There can be little denying that the short-lived BBC3 spinoff Class, was a divisive entry into the Doctor Who universe. I was one of the people who really enjoyed it, despite its faults; I wrote an article for the show, discussing the ups and downs of Class here.
So when Big Finish announced that they were producing a further two volumes of audio adventures for the Class gang, following on from the successful original two, I was ready to hear more.
The opening story for Volume 3 is The Shoer’s Ditch, written by Carl Rowens. At first, I thought it was going to be another werewolf story, a genre that Big Finish hasn’t shied away from over the years. The trouble with werewolf stories is that you can only really tell one kind of story, even more so on audio as that particular horror monster is quite a visual one.
I was pleased then that the wolves in Rowen’s story where just that and April, Charlie, Ram and Mattuesz are just wolves and instead, the story focuses around the Shoer’s, a race of aliens who displace themselves in time, capturing humans and betting on who their wolves will hunt down.
As a story goes, it’s fairly basic and won’t challenge the listener but that works in the story’s favour. A lot of the fun of this story comes from the main cast and who Rowen’s writes for them. It’s interesting too that these new stories seem to be set almost completely apart from the proper series. I don’t remember April and Ram ever really dating after the mid-series two-parter so one does wonder if these stories do take place sometime after series 1. It’s an interesting question but it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of the adventure and I enjoyed hearing April and Mattuesz getting to take the lead in their respective teams here, giving them some nice time to shine.
It was also nice that Rowens gave them a chance to travel through time, with the Shoer’s taking them back to Tudor times for their games. And Rowens makes sure that Class continues to be firmly set in the Doctor Who universe with plenty of references to the Shadow Proclamation. One wonders though if this was written almost as if it were a proper-Who adventure as Charlie gets some nice Doctor-ish moments towards the end as he works out what the Shoer’s have done, while Mattuesz, April and Ram fill in the role of companions rather nicely.
Sophie Hopkins, Fady Elsyed, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo are brilliant in their roles as April, Ram, Charlie and Mattuesz and I think you can say what you will about the series as a whole, but listen to these audio adventures and then try to tell us that they don’t have good chemistry together. The only thing missing was the inclusion of Tanya and Miss. Quill, while they get to feature in the next two stories, it would have been nice to have the whole crew back together. However, as things stand, The Shoer’s Ditch is a brilliant way to kick the series off.
When I listened to the second story, Catfish from Kate Thorman, I wasn’t a big fan but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had enjoyed it. It marks the first appearance of Joanna McGibbon, as Tanya, who had previously been played by Vivian Oparah. This was something that we knew coming into these new volumes that both roles of Tanya and Miss. Quill had been recast because the two original actors are currently busy with other work.
McGibbon easily sets into the role of Tanya and instantly fits in with the rest of the cast. She does sound a lot like Oparah which helps but she also manages to give the role her own spin. I never really understood why Tanya’s mother wouldn’t let her do things, surely being able to be a teenager is all a part of growing up too, so on television, I always felt like Tanya was left behind as a character.
It’s nice then that Kate Thorman manages to bring Tanya into the group through the titular catfish, who also happens to be Tanya’s boyfriend here. And Kate also manages to portray how Tanya does fit into the group of teenagers with her interactions between April, Ram, Charlie and Mattuesz and their respective couplings. But there are a few things that feel out of character, Tanya falls for the new boy, Paul, pretty quickly and is quite snappy with her friends when things start to fall apart. Sometimes these things can come across as a little jarring and while they don’t take you out of the story, they don’t feel like they quite fit. But maybe this is because Tanya was so underdeveloped on television that we never got to explore these aspects of her character?
Catfish might not have ticked as many boxes for me as The Shoer’s Ditch did. But it was a much more thoughtful story, about focused on the aspects of the life of choosing your friends and family and how sometimes the two are the same. As a result, the titular catfish feels a little secondary but Joanna McGibbon did such a good job, that you don’t really mind!
Volume 3 comes to an end with Sweet Nothings from Michael Dennis and is a story which focuses on the character of Miss. Quill. Katherine Kelly’s original performance in the role was amazing. She was another thing where you can say anything about Class but she was one of the best things about it. Recast as Dervla Kirwan, Miss. Quill keeps her acidic sense of humour and Kirwan does a brilliant job in the role, easily making it reminiscent of Kelly’s performance while bringing her own style to the part. Like Joanna McGibbon as Tanya, if the original cast members can’t do anything because of their work, I’d happily see Kirwan return to the role of Quill.
Dennis makes sure to show us just how miserable Quill is on Earth, she’s not adjusted her life here and you feel how deeply she misses her home planet. Listening to this story one has to wonder if the Twelfth Doctor was right to leave her behind, but she quickly meets and falls for a strange man, who seems to be based on the Doctor. He takes her on adventures through space and its fun to hear Quill running around, enjoying herself for once.
Dennis then gives us a cruel twist when we find out the man Quill had fallen for wasn’t real, a construct created by Charlie using some telepathic device. Dennis makes sure not to paint Charlie in the best light, though he genuinely thought he was doing the right thing. On-screen, Charlie wasn’t really a good-good person. Quill was his slave and the pair, while they had to depend on each other for their survival, and the relationship between the pair was exploitative. Whether Quill had a creature in her brain to stop her killing him or not, I don’t think anyone would have blamed her after his actions here, with the final moments really showing how arrogant Charlie is and just how misunderstood Quill is.
It’s an interesting look at Quill’s character and it was fun to get her out of the classroom and go on her own ‘Doctor Who‘ adventures for a while. Kirwan proved a formidable opponent for the role too and devours the strong script here, giving us a tremendous performance. Something Miss. Quill herself would be proud of.
Class: Volume 3 was another strong entry into the Class mythos and the wider Doctor Who universe. I’ve said this a few times now, but you can say what you like about Class on television, it works brilliantly on audio and its clear how much the cast and production team have enjoyed themselves. I think Class has now finally, found its home on audio and I’m hoping we get some adventures set during the unmade second-series. I would love to hear where that Weeping Angel storyline would have gone.