Class is back in session. But with transfers and substitutes in place for Volume 3, will Big Finish’s winning streak be over?
Versions of Class in other mediums have been more successful than the original televised series. Fresh writers have taken characteristics from Patrick Ness’ original material and created something new. It has been engaging, unique from what came before, creating concepts that the original TV series would have been unable to do. The first two volumes of Class on Big Finish have helped prove that point. We have been treated to more character focused stories, and even creating a new crossover with not just the main show, but a classic beloved story. With the arrival of two new volumes, it seems set for that streak to continue. However, there was a key change announced alongside it.
Two of the original six actors were not able to return to record and as such, had to be recast. Whilst Big Finish is no stranger to recasting, handling the subject in a capable and respectful way, this is something altogether different to the previous attempts. So, this volume will be interesting to say the very least…
The Soers’ Ditch by Carl Rowens
Charlie, Ram, April and Matteusz have decided to have a night out. A night of fun, frolics, bowling, and booze. But when the festivities finish and they begin to find their way home, they come across some unusual kids, who bring them to a world beyond what they can see, right on their doorstep. But the kids have plans for the group, plans that involve a particularly nasty version of Capture the Flag…
For Volume 3, the first thing to note is that all of the writers are new, brand new with their first scripts for Big Finish. As proven with the Torchwood range new blood is never a bad idea when done right, and this story is the start of something right. Carl Rowens not only nails the more sci-fi and supernatural aspects of his script, but also characterisation. His original characters are done well and his work for the regulars helps flesh them out adding more layers to them.
Alongside Rowens’ script, the episode is elevated further by the cast. Interestingly, this story only features the regular cast who have not been recast. This is something that, as will be elaborated later, is done for the best. The returning cast of Greg Austin, Sophie Hopkins, Fady Elsayed and Jordan Renzo all excel in their roles and make the characters more grounded and relatable. Additionally, the supporting cast of McKenzie Alexander, Amanda Shodeko, Ian Abeysekera and Sakuntala Ramanee are all brilliant. Each are given a chance to try and outdo each other in the “I’m more connivingly evil than you” department with their characters.
Catfish by Kate Thorman
Another new student has made their way to Coal Hill School, and has very quickly become a favourite of nearly everybody, especially Tanya. In fact, the two of them get on so well, they look set to become an item. That is until things begin to become hostile between Tanya and her classmates. As Tanya reflects on the matter, she begins to wonder if there is some external alien influence on her. Or is the reality something altogether more human?
Bringing the action back to school, Kate Thorman takes a simple and potentially cliched concept from the teenage drama playbook and works something good out of it. Not only that but she utilises it so well that until the last 15 minutes you’re left wondering which way it’s going to play out. It feels so normal and believable that you wonder if anything sci-fi is involved at all. This leads to a surprisingly tense story, that really ramps up once the truth is revealed…
As the returning cast got their shot in the first episode, this one is the first to focus on one of the recasts, and it’s a well executed way to do it. Joanna McGibbon nails the character of Tanya without missing a beat. McGibbon gets the voice, tone and mannerisms down perfectly and also introduces a few more layers to help make the character her own. Alongside McGibbon, and the returning regulars, Jacob Daniels also shines as Tanya’s boyfriend, Paul. His performance adds that little bit of extra realism with the subject matter being portrayed. Although Paul may be the catalyst for the episode, it truly is Tanya’s moment to shine, and, along with her new actress, shine she does.
Sweet Nothings by Michael Dennis
Quill has had it. She has well and truly had it. She’s had it with the school, the pupils, the teachers, the “insufferable Rhodian wretch” as she calls him. Most of all, she’s had it with that pretentious, insufferable man waiting outside the school gates every evening for her. EVERY. DAMN. DAY. So, one day, she decides to try and get rid of him. But instead, he rids her of her meandering exile on Earth, and shows her a wonder of discoveries and some Quillianesque fun times. It’s almost too good to be true… is it?
