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Volume 2 of the new adventures for the Class gang features three new episodes, each one giving our characters some exciting new threats to face. And what fun it is! These two sets have given me my belief in Class back, I think it is safe to say that Class has found its home at Big Finish.

Class is back in session with three brand new adventures!

April likes being the girl who organises events at Coal Hill, but what happens when Reagan Harper arrives. People flock around her as she helps them with their problems, even Ram and Tanya are taken in. But April doesn’t trust Reagan. There is something strange about her. Almost alien…

Tanya and Matteusz find themselves victims of bullying. But someone is looking out for the victims, some kind of avenging angel. But those bullies are ending up in comas. Tanya and Matteusz find themselves thrust into a mystery leading back to the sixties. And they have to wonder who the real bullies are…

Charlie and Quill are called back into Coal School after hours when an alarm is triggered. They find a stranger who calls herself ‘Ace’ in the main hall but she isn’t alone. There is a lone Dalek stalking the corridors, hunting them down, determined to stop their defeat at the hands of the Doctor and Ace in 1963. But When Charlie vanishes in time, Quill has to make a rash allegiance. But will it be one she comes to regret…

The cover for Class Volume Two
The cover for Class Volume Two

EVERYBODY LOVES REAGAN

The second volume kicks off with Everybody Loves Reagan by Tim Foley. Like the opening episode of Volume One, this episode centres around April and Ram, early on in their doomed relationship. He throws Tanya into the mix as well and as a result, Everybody Loves Reagan comes away as an excellent look at the nature of friendship.

The antagonist, even if that line is blurred is Reagan, a girl who has transferred, who quickly becomes the school most beloved student, much to the chagrin of April. Taj Atwal is excellent as Reagan, helping to blur the lines between hero and villain for her character.

In keeping with these sets so far, Foley adds another interesting villain to the mythos. Gifted featured a creature who could give you anything you truly desired and Everybody Loves Reagan gives us a villain who can take your troubles away. And this is where those much-mentioned lines get blurred, is it really something evil to take away someone’s troubles and pains? Or are they what makes us, us?

These sets have done a terrific job at mixing and matching characters that didn’t normally get much to do with each other on the television and April, Ram and Tanya make an interesting trio. Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed put in some particularly strong performances. Vivian Oparah does a good job too, but she isn’t the main focus of this story. She is excellent in the next story, however.

Everybody Loves Reagan is another interesting entry into the world of Class

NOW YOU KNOW…

The second story in this set is, Now You Know… by Tim Leng and it tackles the heavy subject of bullying.

Bullying is something that affected me heavily in my school years. I was bullied very badly and I was deeply moved by this story. In a good way mind!

Now You Know… kicks off almost as a conspiracy story, with letters being given out by teachers at Coal Hill about sick students and they are trying to cover up what is going on in their school. But Tanya and Matteusz quickly discover that it goes far beyond the latest cover-up. There is a mystery that dates back to the sixties. The rift has been opening all that time and things have come through. There is even a cool mention about Ian, Barbara and Susan that pleased this fan’s heart!

Leng pens a powerful story here. Many people say that their school years were the best of their lives. And maybe for some, they were. But for many other people, they were pure hell. In writing Peter Dillard, the school’s avenging angel, Leng seemed to delve into my experiences. My bullying began with name calling and silly things like being pushed around. But that quickly developed into punching and abuse from fellow students, be it, physical, psychological or verbal. It was pure hell for me.

And like Tanya and Mattuesz, I was bullied because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t have the latest tech, I was brighter and more intelligent than most of the students and I liked to learn. Of course, now the tables have turned. Not quite in the same way that Leng makes the bullies pay for what they have done, mine have done time in cells, been fined, picked up for possession of drugs and had sixteen screaming babies by the time they were twenty! What is it they say about karma?!

Leng’s story really moved me, it brought back memories that were both happy and painful for me but had the script been written any other way, the heavy topic it chooses to look at wouldn’t have worked and have been cheapened. And the performances from Vivian Oparah and Jordan Renzo are spot on! Now You Know… is the strongest story of this set, both volumes and one of the most moving pieces of fiction Big Finish have in their catalogue for people who have been through the same things. Well done everyone!

The power behind In Remembrance. Nicholas Briggs, Greg Austin, Katherine Kelly, Scott Handcock and Sophie Aldred
The power behind In Remembrance. Nicholas Briggs, Greg Austin, Katherine Kelly, Scott Handcock and Sophie Aldred

IN REMEMBRANCE

The third and final story of this set is perhaps the story that raised the most eyebrows from fans both hardcore and casual. Guy Adams pens In Remembrance that plays with the popular story Remembrance of the Daleks and works it for a modern audience. And it really works. It is an excellent take on the 1980s epic.

