The upcoming new spin-off, Class, is mere hours away from being released to all those lucky people who reside in UK and Australia. Coal Hill is preparing for the prom but when a mysterious alien attacks them, they are soon charged with defending Coal Hill.
Please note: This review contains very minor spoilers. It also mentions very small things about episode 2 since they're released at the same time.
I started my last preview review, for The Husbands of River Song, saying that I was happy that the show returned to some fun after a long dark period. That did not last long as now we're back to some darkness in the Whoniverse with Class. Fundamentally, this is Torchwood meets Sarah Jane Adventures. The school setting and the rift. The kids and the adult leader. And yet it manages to stand on its own.
Class comes with the aim to be dark, fun and sexy. It hits all those nails on the head with the opening episode. It's great to see some darkness in the Whoniverse that isn't as immature as Torchwood (as much as I absolutely love it) and isn't afraid to be covered in blood or swear due to a PG audience.
When the BBC said this show isn't for kids, they weren't kidding. It's not. (Got the point yet?) That said, one of the best things about this episode (and the next for that matter) is that, unlike Torchwood, it doesn't do shit for the sake of doing shit. There's no obligatory sex alien or overuse of swearing. It feels much more authentic, probably due to Patrick Ness's experience in young adult fiction.
It introduces each character very well and, as someone in the target audience, I feel like they're pretty relatable and can connect with them. All the stars, Greg Austin as Charlie, Sophie Hopkins as April, Fady Elsayed as Ram and Vivian Oparah as Tanya, Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill, do a good job of bringing their characters to life. Katherine Kelly probably does the best job as the ice cold Miss Quill.
The episode focused on Charlie, April and Miss Quill, leaving Ram and Tanya a small bit to the side. Only one member felt like they were somewhat wasted in the pilot, Vivian Oparah's Tanya, although it gives the strong indication that her role will be far greater in succeeding episode, and took a much greater role alongside Ram in episode 2, even if it is clichéd.
Then of course, there's the member that is so left out, I forgot about him until the final minute of writing this. I could have edited him in earlier but I this really emphasises how at the end of episode 1 (and especially episode 2) how little I thought of him. And that is the Jordan Renzo's Matteusz. He does a fine job in the role but he's just sort of...there. He is another character that I hope will be expanded upon.
The pacing of the pilot is very well done. It provides enough back-story in the more important characters to, thankfully, answer most of your questions from the outset, which is a relief to me as I hate having lots of outstanding questions open for very long periods. Yet it is still fast-paced enough to feel like something is happening, mixing the exposition in with the action.
That something is the Shadow Kin. They're a great terrifying monster to start off the show with, complete with a nice and personal backstory. It's difficult to say much more without spoiling.
The special effects, especially the CGI, in this episode are worth mentioning. Since it airs on BBC Three and the international broadcast game is very weak, I was expecting CGI to be one of the main things the show to fall flat on. That is most definitely not the case. Of course, watching in 360p means it's very difficult to discern how good these things actually are and what it will be like in HD. Milk and Millennium FX did a great job. Unfortunately, this is the pilot and this could fall flat in future episodes.
The cinematography is absolutely wonderful. The director, Edward Bazalgette, who previously directed The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived, gave the episode some wonderful shots and effects, like the Sherlock mobile text effect (although that has now been in several shows).
The musical score, created by Blair Mowat (known to us as the composer for Torchwood at Big Finish) instead of the usual Murray Gold, is wonderful. While you'll find jazzed up variants of A Good Man and The Doctor's Theme, most of them are original, thematic and well mixed in (although again, this is a low-quality preview copy so mileage may vary in the final thing).
The title sequence? Well, that was incredible! It consisted of a simple "Main Title WIP" screen. Amazing. That said, it was made by Momoco, who previously made title sequences for shows like Luthor, Hannibal and Misfits and several other shows, all of which have similar formats and great sequences so we can expect something similar.
The theme tune, on the other hand, was actually present. Up All Night by Alex Clare, fits the show, is rocky and fun to listen to. I wasn't sure on having a theme tune with lyrics in the Whoniverse, but I'm warming up to it. (Of course, it could have also just been temp music and may not end up in the final product).
And finally...Peter Capaldi's cameo. It was really good albeit he feels a tad rusty and really likes his sonic. A lot. A good portion of that is wishful thinking though. Capaldi's only in it for around 10 minutes, which I feel is a nice compromise since it's enough to give it a good kickstart but short enough to not take over the show. It really does send the message that it is the same universe, The Doctor has been involved in so much while also showing that the universe is so much deeper than we see in Doctor Who. This show is NOT your Doctor Who fix.
Overall, this episode is a strong start and the show has potential. It's funny, dramatic, well-written but it needs to keep that up for the rest of the series. IMHO, 8/10