From an episode focused on one recast character, we now go to the other one. With the final story in this set, Michael Dennis gives us the question of “What if Quill was The Doctor’s Companion?” Along with “What if we had that… but also had a morally ambiguous Doctor?” The end result is a hedonistic romp of the ages and a brilliant madcap story to close the set, with Quill being unmistakably Quill and enjoying every single second of the freedom she gets in this story.
Big Finish have turned to Dervla Kirwan to recapture the manic madness and slightly sadistic pleasure that Katherine Kelly originated. Even more so than McGibbon, Kirwan encapsulates the role in one fell swoop and makes you completely forget you’re listening to another actor. Kirwan not only emulates Kelly, but adds her own interpretation on the role.
Alongside Kirwan we have Richard Mylan playing the enigmatically titled ‘The Man’ who has the most amount of fun possible with the premise of “sarcastic, hedonistic Doctor”. Sion Pritchard also adds considerable talent into the mix with regulars Austin and Renzo. Finally, one last cast commendation is to be given to Ross Ford and Kate Morgan-Jones, as despite there only being one credit for them on the cast list, in actuality they play several different and unique extra students across the three stories, never once sounding similar to any other they perform as.
Blair Mowat returns to compose the music for the set and his talents are brought to their near zenith with this set. Being one of the few people to work on the series in both TV and audio format, he understands the style of the series and his soundtrack exemplifies it. As a result, it bridges the gap not only between the TV and audio series, but also to the changes made between the first two volumes and this one. Supporting Mowat’s music, the sound design by Richard Fox and Luke Pietnik hits the mark, with nothing sounding out of place.
The first two volumes have proven that audio supremo Scott Handcock can take even the most divisive of series and squeeze some gold out of it. This one has not only reconfirmed that, but even that some of the best gold can come when presented with further challenges. The only challenge he has now is the final challenge. A series finale, for a series that already has a series finale. Thankfully, he knows just the person for the job…
Class: Volume 3 is now available for purchase on Download and limited edition CD set from the Big Finish Website.
Class: Volume 3
Three new adventures for the students of Coal Hill Academy, based on the television series created by Patrick Ness.
3.1 The Soers’ Ditch by Carl Rowens
After a disastrous double date night, Charlie, April, Ram and Matteusz find themselves transported to another level of reality. Can they survive the Soers’ ritualistic traditions? And more importantly, can they save their friendships?
3.2 Catfish by Kate Thorman
When a new student transfers to Coal Hill Academy, everyone goes out of their way to make him feel welcome, and Tanya is especially surprised by how much they have in common. Will she sacrifice best friends for her very first boyfriend?
3.3 Sweet Nothings by Michael Dennis
Living on Earth isn’t easy when you’re used to life as an alien freedom fighter. For Quill, it’s a lonely existence – until she meets a Man outside Coal Hill Academy: the Man who can offer her everything she misses from her past… and more.
- Greg Austin (Charlie Smith)
- Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh)
- Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean)
- Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski)
- Joanna McGibbon (Tanya Adeola)
- Dervla Kirwan (Miss Quill)
- Ian Abeysekera (Patriarch)
- McKenzie Alexander (Runthar)
- Jacob Daniels (Paul Sanchez)
- Ross Ford (Mark)
- Kate Morgan-Jones (Trish)
- Richard Mylan (The Man)
- Sion Pritchard (The Tictac)
- Sakuntala Ramanee (Matriarch)
- Amanda Shodeko (Agen)
- Sound Design by Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios and Luke Pietnik
- Based on characters created by Patrick Ness
- Senior Producer: David Richardson
- Cover Artist: Tom Webster
- Director: Scott Handcock
- Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
- Music by Blair Mowat
- Producer: Scott Handcock
- Script Editor: Scott Handcock
- Written by Carl Rowens, Kate Thorman and Michael Dennis
Class: Volume 3 is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD for £19.99 with a limited CD pressing of 1000 copies or digital download for £16.99 at the Big Finish website. All CD purchases unlock a download option via the Big Finish app and the Big Finish website.
Please note that Big Finish is currently operating a digital-first release schedule. The mailout of collector’s edition CDs will be delayed, but all purchases of this release unlock a digital copy that can be immediately downloaded or played on the Big Finish app from the release date.