On television, Class was missing something that both The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood had, in the form of an audience identification figure. In Remembrance gives us two. We’ve got Ace and the Daleks! What a pairing.

Being set in the time of Remembrance, it is really nice to hear Nicholas Briggs doing the voices for the 1980s Daleks. They have perhaps the most distinctive voices in the timeline of the metal meanies and it is cool to hear them still rocking it on audio! There are plenty of references to that story too but not enough to distract from the story.

Perhaps the best thing about this story though is the obvious chemistry between Sophie Aldred and Katherine Kelly as Miss. Quill. The pair bounces off each other working as both each other’s opposites and exploring their similarities. Aldred and Kelly are excellent and hopefully, if these sets get some follow-ups, it won’t be the last we hear from this pairing.

Greg Austin also gets some cool moments to shine as Charlie, particularly when he is transported back to the Coal Hill Incident in 1963. His modern take on that world is particularly interesting and funny and there is a brilliant riff on the famous Ace and Baseball Bat moment for Charlie.

OVERALL

Volume 2 of Class is just as brilliant a come back as the first.

There is some really great writing here and some very strong performances to match from both the main cast and guests.

The main cast is on particularly fine form here, lapping up the strong scripts and turning them into some pure audio magic.

The strong scripts and performances are aided along the way under the superb direction of Scott Handcock, who has obviously really enjoyed the material he has been given. He seems to get the best out of his casts every time and long may he continue at Big Finish.

I must put out another shout-out to Tim Leng who penned the story that really resonated with me!

Everything in these two sets has coalesced to give us some very enjoyable entertainment. To anyone who doubted it before, Class does have a place in the Whoniverse. Ignore the bad points about the television series, much of which I put down to the BBC marketing at the time and give these a go…

SYNOPSIS

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

2.1 Everybody Loves Reagan by Tim Foley

When Reagan Harper joins Coal Hill Academy, everybody instantly loves her – everybody except for April. Is there really more to Reagan than meets the eye? Or are there other forces at work in Coal Hill?

2.2 Now You Know… by Tim Leng

Following a series of freak attacks on staff and pupils, Tanya and Matteusz find themselves investigating a mystery that dates back to the 1960s. Together, they hope to solve it – even if that means turning on one another to do so…

2.3 In Remembrance by Guy Adams

When an alarm is triggered at Coal Hill Academy, Quill and Charlie encounter a mysterious intruder prowling around school premises. Worse, they also encounter a Dalek. Their only hope of survival lies with the stranger: a woman who calls herself ‘Ace’…

THIS CD BOX SET IS A LIMITED PRESSING. ORDER NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT.

Written By: Tim Foley, Tim Leng, Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Katherine Kelly (Miss Quill), Greg Austin (Charlie Smith), Fady Elsayed (Ram Singh), Sophie Hopkins (April MacLean), Vivian Oparah (Tanya Adeola), Jordan Renzo (Matteusz Andrzejewski), Taj Atwal (Reagan Harper), Anson Boon (Peter Dillard), Shvorne Marks (Michelle), Wilf Scolding (Chris Richards) with Sophie Aldred (Ace) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: Scott Handcock
Script Editor: Scott Handcock
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Class is back in session.

After having been cancelled in 2016, after one series, Class has been resurrected by Big Finish for two, three-part volumes. Class was a troubled television show, not least because the fans didn’t seem to want to give it the chance it really deserved.

Overall, I enjoyed it on television, the cast had some great chemistry and there were some thoughtful and enjoyable episodes. But even the sudden-shock appearance from the Weeping Angels at the end of the final episode couldn’t save it from cancellation. These two-volumes from Big Finish aren’t the continuation of the show, but set at various points in the first series, helped along by the large time-gaps between the televised episodes. But did Big Finish work their magic? Will more people give Class the time and love it deserved?

The cover for Class: Volume One
The cover for Class: Volume One

April and Ram are confronted with getting everything they’ve ever wanted. But there is just one problem, it would come at a terrible cost as they will soon discover at Carterhaugh House.

Tanya and Ram take a work-experience at Servelin Laboratories. But soon an alien escapes its confinement and everyone is in danger and it is up to them to stop it.

Charlie and Matteusz are faced with some disturbing truths when they are infected with an alien mind parasite who makes them talk constantly. But will things get better or worse when Miss. Quill gets involved?

