The Class crew stick the landing in the conclusion to the series’ first two-parter. War has arrived… and one so loves fireworks!
There’s always a worry that two-part stories in the Doctor Who universe can end up slightly unbalanced. Usually, the first part provides an enticing set-up and a lot of expectation which part two often fails to deliver. Thankfully, Brave-ish Heart is a very worthy denouement to Class’ mid-series adventure. It’s not completely flawless, but it does stay true to its predecessor and succeeds in providing just as many fun-filled thrills throughout.
For starters, this is one action-packed episode. Right from the off, we find April and Ram in the realm of the Shadow Kin (beautifully realised as a desolate volcanic planet). It’s the first time our cast have truly stepped foot onto another world and it’s a spectacularly fiery foray. In fact, a lot of the extraterrestrial scenes feel like they could have come straight from Doctor Who itself, with excellent sets and special effects. But we’re not here just to admire the view. There are serious matters at hand, and a stand-off with Corakinus is imminent. April’s struggle is dramatic and tense, again played to perfection by Sophie Hopkins. Ram is also on good form this week, providing lots of support and getting in a few brilliant lines.
Generally speaking, this is the more raw and energetic side of the story. The atmosphere is desperate and the pace, for the most part, is snappy. Admittedly though, things do suddenly slow down a bit later on when they feel like they ought to be hitting a crescendo instead. In short, it’s another case of the show prioritising emotions over actions. Thankfully, it all leads into a suitable pay-off, but it still seems like an unnecessary bump in an otherwise high octane showdown.
Petal to the Metal
Meanwhile, back on Earth, those sinister flower petals have actually become a proper threat. They were a little lacklustre last week, but this time they mean business and their impact is clear to see. Not only are the pink blighters everywhere, Class once again dares to bare its gory chops. It doesn’t feel as gratuitous here as it has done previously though: in fact, it actually feels necessary. By themselves, flower petals aren’t that scary – but when you see what they can do… well, be warned!
This second story comes to a head between Charlie, Miss Quill, and Dorothea. There’s a very obvious solution to the problem, but everyone’s in it for their own agenda. It’s fascinating to see the darker side of these characters, especially Quill. We’ve come to love her for her comic relief, but what we see now is very, very different. There’s a real dilemma going on between the group, and only one of them can get their way in the end…
One thing that’s definitely worth saying about this episode: the stakes are high. With the shared heart, the Cabinet of Souls, and the Shadow Kin all being key plot points in the story, this genuinely feels like it could have been a finale at points. So many huge story threads are called into play and it makes you wonder where the show could possibly go next. Cleverly though, Class doesn’t blow its proverbial load just yet. In fact, what often feels like an ending is only just the beginning. Everything ties up neatly and the two separate wars converge to provide a satisfying resolution, yet it somehow leaves just as many balls still juggling in the air. It’s certainly not the ending we expected, and that’s definitely for the best.
Now, we hate to bring the mood down for a moment with some nit-picks, but certain things simply cannot be ignored. Tanya unfortunately yet again feels like nothing more than a spare part. We won’t deny it, she does have ever so slightly more to do this week than last. But when that amounts to little more than being a go-between who’s just there to ask questions, that’s hardly progress. Vivian Oparah deserves better – five episodes in, her character is becoming terribly underused and overshadowed. Also, while the ultimate joining of the episode’s two plot threads is very intelligent, April’s arc does somewhat undermine the horrors of Charlie and Quill’s past. Are we really to believe that the Shadow Kin, an alien menace capable of genocide, could be so easily bested by a lone teenage girl?
Minor quibbles aside though, Class delivers its most ambitious entry to date – and succeeds with aplomb. With half of the series still to go, it’ll be interesting to see where it takes us next. More importantly, we hope it can sustain its current level of quality. It’s been a little bit of a rocky road so far, but Class is finally beginning to settle into a comfortable groove. Just like the Coal Hill students, the show is coming into its own: let’s hope it can end the term with the promising grade it deserves.