It’s exam season and as Class is dismissed for the foreseeable future, will it get a passing final grade?

The final Class is now in session. Possibly. With Volume 4 bringing Big Finish’s episode count up to 12, the initial licence comes to an end with this set. With the end in sight, director/producer/script editor Scott Handcock is presented with a conundrum. How do you do a series finale for a show that already has a series finale? Well, the answer to that may surprise you, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. We have two other stories to enjoy before we come to that. This time, however, we are granted more familiar names in the scriptwriter’s chair. Will falling back on something familiar help this final set, or will the result be all too predictable?

Mock by Alfie Shaw

ATTENTION STUDENTS!!! THE COAL HILL ACADEMY A-LEVEL SCIENCE MOCK EXAM IS ABOUT TO COMMENCE! PLEASE PUT AWAY ALL MOBILE PHONES AND ANSWER AIDS! PLEASE IGNORE THE OMINOUS WHISPERING AND CHANTING BY PARTICULAR STUDENTS! ANY QUERIES OR REQUESTS FOR BATHROOM BREAKS, PLEASE NOTIFY MISS QUILL, AT YOUR OWN RISK! SHE HAS ENOUGH TO BE GETTING ON WITH, FINDING OUT WHAT IS IN HER HEAD! YOU HAVE ONE HOUR; WHEN FINISHED, CALL MY NAME! YOU MAY BEGIN NOW!!!

Alfie Shaw takes a short trip (ba-dum tsch) to open our finale set and takes on the most hated of hated institutions in secondary education; the mock exam. As this tale progresses, you begin to realise that his title of choice has another meaning. Once that revelation is sprung, the story takes a turn into unexpected but brilliant areas. Despite the twists, the deconstruction of the faux examinations remains front and centre, being a tool for both plot and allegory as needed.

All the regular cast make their mark known in this story, but it is primarily Greg Austin and Dervla Kirwan as Charlie and Miss Quill who get the spotlight in this story. They venture further down the rabbit hole of their relationship and the similarities they share but won’t admit to. Alongside them, we have Gareth Pierce as Miss Quill’s partner in suffering; Mr Braithwaite. Although mellow at first, following the change in the story’s direction he relishes every line he’s given! Plus, the talents of Aled Bidder, Annes Elwy, Ashleigh Haddad and Roanna Lewis as the other suffering students help to create such a believable environment that you might just traumatic flashbacks to your own mock exams. They also help heighten the tension when the you know what begins. You’ll hear what I mean…

The Creeper by Lizzie Hopley

Halloween has arrived at Coal Hill and with it the party to end all parties. At least, that’s what April is hoping for. She’s got punch sorted. Hired a DJ. She has even convinced Charlie to dress up as the famous Count! (Now there’s an image!) But for Miss Quill, the night is not for fun and games, as she’s detected something non-terrestrial out in the wider wasteland of Shoreditch. To keep Charlie from sticking his nose in, she’s bringing along Matteusz in his place. Once they find out where the source is, that’s when things begin to get terrifying…

It’s surprising how few Halloween themed episodes of Doctor Who and its spin-offs there are, considering it’s the perfect holiday for them to lampoon. Thankfully, Lizzie Hopley gives us the gothic Halloween special we’ve all been craving, from the silliness of the themed disco, to the unapologetic tonal shift of a full on, horrifying haunted house. With so many twists and turns, the listener my begin for forget what is real and what is a nightmarish fantasy.

Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Lizzie Hopley (Miss Steel) and Sophie Hopkins (April Maclean) (c) Big Finish

Austin and Kirwan, alongside Sophie Hopkins and Jordan Renzo, take on the main mantles for this episode and though we may already be familiar with the pairing of April and Charlie, Quill and Matteusz makes for an interesting combination. We get a bit more character development between the two with revelations as Charlie isn’t around. Hopley also makes an appearance as the mysterious Miss Steel, who knows more than she lets on about the strange happenings. Plus a small cameo from someone or other as the Party DJ.

What’s that? He’s the writer of the next story? And also the composer? Ah…

Queen of Rhodia by Blair Mowat

Andra’ath of the Quill has returned home. Home to Rhodia. But how can she? Rhodia is gone. Dead. Destroyed by the Shadowkin.

