Alex Moreland reviews the third episode of the Doctor Who spinoff Class…
“I’m not made of glass.”
This week’s episode of Class touches on a theme that was in fact dealt with extensively during Doctor Who’s last season: grief. It’s a common theme in sci-fi, and the aforementioned Doctor Who episode ‘Hell Bent’ was widely regarded as one of the best of its season; accordingly, then, ‘Nightvisiting’ faced some tough competition, and a need to do particularly well to make itself distinct.
As with previous episodes of Class, though, ‘Nightvisiting’ went above and beyond, grounding the story quite heavily with its core characters. In an impressive break from the norm, Class focused here on an aspect of grief which isn’t typically considered: anger. More specifically, though, that’s anger at the deceased; Tanya (Vivian Oparah) ultimately defeats the Lankin because of her anger directed at her late father. It’s a very clever take on matters, which allows ‘Nightvisiting’ to give a very nuanced and subtle take on the grieving process – the anger at those who have died is something which isn’t discussed very often, perhaps out of guilt, but it’s a facet of mourning which is unavoidable. In juxtaposing Tanya’s anger at her father with a very clear love for him, Patrick Ness weaves a very subtle, yet very true, picture of loss, which is portrayed fantastically by Vivian Oparah.
While it’s fair to call ‘Nightvisiting’ Tanya’s episode in the same way that ‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’ was Ram’s, the other core characters were similarly well served. Sophie Hopkins gets a stand out moment as April, delving into her own past and explaining why she’s a ‘sensible’ person. It’s quite poignant, actually, and helps to further develop a character who has, thus far, been given least attention; thankfully, it appears that next week’s episode is going to be centred around April. That’s a structural conceit of Class which is easy to admire – giving each character a focal episode of their own, so to speak. Also key in this episode were Charlie (Greg Austin) and Matteusz (Jordan Rezno), with attention being drawn to their developing relationship. It’s quite sweet to see the pair together, and Ness’ efforts towards inclusivity and diversity are highly appreciated.
Indeed, the diversity of the cast is a strength of Class as a whole, rather than just one of this episode. Class has several POC and LGBT main characters; while it can be an unfortunately controversial position to take when it comes to science fiction, Class is well served by its inclusivity, particularly as a program for teenagers. It is, quite simply, true to life – representing this accordingly is important for obvious reasons. Class is genuinely enriched as a result of depicting these characters, and in stating there is a place for all their audience members.
As ever, it’s perhaps not a perfect piece of television. While Charlie and Matteusz’s relationship has been developing for the past three episodes, the same is not really true of April and Ram; their coupling here felt a little bit rushed, and lacking in set up. It’s not really the end of the world, and hardly a significant strike against the episode – in context, it can be easily understood as a pair of teenagers growing closer after being put through inordinate strain and stress – although it is exacerbated somewhat by coming in an episode that refers to Ram’s deceased girlfriend without particularly delving into his feelings on her. Even despite coming after ‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’, which dealt heavily with Ram’s grief, that this episode lacked a scene with him confronting a Lankin avatar of his late girlfriend is perhaps its most significant oversight.
It’s also becoming apparent that Class is working on a fairly limited budget, with ‘Nightvisiting’ acting as something of a bottle episode, and generally limited prosthetics and CGI. It’s not exactly an issue; Ed Bazalgette does an impressive job of keeping the episode looking stylish, with a clean and realistic aesthetic, but there are times when one wishes that they had a little more money to play around with, simply because it’d allow this team greater opportunities and freedom. While they’re certainly coping on a limited budget (and it may just be the case that the money is being saved for later in the season), hopefully next year – fingers crossed – we’ll see Class return with a bigger budget.
Ultimately, though, ‘Nightvisiting’ is one of Class’ strongest episodes yet. Heartfelt and poignant, it’s got some genuinely moving emotional drama that feels grounded in such a way as to be uniquely ‘young adult’, while still incorporating some timeless science fiction concepts. It’s a genuine joy to watch this program, week in and week out.