You’ve got to hand it to Patrick Ness, this episode is an extremely bizarre collision of familial woes and alien goings on. On paper it shouldn’t work yet somehow it does. After `Nightvisiting` set the tone following the uneven two openers, this amusingly titled fourth amps up the overall plot furthering the distance from Doctor Who to become a series with its own identity.
Plot spoilers beyond this point
April’s having a bad day as her heart’s co-inhabitant the Shadow Kin leader is not being half hearted in trying to get the whole thing back despite the multi Galaxy spanning distance between them. April starts to develop some of his scimitar wielding attributes which come in handy when her father pops up after being released from prison. Incidentally he’s played by renowned actor Con O’Neill, an impressive coup in itself. Meanwhile Miss Quill has an interesting meeting with the new Headteacher who turns out to be an alien as well. Almost unnoticed lots of petals are drifting about and they too are not of this world.
The 45 minute length gives time for quite a build up- as well as developing the romance between April and Ram- but it also means the pace is uneven and the other regulars seem to be waiting around for something to happen. Nevertheless Sophie Hopkins is convincingly mood swinging and the jumps from here to the Shadow Kin world are well judged. The latter place looks tremendous; the designers on this series certainly know how to conjure up unusual imagery.
The episode ends on a multi layered cliffhanger which leaves those not directly involved gawping incredulously at what they’ve seen rather like the viewer. I’m all for exciting climaxes but there is perhaps just a bit too much going on here so soon in the show. It feels like we’re still getting to know these characters –especially at the opening episode was hijacked by the Doctor- yet already they’re behaving like they’re 22 episodes in. I’m not sure quite where April’s logic comes in either – how does she know her act at the end for her mother will work? This could be something I missed as on my laptop’s limited speakers I did find some of the Shadow Kin’s dialogue difficult to understand and the sound rather over filled at times. Perhaps it’s my age, eh Patrick?
There is definitely a strong momentum and visual signature to this series now and it has quickly become unpredictable which is something that even the always enjoyable Sarah Jane Adventures often lacked. It seems as if a lot of older Doctor Who fans haven’t taken to it which is a shame as anyone fed up with Steven Moffat or for that matter Russell T Davies will surely find something interesting from a new writer defining their own version of modern telefantasy. Much has been made of Class’ Young Adult credentials but I think the series reaches further than that and anyway how many millions of older adults have read the Harry Potter books for example? And I promise not to be offended by the quip this week about the name John though I suspect nobody under the age of 35 really will understand the episode title’s origin!