Class Episode 3 Review: Nightvisiting
Coal Hill students face an especially cruel alien in Nightvisiting, which is comfortably Class’ best episode yet…
This review contains spoilers.
That was beautiful. Disgusting, yes—those gristly, glistening, alien umbilical cords were truly horrid—but beautiful too, in its performances and treatment of grief.
Nightvisiting announced itself as an emotional episode with a dialogue-free opening montage that smoothly told the story of Tanya’s parents meeting, marrying and raising their family, followed by the awful morning dad Jasper’s corpse was carried out of the house by paramedics.
Two years later, Tanya was still suffering. And out there in the universe, a grief-sucking race of aliens followed the scent of her grief to her bedroom window like a shark smelling blood.
The idea of something that wants to harm you disguising itself as a lost loved one is a cruelly brilliant concept. Who could resist the outstretched hand of someone gone forever who you’ve never stopped missing? It’s a brilliant concept, but not an original one. Buffy The Vampire Slayer did the same with season seven’s The First, which, to quote Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins, was a “big bad that can be any dead person it wants.”
Nightvisiting adds its own twist with the Lankins’ plant-like tendrils, their “one limitation” and this show’s most sci-fi horror element yet. Add the need for victims to take their loved one’s hand and surrender willingly to their captors, and it’s developed differently enough from previous takes to soothe the itch that Class’ best ideas so far are borrowed.
It was a tense, cleverly constructed episode. Every drop of discomfort was wrung from the scenes between Tanya’s Vivian Oparah and Jasper’s Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, not least with the sound of the latter’s eerie insectoid blinks. Those two were the stars of the episode. His manipulation and increasingly desperate urging of Tanya, along with the possibility that she might give in to his false promise of easing her pain and connecting their souls in the afterlife created real tension and pathos.
That tension fizzled out when Tanya defeated the alien not with a plan based on logic, knowledge or experience but a lucky stab-in-the-dark guess that if the Lankin feed on grief, they’d be poisoned by anger. As the girl who turned the lights on to the Shadow Kin in episode one, Tanya’s resourcefulness had already been established, but as a resolution it worked better as metaphor than plot point. The baddie was defeated by… whatever, look, it’s gone now says Class, but more importantly Tanya has cathartically released her anger towards her dead dad.
This show is obviously more interested in its characters’ emotions than the aliens they’re fighting. Ram wasn’t battling a skin-eating dragon last week, but his PTSD after seeing his girlfriend killed in front of him and gaining a space-caterpillar leg (that kind of thing would throw anybody). Tanya’s struggle this week was with her own grief and the understandably seductive notion it could be soothed (a good pitch there from the Lankin). April’s story about her dad showed her to have a remarkably cool-headed grasp of her own psychology for someone so young. That’ll be the years of therapy, I suppose.
Even Miss Quill’s feelings were prodded this week, not only in the tinglingly enjoyable scenes between Katherine Kelly and Anastasia Hille as Quill’s Lankin sister, but in the episode’s conclusion. That’s where a recurring theme of new Doctor Who came up – the loneliness of being the last of your race. Charlie and Matteusz are in love, April and Ram have paired up, and the kids have bonded as a clique. That leaves sister-less Quill on the outside looking in. Even this show’s steel-coated ‘teacher’ is subject to familiar teenage feelings of being left out of friendship groups, tying her neatly into the show’s emotional themes.
Love was one of those this week. In Charlie, Matteusz, April and Tanya’s stories, Class told its young viewers that parents don’t always provide the love you deserve. They can be distant, intolerant, abusive and absent. But as Charlie told his boyfriend in that romantic, tender and shamefully rare depiction of young love: if your family isn’t right, you’re free to choose another. That’s the sort of reassuring message to its audience I’m starting to love Class for.