Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
(1 episode, s01e02, 2016)
The episode that played with boredom.
Picking up after his injury in the fight against the Shadow King, Ram has trouble adjusting to his new leg. His performance during a football game disappoints Coach Dawson and Ram’s father Varun. The coach is also upset with his assistant, Caroll, who is brutally attacked and skinned alive in the locker room by a dragon-like creature.
Ram returns to the locker room and finds the corpse which triggers his trauma from the night of the prom. He hides in a restroom stall but the corpse and blood are gone when he returns. In their place stands Coach Dawson. The coach tells Ram to go home, then takes a shower while the dragon tattooed on his body snarls through bloodied teeth.
The next day, Charlie, April, and Tanya muse about how the rest of the school has seemingly forgotten about prom night. They also discuss Ram and his trauma. While they muse over what to call the temporal rifts in the school, Miss Quill and Mr. Armitage discuss the day’s inspection of her science class in front of the Barbara Wright Building. Finally, Ram is transferred to the second-string football team and rejects Charlie’s attempts at friendship.
In science class, Miss Quill tries to impress the inspector in her cold way. Ram storms out of class and finds Coach Dawson to ask about extra training. Unfortunately, Dawson doesn’t have time and Caroll is missing, so Ram is dismissed from the coach’s office. While Ram goes to the locker room to look for evidence of what he saw, we note that the coach has a corpse in a trash bag under his desk. Coming up empty-handed, Ram takes a smoke break with one of the cleaning staff. While he’s out there, the dragon strikes again, consuming the cleaner and dousing Ram in her blood. He takes a shower as the trauma consumes him.
That night, Ram talks to Tanya and they agree to meet up where the cleaner was killed. Tanya suggests involving Miss Quill and the new team, but Ram refuses. He wonders about his value now, but Tanya reminds him that he helped save April on one leg. They’re both surprised when Coach Dawson appears out of nowhere and dismisses the pair before chastising the sentient tattoo that moves across his body.
Miss Quill continues her silent torment with the inspector. She later consults with Charlie, insistent that the inspector is an alien or impostor. Meanwhile, Ram continues to perform poorly on the pitch. His father tries to console him on the drive home, but Ram doesn’t want to talk about it. He finds some solace in discussing death with Tanya, whose father died suddenly some time ago.
The inspector subplot continues as Miss Quill throws a stapler at the man and confronts him. Funny enough, the inspector is intrigued enough to request another observation period with her class.
Tanya, April, and Charlie talk about the coach, the cleaner, Ram, and Miss Quill’s attempts to hack into UNIT. Mainly, Tanya is upset that their new team isn’t getting involved in the mysteries. They start looking into the cleaner’s death but have trouble discussing it with Mr. Armitage. While they’re in his office, a space-time rift opens behind the headmaster and the dragon emerges. It kills the headmaster in front of the students and drags the corpse through the rift. The coach isn’t a direct suspect since he was talking to Ram at the time, but Ram also noticed the tattoo moving across the coach’s flesh.
The students involve Miss Quill, but she’s too wrapped up in her inspections to engage, so Tanya declares that they are on their own. Tanya does have a breakthrough with Ram during their homework chat that night, and April seeks solace in a video chat with Charlie. The team finally begins to coalesce around the mystery dragon as Ram lets slip what they experienced in the headmaster’s office. Ram realizes that the dragon that Charlie sketched from his memory is the same image that was on Dawson’s body.
The team meets at the school to find Coach Dawson while Miss Quill confronts the inspector. The inspector is inexplicably in the school after dark, and he ends up in a chase through the school with the dragon and Miss Quill. The dragon attacks the inspector and we find out that the inspector is a robot.
Correction: Was a robot. He’s decapitated now.
Meanwhile, the students watch Coach Dawson dispose of Mr. Armitage in the school’s trash bins. They confront the coach as Miss Quill leads the dragon to the scene. In the end, we find that the coach was inadvertently fused with a dragon when it came through a rift. It acted like a parasite and he had to feed it blood from the people that he killed. This second dragon has come in search of its mate.
Ram offers himself, primarily to rid himself of the pain, but the dragon simply abducts Dawson and takes him through the portal. Problem solved? The team isn’t convinced since it required a man’s death to end the threat.
Miss Quill continues to go on about the robot. No one cares, but she does find a clue that points toward “The Governors,” providing a hornet’s nest for her to kick.
Later that night, April ignores a call from her father while Ram discloses his secrets to his own. Varun consoles his son and helps him train with the new leg.
This was a rough one because it didn’t seem to have much heart. It works thematically, but the team doesn’t really gel at any point as this plot spins its wheels. The important pieces are placed on the board way too late, revealing that Coach Dawson isn’t necessarily evil but rather possessed by an entity beyond his control.
The inspector subplot has some funny points, mostly related to Mr. Armitage’s reaction to Miss Quill’s over-the-top investigation. “I don’t even understand some of these swear words.” But overall it is painfully obvious filler alongside a lackluster plot that wastes one of the most empathetic characters with a meaningless death. Thus ends the journey of Headmaster Armitage, whom we’ve known since Into the Dalek, The Caretaker, and Dark Water, and it is a shame.
This episode also points out a rather large problem with the suspension of disbelief. Tanya claims that she’s 14 due to being moved ahead because of her academic performance. At the time of filming, actress Vivian Oparah was 19 and it’s pretty obvious since she blends in so well with the rest of the cast who are playing 17-year-olds. I’m no stranger to drama series set in high schools with twenty-somethings playing the students, but the difference between 14 and 17 is a bit more distinct.
Setting that aside, the most heart and character that this episode provides is between Ram and his father. Watching their relationship as Ram begins to heal from back-to-back episodes of blood-soaked trauma is beautiful. I only wish that the story had provided the same to the rest of this Scooby team.
If this story is any indication, Class is becoming Torchwood with edginess and darkness, but without a good chunk of the humanity that provided a flicker of hope in the fight.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
UP NEXT – Class: Nightvisiting
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.