GIFTED

The first episode of Volume One instantly feels a lot different from its television persona. With a catchy new theme tune from the talented Blair Mowet, Gifted explodes through your headphones or speakers with a real fresh feeling.

The script from Roy Gill is superb. Taking the same kind of idea from Nightvisiting which saw a grief alien hitting London, Gifted uses another alien who will give you whatever you desire the most. The creature is really interesting and it would have been cool to see something like this on television.

Gifted focuses its attention on April and Ram, played once more by Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed. The pair is just brilliant together and even though Hopkins and Elsayed haven’t played their characters for some time, it is like they’ve never been away.

The pair has some fantastic chemistry which helps an already excellent script rattle along. Gill also, writes perfectly for the main characters, like he has been doing it all his life. It’s brilliant.

For all the action, and there is quite a bit, there is also a strong emotional core that runs through it and even the most cold-hearted listener would be hard pressed not to feel anything about the ending!

Gifted is an excellent way to open the set and feels like a perfect story for April and Ram.

LIFE EXPERIENCE

The second story of the opening set is brought to us by Jenny T. Colgan, who pens a story that is perfectly suited for Tanya.

On television, Tanya often suffered because there were too many characters all scrambling for something to do and with her character being the youngest, more-often-than-not, she was told to stay behind.

Nothing of the sort happens here and she is thrown right into the midst of the action. Following a work-experience placement at Sevelin Laboratories, her and Ram are thrown into the world of aliens once more.

This story really allows Tanya to shine, not only because it has some science moments, something she is good at, but because she is the one who sorts the whole thing out. In typical Class fashion, there is an alien loose around the underground labs who is murdering all the staff. While we learn its capabilities in the opening moments, it is nice to hear Tanya’s cool head working things out, while Ram seems to freak out once again!

Vivian Oparah is on fine form here, probably because she finally has some decent material to sink her teeth into. Overall, Life Experience is another thoroughly enjoyable outing.

The cast, Vivian Oparah, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins enjoy the recordings
The cast, Vivian Oparah, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins enjoy the recordings

TELL ME YOU LOVE ME

The third and final story for Volume One is Tell Me You Love Me by Scott Handcock who delivers what I felt was easily the best story out of this already strong set.

Set on a Friday after school, Charlie and Matteusz are in the locker room collecting Charlie’s belongings. Matteusz has other plans however but before things can get going, his romantic plans are thwarted by an alien who won’t let them stop talking.

It is a really interesting concept for an alien and it forces Charlie and Matteusz to say what is on their mind and what they really feel about their relationship. Both of them say things that are rectified as the story goes along.

Katherine Kelly is also back as Miss. Quill and she is just excellent. She slips back into that role perfectly and Handcock gets her lines down wonderfully. She is gloriously sarcastic. The trio of Kelly, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo work brilliantly perfectly, with Austin and Renzo reminding us why Charlie and Matteusz were such a great couple on screen.

For me though, the best part of this story was its final scenes which seem to take delight in showing us how ruthless Miss. Quill really is. Working out how the alien operates, she rings a random stranger and has the alien transport to its new victim. It is a conclusion but not a nice one, something that Miss. Quill even seems slightly ashamed by.

Tell Me You Love Me wraps up this brilliant trilogy nicely!

OVERALL

Class: Volume One features a trio of strong stories, ones that are practically superior to the television series, which was also good. The cast is excellent, even though they don’t all interact in a story, that works in the volume’s strength. There few times where all the characters had one big adventure on the television and these stories work better because there aren’t so many characters to try and a cram into one tale.

What I also felt worked a lot better was that each story featured a stand-alone monster, not one like The Shadow Kin who were weaved into almost every story of that solo-series. Each villain gives the duo of characters a time to show what they are really made off and it is excellent. Not focusing one monster through all these stories really allowed our main cast to develop.

The regulars are just superb. I was worried that some of them might not have been able to get used to the audio format. But each one surprised me at how easily they had slipped back into their original roles.

The guest actors are brilliant also, Rhys Isaac-Jones, Deirdre Mullins, Lu Corfield, Scott Haran, Joe Shire, Jasmine M. Stewart, Liz Sutherland-Lim and Gavin Swift all perform their roles excellently. There isn’t a weak link amongst them and they all work brilliantly with the main cast.

Roy Gill, Jenny T. Colgan and Scott Handcock all deliver some stellar scripts, all of which fit perfectly into the gaps in the first series without interfering with the story that was telling. They all work perfectly for the main characters and the trio should be very proud! And Scott Handcock delivers some superb direction with Blair Mowet on fine form as the sound designer.

