After two abysmal episodes back-to-back I became intrigued when we received an episode that was of good quality television. Hurray! There’s hope for Class (again). The daft part is this episode was rather limited, especially since the entire narrative revolves around a classroom, and yet it did better than the last two week’s combined and they had all sorts of crazy shit going on. What I’m trying to say is “less is sometimes better”.
“Detained” combines the best elements from Doctor Who‘s own “Midnight” and “Heaven Sent” in which Charlie and the gang become trapped in a confined room outside of time and space and the only way to escape is to confess the truth. This leads to many interesting plot-points in which, for once, all the characters have moments to shine and some of them actually feel useful, whilst others continue to develop.
The two main characters in this story were Tanya and Matteusz. Tanya does great at taking charge of the group, ascending as the perfect leader who asks all the right questions to get the team motivated, and ultimately becomes the reason for the group discovering the meaning behind their predicament. And she’s three years younger than the rest of them!
Matteusz continues to show his caring nature, especially towards Charlie, and generally becomes a helpful hand in progressing the plot, truly establishing his place amongst the group. And as I’ve been saying for week’s now, Matteusz, a reoccurring character, still remains my favourite, with Tanya a close second. Basically this episode is greater because it focuses on the best characters and allows them to truly shine.
This is particularly interesting considering that both Ram and April have been amongst the main cast since “For Tonight We Might Die” and yet I still don’t like them. Their presence within the group can become insufferable and I really don’t get why they can be considered likeable characters. Why can’t Matteusz have his own episode, or why has Tanya been pushed aside so much when “Nightvisiting” and this episode proved her worth?
April continues to be a bland character who desperately tries to get in on the action, as well as finding a purpose. Ram, oh Ram. Every time I’m left wondering whether he’ll actually grow up and develop as a character the show makes me swallow my own thoughts.
He really is a bastard of a character, which isn’t helped by the fact that I can’t stand his type of person in real life society. Chavs are not interesting people, and are considered despicable people within British society. Harsh words, I know, but I’ve seen enough of them to know that they are obnoxious, they disregard rules and feelings, and think it’s funny to be total knob-heads.
Even the language and tone they speak gets on my nerves and Ram constantly returns to acting like this, pretending it’s okay to not have feelings and thinks it clever to talk shit about his friends and make a total arse of himself. There were moments in this episode that just made me sigh in despair that the Doctor Who universe is even promoting this kind of person.
What must the American audience think of us as a society when they see Ram as the perfect representation of 21st Century British youth? It certainly makes me feel embarrassed. Basically, Ram is the kind of person that I wish I had the courage to punch in the face when I was at school.
Something else that slightly bothered me was the sudden announcement that Charlie suffered from claustrophobia, which honestly felt like a script addition for the convenience of the plot, and in some scenes actually served as a plot device. I guess I can say it added to the narrative but it would’ve felt more organic, and less forced, if we had been given this important detail much earlier in the spin-off.
Enough of my rants, back to the good stuff. The confession side of the narrative really led to some interesting character moments. Most of this vented towards Charlie as he felt more alien than ever as he was confronted by erratic human behaviour. This all rather confuses Charlie as he grows more and more insecure as the narrative goes on due to the realisation that his supposed friends, and boyfriend, think of him in ugly ways.
I know I’ve said before about this show’s demographic being wrong, mostly because it has barely focused on the right things, but in “Detained” I felt tackling the idea of insecurity was the best possible aspect of teenage life to incorporate into this spin-off. We’ve all felt like that, heck I still feel like that now to a certain degree.
Each of these characters have had something happen in their lives that makes them stand out above other teenagers, and therefore make them feel like outsiders. Above all feeling insecure can make one feel more erratic thoughts, such as depression and even the sense of not belonging, to the point that you feel like no one else understands you.
Each time one of the characters had to hold the strange meteorite, and advance their progression of escape, they challenged their friendship more and more by telling the truth. In return they would get some more facts about their situation through the mouth of the prisoner they now shared imprisonment with. It became a tense scenario to follow and the claustrophobic atmosphere helped to give it that extra layer.
I did like how after each confession we had moments to help develop the different characters through getting to know them a little better via the revelations of their fears. But it did full apart when Ram’s and April’s confessions were rather dull and felt like a silly plot device to progress their “sort-of” relationship, to which it ends in disaster because Ram loved April more than she loved him. Of course Ram becomes a big sulky baby about this and decides to take his frustration out on everyone else in the room (showcasing in a nutshell why I despise his character so much).
The surprising moment in this episode was Charlie, the spin-off’s protagonist, actually becoming the hero. It only took him six episodes to rise to the occasion! But it was a triumphant moment that really advanced his character. As the episode threw at him, he was perceived as the spoilt prince that asked stupid questions (which is honestly how I perceived him). Charlie turns this all around by confessing his inner demons, to which he doesn’t even hold the meteorite to do so (you badass), and reveals to his friends that he does in fact want to kill the Shadow Kin using the cabinet.
Charlie then takes hold of the meteorite and forces a confession out of the prisoner, nearly killing himself in the process, and ultimately gets his friends back home. It was a great pay-off I think and it gave Charlie that needed extra depth, making him an actual hero worthy of The Doctor himself. I also liked how in his society that merely wishing something to happen is the same as actually doing it.
This of course nearly got him into further problems by having to take the prisoners place, now being the most guilty person in the room, but is saved at the last second by a badass entrance by Miss Quill. And then we are teased with the notion that whilst Charlie was trapped she was undergoing her own adventure, which we will discover more about in the next episode.
So, yeah, I actually liked this episode a lot (so much so I sat down and watched this story twice). So once again I’m left thinking “Will Class finally find it’s stride and become a good spin-off, one that Doctor Who actually deserves right now?” As The Seventh Doctor rightly put it, “Time will tell. It always does.”
Final Grade: B+
Pros and Cons:
+ An interesting narrative that incorporated some really intriguing elements and actually reassured me that this spin-off can actually produce quality television despite being targeted at teenagers.
+ The gang actually worked together!
+ There were many glorious moments of character development!
+ They made a mundane classroom, and a session of detention, terrifying!
+ Charlie got to finally be the hero (after five episodes prior)!
– April is still bland and Ram is still a collusive dick (can these characters be written out already?)
And after weeks of ranting I have had a change of heart, but the question is: “Will it last?” You know the drill fellow Whovians, please join in and share yours thoughts about Class in the comments or on Twitter!