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REVIEW: Class 1×04 “Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart”

If I could sum up this week’s episode with one word it would be “awkward”. I am becoming increasingly desperate trying to watch this spin-off without finding faults. Now I know not everything is perfect and I’m not normally one to go and nit-pick unless something generally bothers me or I want to dissect and analyses something for a bit of fun. But with Class I’m afraid it’s because there’s just so many things wrong with it and I honestly do think the real blame is it’s tone and characters set about by the show’s target audience.

I honestly don’t know anymore why this spin-off was a good idea and why Steven Moffat, and the BBC, gave this the ‘Okay’. Why would you want a Doctor Who show targeted at teenagers? There’s no real place for it, except for fans who want something a little bit more edgy and hip. You know what I say to that: “Go watch another show!” Torchwood was bad enough for breaking out of tradition but at least that had a better focus on character and story because of the target audience involved, which ultimately led to more sophisticated narratives through its dark interpretations of science-fiction. Here all you have are characters who whine about the bland, and uninteresting, problems of the modern-day teenager, to a point where it feels completely unreal.

Maybe because I’m no longer a teenager, or that my teenage years weren’t filled with the kind of rubbish we see today (bare in mind we’re only going back about five years now) but Class doesn’t do anything to engage me. Yes I can watch it and enjoy it to a certain extent but if you were to ask me, “Do I like the characters, and what the spin-off is trying to do in terms of its clever focus on the teenage demographic?”, and my answer would be a firm ‘no’. I feel like I’m watching an episode of Hollyoaks which just happens to have aliens popping up to make the narrative a little more tolerable. But my point is “do we really need a Doctor Who spin-off about teenage problems?”

To begin with the idea of Class intrigued me and I hoped it could possibly go somewhere but so far it hasn’t. It’s done nothing original, practically stealing elements from other spin-offs, and its mother-show, and delivered a basic package perfectly suitable for the rubbish shows you’d expect to see on BBC Three (except for Russell Howard’s Good News, that’s brilliant).

Enough of my ramblings, onto the actual episode. “Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart” brought the narrative back to the point of April sharing her heart with Corakinus, the Shadow Kin king. Following the pattern of one character focus per-episode, this week we saw some more development for April after her brief moment of development in the previous episode, which introduced us to the idea that she was fighting an eternal battle after her father’s crime and sentence. This week we see her face that problem, and all the turmoil involved added by the fact that her connection to Corakinus is growing stronger, going as far as influencing her.

This created some interesting scenarios were she fought a new internal battle to remain in control of her feelings, and ultimately who she is as a person. After many aggressive outbursts April is close to killing her father, Huw, who comes to visit her in an attempt to apologise for his past actions. His presence merely helps to add to the fire and pushes her further into darkness. But sadly the whole episode felt rather weak due to performance. Out of all the main cast I find April’s actress, Sophie Hopkins, is the weakest of the group and every moment she becomes like Corakinus made me feel awkward because it just seemed like she was acting-up whilst the others stood awkwardly watching.

These moments should have been intense and serious but it just left me feeling unimpressed by the cheapness of how the show is run. The only moment that felt somewhat tense was whether or not April would kill her father, but as I said, her performance deflated everything within the scene. It also felt rather unreal at how her parents showed no real action within these scenes, particularly her mother Jackie, who just sat by and watched with a few half-assed pieces of dialogue (granted she is in a wheelchair but that doesn’t prevent her from doing something).

It should have gotten even more interesting when we saw the side-effects of the shared heart affecting Corakinus but instead these moments eventually became a massive joke for cheap laughs. I’m honestly serious when I say I got extremely uncomfortable watching these scenes where on way side of the spectrum you’ve got April and Ram having an intimate moment which did feel rather natural (proving me wrong from last week) but on the other end you have Corakinus feeling the same emotions and undertakes sexual intercourse with one of his subordinates.

It left me thinking, “What the hell am I watching?!” And that fundamental question, along with my over-arcing question of “Is Class even a Doctor Who spin-off?”, makes me wonder how much longer I can tolerate this show and its existence. It’s getting to the point now where I’m merely going to watch it for the sake of it rather than for actual enjoyment. Above all I’m actually very doubtful this spin-off will be added to my extensive Doctor Who DVD collection, and that I might not consider it completely canon.