And yet, here she is. But something is odd. She’s now captain of the Royal Guard of Rhodians, personal bodyguard of the Rhodian Queen. Everyone looks and sounds familiar, but not from her distant past, more her recent past. But as the story of this new home unfurls, Quill realising the truth of what is happening and that could mean an untimely end…

After composing music for the last 19 episodes across TV and audio, Blair Mowat takes on the writing duties for not only his first script, but the script for the finale of Big Finish’s Class range. No sweat then. But for this pseudo-finale Mowat pulls out all the stops and creates a script that takes all the main characters and deconstructs them in a way that makes them more engaging, giving the cast the chance to flex their acting talents in areas the characters would not normally engage in. In his own way Mowat gives us a love letter to the series, and neatly ties it into the TV series finale, capping off Big Finish’s run perfectly.

Dervla Kirwan (Miss Quill) and Simon Armstrong (Corporal Blood) (c) Big Finish

Class Cast

As previously mentioned, all the regulars return and although the spotlight is primarily on Dervla Kirwan as Quill, Austin, Elsayed, Hopkins, Renzo and McGibbon all get to have fun with their performances in ways they normally wouldn’t. McGibbon especially goes full on into the new direction she’s provided. Simon Armstrong rounds out the cast as Corporal Blood and, like Gareth Pierce before him, gets some of the best lines in the whole episode. Despite the extra workload as a writer, Mowat also brings out a killer score, not just for this episode but for the previous two as well, alongside stellar sound work from Luke Pietnik and Richard Fox.

Overall

With that finale done, the current Big Finish licence for Class has now come to an end. Although not ruled out entirely, renegotiation will have to be done if we are to see a new semester at Coal Hill Academy. But even if we don’t get more, Scott Handcock and his crack team of Classmates, from cast, to writers, to sound masters, have all defied possibility and done the impossible; made Class a successful range in its own right. If this is where it is to end and the rift closes for good, I doubt one could ask for more…

Class: Volume 4 is now available for purchase on Download and limited edition CD set from the Big Finish website.

Class: Volume 4 (c) Big Finish

Class: Volume 4

Three new adventures for the students of Coal Hill Academy, based on the television series created by Patrick Ness.

4.1 Mock by Alfie Shaw

As the students of Coal Hill Academy prepare to tackle exam season, Quill and Charlie find themselves tested to their limits. Childhood memories from their homeworld threaten to hijack the present – and there are no easy answers.

4.2 The Creeper by Lizzie Hopley

While the pupils of Coal Hill Academy celebrate Hallowe’en, Quill and Matteusz investigate an alien distress call emanating from a boarded-up house in Shoreditch. Can April and Charlie reach them before it’s too late? And what is the ‘Creeper’ inside?

4.3 Queen of Rhodia by Blair Mowat

Quill wakes to find herself unexpectedly back on Rhodia – which is impossible – though not quite as impossible as the life that waits for her there. To save her future, Quill must turn her back on the past. But is this the end or a new beginning?

Cast

  • Greg Austin (Charlie Smith)
  • Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh)
  • Sophie Hopkins (April Maclean)
  • Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski)
  • Joanna McGibbon (Tanya Adeola)
  • Dervla Kirwan (Miss Quill)
  • Simon Armstrong (Corporal Blood)
  • Aled Bidder (Guard)
  • Annes Elwy (Rebel)
  • Ashleigh Haddad (Student)
  • Lizzie Hopley (Miss Steel)
  • Roanna Lewis (Student)
  • Kate Morgan-Jones (Trish)
  • Blair Mowat (Halloween DJ)
  • Gareth Pierce (Mr Braithwaite)

Credits

  • Sound Design: Luke Pietnik and Richard Fox @ FoxYason Studios
  • Based on characters created by Patrick Ness
  • Senior Producer: David Richardson
  • Cover Artist: Tom Webster
  • Director: Scott Handcock
  • Executive Producer: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
  • Music: Blair Mowat
  • Producer: Scott Handcock
  • Script Editor: Scott Handcock
  • Written by Alfie Shaw, Blair Mowat and Lizzie Hopley

Class: Volume 4 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.

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Jack Ryan
Jack (real name John, calls himself Jack as a pun on Tom Clancy’s character) is a reviewer from Wexford, Ireland. An avid fan of sci-fi from five years old, with an unhealthy addiction to Doctor Who for the past thirteen years. His speciality for review is Big Finish audios, which he has had an even greater addiction to for the last six years. Other claims to fame include a Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing, a co-organiser for the WexWorlds Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Gaming Festival, regular tweetalongs and riffings of Who every Thursday evening, and once nearly sent Matthew Waterhouse to hospital with a concussion.

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