CLASS Series 1, Episode 2: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo pulls Ram’s story out of the aftermath of episode one, the grief for a dead girlfriend he can’t tell anyone about and the pain of a replacement leg he has to keep hidden from his football coach. A football coach with an issue of his own.

It’s the resolution to The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo that signifies what Class is really going to be about. Ram’s problems are dealt with with enough subtlety and care that in spite of their sci-fi genesis they will resonate with audiences who are undergoing similar enough troubles of their own, and the broader sci-fi plot that underpins this week’s episode resolves in exactly the same way. This is, it seems, no Monster Invasion of the Week television programme, but – and just like its parent series has become over the course of the last eleven years, to one degree or another – the narrative concerning the eponymous dragon creature is something that is borne out of and solved by drawing upon the kind of issues that developing teenagers will face day by day. As seen through the prism of a great big skinning people alive talking dragon analogy, that is.

With no Doctor this week and no main characters left to introduce (albeit with enough room for an agreeably daffy sub-plot about a robot), The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo was also much better paced, better performed and better constructed. There was breathing room, at last, to help us finally get to know at least two of the characters, and you can’t help but feel that if For Tonight We Might Die had attempted less it might have achieved more. There’s also a sense that, if given a second series, Class might learn now which of its constituents are the ones that matter and which can be forgotten about, because although the production values are classy and the editing and incidental music are sharp, this is a series that won’t be able to break out of its stuck in the 1990s Buffy the Vampire Slayer roots unless it jettisons some of its influences and embraces its individuality; with this episode it’s a good deal of the way there but it won’t be until the dust has settled on the first series as a whole that the tone and approach can be consolidated. Class needs to be funnier and sharper and just a little less obvious – although maybe that’s the thing with YA fiction. Maybe it needs to be obvious to get its message across.

Of the regulars, it is clearly Fady Elsayad who is most at home in front of the camera, with Vivian Oparah holding her own as Ram’s voice of reason. There are some lovely touches in the relationship between Ram and Tanya, and a believability that the actors are helping to engender. Greg Austin and particularly Sophie Hopkins show enough promise that once they have their own stories, doubtless later in the run, they’ll probably prove their value too. After two episodes they come across as trying maybe a little too hard at the moment. Fortunately, Miss Quill has been toned down just a fraction after part one, barely noticeably, but enough that she doesn’t feel like the author’s invention anymore; she’s starting to feel like a real person. Albeit one who’s the last of an alien race bound into slavery to her alien prince overlord.

It’s a shame For Tonight We Might Die was so stodgy, and so tied in with its parent programme; with The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo there is the sudden glimmer of what Class might be, but there will be those who might have found they could grow to like the programme who probably didn’t make it this far. There’s been no sex as yet, the language has been relatively moderate in the circumstances, and although the gore has been pretty X-certificate what we seem to be looking at is the anti-Torchwood, a programme more concerned with its own concerns than it is with proving its credentials. Let’s hope the improvement continues across the coming weeks.

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