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REVIEW: Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince – It’s All About the Last Ten Minutes

Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish

Class returns for a recap of the series adding greater depth to Charlie and Matteusz’ relationship along with a shock ending

Dear reader, Blogtor Who has a confession to make. Blogtor really liked Class, completely and unironically. A fun, energetic, spin-off, it brought together all the elements of a true Whoniverse show: scares, laughs, emotion, and a certain amount of silliness. All in all, it neatly filled the hole left by the Twelfth Doctor’s twelve month hiatus. The one series wonder’s problems were largely offscreen. A muddled launch and campaign made it sound more like an intended successor to Sarah Jane Adventures. It was closer to the truth that it was taking on Torchwood’s role of BBC Three’s ‘grown up’ Who. But the confusion still soured fans’ initial impressions.

Chaotic scheduling and an ill fated experiment with digital-first releases added to its problems. All resulting in a brilliant edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger. One which the commissioning gods condemned to the most frustrating lack of resolution since Sapphire and Steel’s cafe window floated away into the stars.

Class lives again thanks to Big Finish, with this single release following on from four earlier boxsets. Disappointingly, though, a licensing limitation meant these new stories had to take place between the original episodes and not stray beyond that cliffhanger. In many ways, Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince is the ultimate end point for that approach. For the most part it’s essentially a potted recap of the events of the television series. Told largely in the form of Charlie’s diary, it’s essentially a two-hander between Greg Austin as Charlie and Jordan Renzo’s Matteusz. All of the key events of Class pop up again, starting with the events of the flashback where the Doctor rescues Charlie and Quill from the destruction of their peoples.

 

Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince - Jordan Renzo & Greg Austin (c) Big Finish
Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince – Jordan Renzo & Greg Austin (c) Big Finish

Secret Diary brings us back beyond the beginning, starting with Charlie’s earliest days at Coal Hill

We also get a bit of a prelude to the first episode, as Charlie tries to adapt to life on Earth, gains the unfortunate nickname “fartboy,” first realizes he might like like his classmate Matteusz, and begins to suspect the Shadow Kin may be closing in. And throughout we get a lot of additional insight into the progression of Charlie and Matteusz’ relationship. The episode lets us better understand exactly how all these events are effecting it and them. All the same, it’s a little hard to see who the target audience for most of Secret Diary is.

As an introduction to the Doctor Who spin-off, catching potential new listeners up, it’s too scattered and piecemeal. Some episodes, like The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo get almost blow-by-blow retellings. But at other times Blair Mowat’s script clearly assumes everyone has already seen the episodes. Concepts and characters like killer petals, Dorothea, and April’s ability to see into the Shadow King’s mind pop up with no explanation. On the other side, there are those hardcore fans most likely to be invested enough to buy Class audios nine years later. But for them there’s nothing really new in most of the scenes here.

 

The story climaxes with a fantastically unexpected ending that demands more returns to the world of Class

Yet despite that, Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince has to be an essential purchase for any one invested in goings on at Coal Hill Academy. The final scenes of the play liven things up considerably, with twists and hidden secrets that cast everything that’s gone before in a whole new light. Unfortunately, Big Finish have specifically requested that reviewers not reveal anything at all about this sequence, so you’ll simply have to trust Blogtor that it’s enough to get your heart beating faster at the sheer audacity of what it’s doing. It also makes the prospect of any future Class sets supremely exciting. Certainly, if there is a fifth volume, you’ll want to have gotten aboard here, where everything changes forever.

So, Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince is less a play of two halves, and more one where the last ten minutes justifies the previous fifty. But what a last ten minutes they are.

 

Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish

Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince

What’s it like being an alien stranded on a strange planet in the aftermath of a genocide? What would you think of Earth’s culture? What’s it like falling in love with a human when you only met one just the other week? Who is the Doctor?

And what happens if your secret diary falls into the wrong hands…?

Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince, written by the original TV series’ music composer, Blair Mowat, is now available to own for just £10.99 (CD + download) or £8.99 (download only). The exclusive audio will be strictly limited to a pressing of 1,000 CDs.

 

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