Class: For Tonight We Might Die
(1 episode, s01e01, 2016)
A threat like the Hellmouth and a warrior like the Doctor.
At Coal Hill Academy, a student runs through the halls in the dark of the night. A woman pulls him into hiding but a molten creature still finds them. In the aftermath, a rift tears open in the hallway.
The following day, the students report for classes and gossip about Kevin’s disappearance. In the foyer, April MacLean tries to convince Tanya Adeola to help her decorate for the autumn prom. Tanya declines due to her strict mother, and April ponders taking the new kid, Charlie, as her date.
The new physics teacher, Miss Quill, argues with the head teacher, Mr. Armitage, over her new position. She soon convenes class and chastizes the kids over their personality quirks. She tries to stump the students with a difficult equation, but Tanya recognizes it as a Gibbs probability density (the Boltzmann distribution) of a classical Klein-Gordon field. After class, Charlie lets April down by telling her that he’s taking Matteusz as his date. April’s disappointed but happy that Charlie’s out and proud.
At a later football match, Ram Singh misses a goal when he spots a mysterious shadow on the field. Meanwhile, Tanya spots a similar shadow while walking home, and this shadow chases her into a shop. She dismisses the shadow as being under too much stress. Tanya later returns home, is chastised by her mother for not doing her homework, and calls Ram to tutor him in physics. April ends up facing the shadow as Ram tries to help her via video call.
Charlie heads home as well only to find Miss Quill waiting for him. He questions her about the burn marks on the floor and whether or not she killed Kevin. As Quill steps outside, she reminisces about the prior night’s events – she made Kevin shoot the monster, but the two ended up killing each other – and walks off with the gun that she’s not allowed to shoot in her pocket.
April ends up decorating for the prom alone and gets attacked by the shadow. Miss Quill arrives and tells April to run as they face the creature, telling April to use the gun. Before she can shoot it, Charlie interferes and knocks the gun out of her hands. The shot goes wild and clips the monster, and as April staggers from the pain, Miss Quill explains that the weapon is a displacement gun. Effectively, it displaces the target in space and time by sacrificing the shooter.
Since April hit the Shadow Kin with a glancing blow, they now share a heart. The creature retreats from both the school and Tanya’s room, and Tanya’s mother freaks out about the video call. Charlie and Miss Quill help April decorate for the prom and April learns the truth about the other two. Charlie is a Rhodian prince and Miss Quill is a freedom fighter from an opposing force. When the war ended, Quill was bound to Charlie’s service by a parasitic arn, which prevents her from using the gun. During the war, the Shadow Kin slaughtered all of the Rhodians. Quill saved Charlie and they were dropped on Earth by a figure of legend out of space and time. That figure, the Doctor, left them in hiding at Coal Hill School.
Since her heart is split across space and time, April hears the Shadow Kin’s thoughts. The creature is coming for Charlie and the object that he salvaged from his homeworld. Later that night, Charlie ponders the mysterious box while April stares at the stars.
The next morning, April warns Tanya to be careful of the shadow while at the prom. Tanya passes the warning to Ram later on, and as April, Ram, and Charlie prepare for the prom, Tanya tells her mother that going to the dance will help with a school assignment. Charlie, April, Matteusz, Ram, and his girlfriend Rachel arrive as Miss Quill chaperones the event. Everything goes well until the Shadow Kin makes contact through April, warning that it is coming through the rift that it created.
The creature kills Rachel and the students engage a group of the Shadow Kin. April tries to convince everyone to evacuate the school, but the students refuse. As the Shadow Kin burst through the doors, however, the students run. Meanwhile, Ram loses a leg as he attacks a Shadow Kin. The Shadow King confronts Charlie and destroys the gun, but as the king advances, the battle is interrupted by the Twelfth Doctor.
The Doctor riffs on once being the school’s caretaker before confronting the Shadow King, inadvertently revealing Charlie’s and Quill’s secret identities. The Shadow Kin demands the Cabinet of Souls, which supposedly contains the souls of every Rhodian and could be used as a weapon. While the Doctor questions avenging a genocide with genocide, Charlie reveals that the cabinet is empty. The legends were just a myth.
April threatens to kill herself to defeat the Shadow King, but the Doctor and Tanya fight back by eliminating the shadows in the school. Without a shadow to hide in, the Shadow Kin cannot occupy the space. The king threatens to take April with him, but Ram knocks the king into the rift as the Doctor seals it.
In the aftermath of the battle, the authorities clean up the mess while the Doctor assesses the new team. He reveals that the excess of artron energy in the area has worn the fabric of space/time quite thin. The school acts like a beacon and this team will need to defend the school. Ram is healed with an alien prosthetic leg and Miss Quill is left in charge of the defense force as penance for Kevin’s death.
With that, the Doctor departs.
Ram and Tanya head home in disbelief of the night’s events, the former trying to get used to his new leg and come to terms with Rachel’s death. Charlie promises April that they’ll get her heart back, and she tells Charlie about her mother who was paralyzed in a car accident. April says that if her mother can adjust, so can she.
Quill asks Charlie how he’s not consumed by the rage over the loss of his people like she is over her own. He doesn’t see a point in the rage, then returns to his room to reveal that the Cabinet of Souls is indeed full.
This is a decent start with a generic story that has a Doctor Who meets The CW feeling. It’s an interesting touch to have the two aliens in charge of the school’s new defense force be refugees, one the last of his kind and the other unable to wield her special weapon. I also like that our heroes have flaws to overcome during this journey. The potential exists for a decent ensemble adventure.
The Coal Hill School Roll of Honors is a nice touch in a setting reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – explained here as existing in the Doctor Who universe alongside Once Upon a Time and The Vampire Diaries – and draws the Doctor with Clara‘s name among those who have mysteriously disappeared from the school. The Doctor may not recognize her name directly, but he should recognize Danny Pink and Susan Foreman. Just like Sunnydale High, Coal Hill acknowledges that there’s something strange in the neighborhood but they can’t quite put a finger on what it is.
Pilot episodes are shaky, and this is no exception. But with the Doctor there to bless this spinoff, I’m eager to see what this ensemble does with the potential that they have been gifted.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
UP NEXT – Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
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