And without a doubt, Big Finish have worked their magic once more, Class has definitely found its home in the audio format!

For those who took to Twitter in a rage back in 2016 about there being a new spinoff in a year when there was no new Doctor Who, then I would urge you to pick this set up immediately. For those of you who, like me, ignored the hate and gave the series a go, then I would urge you to do the same. This is only the first volume and already I’m hooked.

I really hope this isn’t the only two sets for Class Big Finish do, this is excellent and definitely one of the best set of stories I’ve heard from them this year! Everyone should take a bow!

Synopsis

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

Cast

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

On television, Billis Manger was always one of Torchwood’s deadliest and strangest foes. Only appearing twice on screen, Murray Melvin has returned to the role in this excellent horror story.

Hywel Roberts finds himself lost in the rain, but the Travellers Halt offers him sanctuary.

Booking a room, he finds himself under the eye of the strange owner, Mr Billis Manger. But things aren’t as they appear. Who is the mysterious woman in the room next door? Why does Mr Manger seem to appear out of thin air? And why is it always raining?

The Travellers Halt isn’t your normal hotel. And soon, Hywel Roberts will wish he had kept driving…

The cover for Torchwood: Deadbeat Escape by James Goss
The cover for Torchwood: Deadbeat Escape by James Goss

Deadbeat Escape brings another strong series of solo Torchwood outings to an end until next year. We’ve had some great exploration of our favourite characters in The Many Lives of Captain Jack and Instant Karma, an excellent reunion for the original team in Believe and an excellent horror tale in We Always Get Out Alive.

Deadbeat Escape will certainly fall into the horror category. Torchwood did sci-fi but never really touched on pure horror, it was always the horror of whatever story they were in, unlike Cyberwoman which was a horror to watch!

We Always Get Out Alive and Deadbeat Escape are some of the best horror stories I’ve heard from Big Finish and one wonders if the writers, James Goss and Guy Adams were in competition to see who could write the scariest!

While Adam’s, We Always Get Out Alive was a gloriously disturbing and claustrophobic listen, Deadbeat Escape does outdo it on the pure horror front. From its opening minutes, James Goss lets you know you’re in for something different. And what really allows it to stand apart is that it doesn’t focus on any prime member of the Torchwood cast but on its deadliest villain, Billis Manger.

Thinking about it, the whole story isn’t focused on him, we get to see him through someone else’s eyes and how his plans will affect Hywel’s life.

Billis is a villain who works at his absolute best when he is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by darkness. His appearance in Captain Jack Harkness, End of Days and the audio adventure, To Kill A View, kept that mysterious illusion going.

The same can be said here, which is good because he continues to be a dangerous threat. Murray Melvin is just excellent in the role and even though he is the bad guy, it is physically impossible not to fall in love with his old-man act, right up until the very end when he finally gets some real bite.

Having a new character in the form of Hywel Roberts is a stroke of genius from James Goss. It allows the audience to already have a one-up on him as we know how evil Billis is but it is impossible to get to believe he is anything other than a warped old man. With us listeners knowing how evil Billis is, it allows us to stay on the edge of our seats as we learn whether Hywel will make it out alive.

Hywel was most certainly a character I wanted to see survive. Not only is there some great writing there from Goss but Gareth Pierce’s performance makes him a really relatable character. You really root for him, right up until the very end.

The cast for Deadbeat Escape - Gareth Pierce, Cara Chase and Murray Melvin
The cast for Deadbeat Escape – Gareth Pierce, Cara Chase and Murray Melvin

Just as the audience is learning everything there is to know, so is Hywel, and we get to enjoy the horror unfolding around him at the same time. Of course, we horror fans know how bad things are going to get for him when he decides to go into a house on a dark and stormy night!

But even that old horror trope is flipped on its head. Goss uses this trope, well known by the audience, to his advantage and uses it to explore the characters and their motivations.

Cara Chase also puts in an excellent performance as the mysterious guest, Grace. A character that would be a crime to spoil anything about but is it possible she is the one and only person that Billis cares about?

Deadbeat Escape is a brilliant ending to another successful series of Torchwood outings for 2018. It is very dark and effective and has a very strong emotional core at its centre. With some excellent performances from Murray Melvin and Gareth Pierce, even without any of the regulars, this is a pure Torchwood gold!

Synopsis

“Welcome to the Traveller’s Halt. You’re in luck – we have one room left. My name is Bilis Manger. Let me show you to your room.”

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Murray Melvin (Billis Manger), Gareth Pierce (Hywel Roberts), Cara Chase (Grace). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: James Goss
Script Editor: David Llewellyn
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs