When “Doctor Who” premiered this past weekend it did so along with the newest Who Universe spinoff, BBC’s “Class” which follows a group of students at Coal Hill School, an insitution that has had a special place in Who history since day one, as they deal with typical high school drama and atypical alien invaders.
Overall, I liked the pilot for “Class”. It had a lot of heavy lifting to do introducing us to five brand new characters and setting up the world in which it will operate, all while trying to make us care about said new characters when they find themselves in mortal danger and do it all in 45 minutes.
In “Class” we have some fairly stereotypical roles for a show that revolves around a high school: The self assured jock in Ram, the overly enthusiastic about school, girl who can’t make friends in April, the girl who is incredibly bright, two years ahead in school but held back socially by an overbearing parent in Tanya, the pop culturally ignorant, awkward guy who can’t read social cues in Charlie, and the stereotypical mean teacher who seems to hate kids in Miss Quill. All of them are played pretty well by the cast but they do fall into standard character tropes for most of the episode until the climax in which they begin to grow beyond those tropes.
While the characters do come off a bit like cookie cutter high school drama movie characters, I see enough potential in them that as they go through the trials of fighting off alien threats week after week, I believe they will become more than what they are now.
Peter Capalidi shows up as the Twelfth Doctor in the back quarter of this episode and serves to help our main characters make sense of what is going on and ground the show firmly in the Who Universe. While I love Capaldi’s Doctor (and will probably shed at least one tear when he leaves), his apperance in this episode felt tacked on and almost discordant with everything else. I completely understand why he showed up and why he was needed to make the show work but I feel the execution wasn’t quite there.
It is revealed over the course of the episode that two characters have had a past encounter with the Doctor, I feel like that part of the story and the weight it carries for those two characters doesn’t quite hit home like it should. The rest of the goings on in the episode simply don’t allow for that part to breathe and develop as much as it needs to. I really think the creators missed an opportunity by not using an earlier “Doctor Who” episode as a backdoor pilot to introduce these two characters and give their back story the development it richly deserves.
One quick note on the effects in this episode – they were amazing. Flat out awesome and borderline cinematic. The BBC clearly poured some cash into this.
All in all, “For Tonight We Might Die” is a pretty solid pilot that presents some interesting story lines to play with and explore over the next seven episodes. Hopefully the show rises to the occasion and joins “Torchwood” as yet another beloved spinoff of “Doctor Who”.