On a more positive note, the relationship between Charlie and Matteusz was pushed along and their dynamic became tested when Matteusz tried questioning Charlie about his role as Prince after learning about the existence of his races souls within the cabinet. We got to see a different side to Charlie, one that made him feel truly alien beyond the cheap jokes of him misunderstanding human culture (something handled much better when this story-arc was done with Luke Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures). It also gave Matteusz more depth and showed off his deep love for Charlie as he tried to understand him and help him understand his burden from another perspective.

I also liked how Charlie grew defensive towards Tanya questioning him about the way he treats Miss Quill. This is something I’m glad was brought up because despite Miss Quill having done something terrible in the past, warranting her imprisonment, she is still a living being and Charlie’s nobility often steps out of line as he demands her to undertake certain requirements, often leading to him humiliating her. It’s something that makes Charlie look like a spoilt royal, and a foolish boy who doesn’t fully understand the perspective around him. Miss Quill is cruelly bound to him but given the right motivation, because of Charlie’s attitude towards her, she will no doubt turn on him and Charlie will become defenceless.

I’m interested to see where this story-thread can go because no doubt other’s will follow Tanya’s lead in questioning Charlie. So it makes me wonder if it will push Charlie away from his relationship, and perhaps his friends, or will he come to understand that his actions make him just as bad as Miss Quill’s race? I think it may lead to some interesting character moments but I’m not getting my hopes up just yet as the series hasn’t completely convinced me that it can handle complex character interactions and development.

Finally, is it strange that the most pathetic plot-point in this episode, i.e. the killer alien blossoms, was actually the best part. I’m serious! Forget about the awkward scenes of April turning evil (which looked completely unbelievable) and the non-threatening Shadow Kin and their king that shares a heart with a teenage girl, thus begins to have feelings of teenage angst, and confusion (still the most uncomfortable and unneeded scene in the history of Television) and you have a forced plot-thread about alien blossoms that are multiplying and will soon devour the population. Scary stuff (if a little funny when you consider this went past the ideas stage and onto an actual script to be handed to an actual executive who actually went and ‘Okayed’ this). Did I say funny, I meant to say this was a ‘joke’.

But none-the-less it still felt more urgent and important than April’s story, which I will remind you, was the main focus of this opening two-part story. Oh, yeah, it’s a two-parter. I forgot to mention that. This was the opening to an explosive two-part story that mostly dealt with inner conflicts (which should have been more exciting considering April was sharing her heart with a monstrous destroyer of worlds), teenage love (which again felt somewhat progressive, and particularly funny when Jackie walked in and saw Ram naked – that cliché never gets old), and making an already underwhelming monster even more of a joke.

So not many positives really, leaving me wondering why I should be excited for the second half when the first half was convoluted with good ideas disastrously failing, along with too many plot-threads going on and poor delivery on the important moments (making them appear silly, and uninteresting whilst the apparent uninteresting and silly aspects are taken more seriously).

Another problem I have with Class is all the mysterious story-arcs forced into each episode that appear way too distracting and confusing to be considered remotely interesting. Also, as this episode clearly demonstrates, there are too many plot conveniences. So many of this week’s episode’s plot aspects stem from the first episode but have either been totally ignored, or barely referenced, since then. As I watch the fourth episode I’m left wondering why it has taken so long for these elements to come back and become important despite their urgency. Answer: plot convenience!

I stand firm behind my statement from my first review of Class, that the best thing to come out of this series was a cameo from The Doctor, making me truly wish we were receiving Doctor Who instead of this ‘after-thought’. Shame really when you consider the lost potential and the overall dull year we’ve had in terms of Who related news and updates.

Final Grade: E

Pros and Cons:

+ Ram’s character development (more on that [hopefully] in the next review).

+ Killer Blossoms (sad but true).

– Disappointing delivery of April’s conflict, along with wooden acting.

– Too many awkward scenes!

– The Shadow Kin are still unimaginative villains.

– And me being made uncomfortable by a forced alien sex scene (what has the world come to?!)

Anyhow, what do my feel Whovians think of this episode, and Class as a whole? Please sound off in either the comment section below or our Twitter page!

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John Hussey

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