‘Dropping’ on the shiny, futuristic BBC Three – so bleeding edge it isn’t even on telly, which is now strictly for parents and squares – Class is a new, teen-friendly outpost of the Doctor Who superbrand, set in the Shoreditch school featured in Who’s very first episode, 53 years ago.
Back then, Coal Hill existed in a black and white world of chalk dust, rickets and Routemaster buses; now, it’s called Coal Hill Academy, which looks like Google HQ, and everyone wears Hollister and uses Uber.
Thanks to the Doctor’s meddling over the years (he was even the caretaker, briefly), the school is also the location for a ‘bunghole in time’ through which all manner of alien nasties keep ‘pooping through’. Think Grange Hill with monsters – except, unlike the PE teacher here, Bullet Baxter was never possessed by a homicidal dragon tattoo. Mrs McCluskey wouldn’t have stood for it.
If this sounds familiar territory, writer Patrick Ness at least acknowledges the vampire slayer in the room with a direct reference to Buffy – the show to which Class owes even more of its DNA than the one about the guy in the blue box.
Alongside a likeable cast of young newcomers, Katherine Kelly (yes, again – she’s everywhere at the moment) is typically fabulous as an icy, ballbreaker of a science teacher who, when she’s not grinding the kids’ smartphones under her kitten heels, is to be found confronting slavering beasts in the corridor with a cry of “I am war itself!’ (It’s certainly more original than ‘no running’.)
It’s a witty, sparky but surprisingly bloody affair, with buckets of gore and graphic body horror they wouldn’t get away with on the parent show (to say nothing of the occasional cuss and bare buttock).
The first episode’s final reel saw the good Doctor himself making a hero’s entrance, Peter Capaldi brilliantly waspish as he taunted a powerful alien warlord with jokes about Ikea.
Without him around, the rest of the cast will have to defend the Earth themselves, while also facing more down-to-earth battles with relationships, family, homework and hormones. Give me the scary monsters any day.
The School that Got Teens Reading
Class wasn’t the scariest school-based TV show this week. That honour went to this dispiriting look at why teenagers have ‘fallen out of love with reading’ (short answer: shiny, shiny screens). Comedian Javone Prince faced his toughest crowd yet as he virtually pleaded with the kids in a Lancashire comprehensive to open a book. Though I forgive young farmer Alex, who was too busy daydreaming about silage to bother with reading or, indeed, affairs of the heart – despite admitting there was ‘one girl I took slurry-spreading’. The sly dog.
The Great British Bake Off
I’m afraid you have me at something of a disadvantage, as you’ve seen the Bake Off final and I haven’t. But I couldn’t let the last BBC episode (bar two Christmas specials) pass without paying tribute to a show that’s earned its place as the nation’s favourite thanks to a quintessentially English mix of cake and good manners, with just a dash of naughty but nice seaside postcard humour. The fact it has been killed by money and greed probably says something equally relevant – but much less palatable – about modern Britain.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 27, 2016
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