland, and devoid of any real personality but their stereotypes. At least now they are starting to find their feet, at least with Ram and Tanya. Ram had to face his demons this week as the death of his girlfriend, Rachel, in the first episode haunts him, along with adapting to his new cybernetic leg (which The Doctor gave to him after his actual leg was cut off).

Naturally he does the annoying thing of not talking about his problems and decides to avoid everyone with anger, demanding to be left alone. Tanya throughout the episode attempts to get through to him, trying to explain to him that talking about his problems is a sure way of making him feel better. We get a nice little dip into Tanya’s past as she explains that her dad passed away and this information helps Ram understand her meaning. Conveniently by the end of the episode he talks with his dad and finally starts to get better, finally understanding that he isn’t as strong as he makes himself out to be.

It seems like the formula for Class is each episode concentrates on a particular character, with Ram having his turn this week. But the problem with this apart from Tanya the other characters were pushed to the back and didn’t really have much of a purpose. Literally they had very little reason to be in it this week other than they are credited as main cast members. Charlie, our supposed main protagonist, had no development this week and was merely there to showcase he’s an alien because of his constant questions towards human behaviour.

April was even less important and just feels like a waste of a character. I just feel these characters lack real depth as the series mostly focuses on teenage problems, in which case it does its job well as being a BBC Three show. But for someone like me who wants to watch a Doctor Who spin-off I feel slightly cheated. If The Sarah Jane Adventures, a show aimed at children, can create remarkable characters and stories to tell than why can’t this?

At least the villain this week felt a little bit more refreshing, dealing with the grittier side of humanity similar to Torchwood. You believe that the villain is a rampaging monster, which is always nice to see, but as the narrative goes on we get some nice little twists as to what is actually going on. It is clear that Coach Dawson is involved due to him possessing the strange dragon tattoo. I’ll be honest, I thought at first that Coach Dawson was actually the dragon and was disguised as a human. Then it became clear that the tattoo was alive and escaped his body to go feed and Coach Dawson was an innocent in all this trying to control this mystical creature.

But then it pulls the rug from under you again when it turns out there is another dragon. Now I should’ve really seen this one coming due to the fact that at certain points when the creature was killing the tattoo was still on Coach Dawson’s body. It turns out that Coach Dawson had merged with the Dragon’s companion and was now controlling it through bribery. Coach Dawson became this desperate character through using death as a means to remain strong despite demanding his students to work hard at their sports without any excuses to their lack of strength. I guess it did come together for a satisfying conclusion through Ram ending his shaky relationship with Coach Dawson through Ram finally confronting his demons and using that strength to tear apart his mentor’s weakness, ultimately giving Coach Dawson his just reward for committing acts of evil for his own selfish needs.

I know it does appear like I hate this show, which honestly I don’t. But I have to look at Class for what it is and it’s supposed to be a Doctor Who spin-off and I’m just not getting that vibe. Apart from a few references forced in you have a show that has all the wrong tones and no major characters from the actual mother-show to fall back on and give this spin-off representation. You might as well have just made this its own thing and then maybe I could’ve watched this in peace without hesitation or questioning.

The over excessive violence is the main problem in making this show feel completely distant to Doctor Who, similar to how Torchwood made me feel but at least that had Captain Jack Harkness in order to remind you it was Doctor Who related, along with the organisation Torchwood which at least was used in an interesting way unlike Coal Hill School which is just a location and nothing more. Honestly, would this show have been pushed aside if it wasn’t tied in with Doctor Who? Something to ponder on.

Also I felt Class went one step too far when this episode actually killed off Mr Armitage. You might be wondering who he is but he was a reoccurring character in Doctor Who Series Eight, i.e. the headmaster who spoke a lot with Clara. But yeah, if you ever wondered what happened to him well now we know, he was mauled by a dragon and skinned alive. Sleep soundly at night children.  I really do think this was a step too far and disrespected the mother-show by violating one of its characters (however minor and unimportant) for the sake of dramatic impact through a violent scene.

But despite everything this week’s episode was still better than the first. It is an entertaining programme, I’ll give it that, but I do feel like my reviews will be more me ranting at how much Class breaks continuity and stirs itself away from the style of Doctor Who rather than review it as a genuine, well conceived spin-off. All I will say is sorry in advance and brace yourself, unless of course Class starts to get better in which case Mr. Positive will resume reviewing duties.

Final Score: C

Pros and Cons:

+ Ram actually got some character development (yay!)

+ A more interesting narrative and pay-off.

+ A good villain this week.

– Silly sub-plot’s revolved around Miss Quill that didn’t really go anyway (hopefully this is touched upon in later episodes).

– Did Miss Quill really have to kiss that guy (just awkward)? And shame on Patrick Ness just slamming it in for a cheap joke!

– What was the point of Charlie, April and Miss Quill in this episode (seriously)?

– I’ll ask again, is this a Doctor Who spin-off? So why does it feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Inbetweeners?

Anyhow, what were your thoughts on the latest episode of Class? Please sound-off in the comment section below or on our Twitter page!

About the author

John Hussey