A new term has begun for Doctor Who spin-off Class under the tutelage of Big Finish.
Class was created by lauded YA author Patrick Ness for BBC Three’s new online-only initiative in late 2016. Despite critical acclaim (86% on Rotten Tomatoes) the series failed to find an audience, described by some critics as “the spin-off no-one asked for”. Low viewing figures for its BBC One airing and the departure of Ness led to the cancellation of the second series in September last year.
Enter Big Finish.
Soon after online broadcast of the series, Big Finish saw interest in bringing the series to audio. A few months ago, the cast posted photos of themselves together in suspiciously familiar recording booths. Not long after, the confirmation came in that Big Finish had taken up the task of reviving the series. Big Finish fans had many questions. Chief among them: can Class be redeemed in the eyes of the fans?
Today we’re looking at Volume One. Keep an eye out for our review of Volume Two coming very soon.
Gifted by Roy Gill
Kicking off the set is a story from Big Finish mainstay Roy Gill, who has put a new spin on one of the show’s less popular relationships. When Ram and April come across the new kid on the block, Thomas Laneford, April sees a chance for a new friend. Ram, however, sees a chance to reclaim his former glories with the help of the mysterious Mab. Gill has used a small cast to great effect, building complex relationships between the four characters. Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed do a decent job not only getting back into character but bringing the last two years of experience to bear in rounding out the characters. The brilliant Deirdre Mullins finally gives Class the sort of villain that was lacking on TV, setting the ideal tone for Big Finish’s first revisit to Coal Hill Academy.
Life Experience by Jenny T Colgan
Any doubts about this set can be cast aside after Jenny T Colgan’s masterpiece of a script. It’s work experience time at Coal Hill Academy; Tanya and Ram have signed themselves up for Sevelin Industries. Tanya’s excited; Ram’s bored; The Mayor’s arrived,and an unknown creature is loose in the labs. Just your average Monday. Only, who’ll make it to Tuesday? Colgan’s past work on novels and audios in the worlds of Doctor Who proves she’s reliable at balancing aliens, actions and character. Class’s first real “base under siege” story has been given a unique twist, a strong set of supporting characters and everything’s balanced brilliantly. An immersive and brutal story is only let down by the rapid-fire introduction of a lot of expendables early on that become hard to keep track of. But, as you might guess, this gets whittled down in pretty short order. There’s also a minor issue with the sound design where a moment involving fire doesn’t quite come across clearly in the soundscape. Vivian Oparah steals the show with a lot of great dialogue to prove her chops as an actor crafted by a writer who clearly has a handle on Tanya’s character. This is definitely the highlight of Volume One.
Tell Me You Love Me by Scott Handcock
Finishing off this first volume is a contribution from the series director and producer Scott Handcock. Class is out and Charlie and Matteusz find themselves alone, which is how they prefer it. Though they weren’t planning to do much talking, Matteusz can’t stop! And soon the effect has spread to Charlie. Their only hope is Quill. But when she discovers the cause of their unending stream of babble, she learns the two lovebirds are in more danger than they realise. Handcock has taken advantage of his role as director to deliver a technically complicated three-hander story in a way that keeps the focus on the right person. The three leads all do an excellent job with a difficult script, though Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo seem to take a few scenes to warm up to the medium. Katherine Kelly proves a delightful wildcard in the story, giving a wonderfully snarky performance as Quill.
Halfway through Big Finish’s relaunch of Class, it’s clear that the team have their own ideas on the elements of the series that are ripe for development. The input of Gill, Colgan and Handcock demonstrates how exciting the series can be with a wider range of voices than it was perhaps afforded on TV. With the main cast back on board and adjusting quickly to the audio format, alongside original series composer Blair Mowat, the release feels authentic as an adaptation of the TV series and its distinctive elements. With three veteran Big Finish writers onboard, there was a risk that the series could lose its identity in the transition to audio. Luckily, the team have worked to prevent this and the result is a varied and creative new take on the world of Class.
This title was released in August 2018. It is exclusive to the Big Finish website.
Three new adventures for the students of Coal Hill Academy, based on the television series created by Patrick Ness.
1.1 Gifted by Roy Gill
When a talent scout arrives in Shoreditch, Ram sees an opportunity to further his goals, whilst April strikes up a friendship with new boy, Thomas Laneford. Their choices draw all three to Carterhaugh House – but who is the mysterious Mab that waits for them there…?
1.2 Life Experience by Jenny T Colgan
After signing up for work experience at Sevelin Laboratories, Tanya and Ram find themselves thrust into the world of medical research. But dark secrets lie at the heart of Sevelin Industries – and not everyone can make it out alive…
1.3 Tell Me You Love Me by Scott Handcock
The school day has ended. Charlie and Matteusz find themselves alone – though not quite as alone as they first believed. Three little words could mean the difference between life and death… and Quill is the only person they can turn to.
THIS CD BOX SET IS A LIMITED PRESSING. ORDER NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT.
Written By: Roy Gill, Jenny T Colgan, Scott Handcock
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Katherine Kelly (Miss Quill), Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh), Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean), Vivian Oparah (Tanya Adeola), Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski), Rhys Isaac-Jones (Thomas Laneford), Deirdre Mullins (Mab), Lu Corfield (Marta Vanderburgh), Scott Haran (Jason Campbell), Joe Shire (Aubrey Khan), Jasmine M Stewart (The Mayor), Liz Sutherland-Lim (Alicia Yan), Gavin Swift (Boris). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer Scott Handcock
Script Editor Scott Handcock, James Goss
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs