In which the Doctor's frequent visits to the Coal Hill area of London are shown to have consequences...
One of the pupils at Coal Hill School is not what he appears. Charlie is really an alien prince - a member of a race known as the Rhodians. One of the teachers - Miss Quill - is also a disguised alien. Her people are called the Quill. This race was enslaved by the Rhodians following a lengthy war. Miss Quill is bonded to Charlie, forced to serve and protect him despite her hatred of him and his people. An implant enforces this. She will die if she attempts to use any weapon.
The Rhodians were wiped out by another race called the Shadow Kin, but Charlie and Miss Quill were rescued by the Doctor and brought to Earth - which is how they found themselves at Coal Hill School.
Frequent visits from the TARDIS, Dalek and Cyberman time devices have damaged local Space / Time, and alien beings have been able to manifest themselves on Earth at this point. The most recent of these is a member of the Shadow Kin. They know of Charlie's survival, and seek to end the Rhodian race.
Charlie finds it hard to relate to humans due to his alien nature and aristocratic roots, but he comes to befriend some of the school's other loners.
April McLean and Tanya Adeola have been tasked with preparing decorations for the forthcoming School Prom. April is thinking of asking Charlie to the prom, but he is intending to ask another boy named Matteusz. Charlie has noticed a strange shadow around the school.
Another boy named Ram Singh has also noticed this. He is not academically gifted, preferring football.
Tanya is then threatened by the shadow, but dismisses it as imagination due to overwork. She was regarded as a child prodigy and is constantly pressured to do well in her studies.
At home, Miss Quill tells Charlie that she is aware of the shadow, and that it has already destroyed one of the pupils.
The shadow attacks April when she is alone in the school hall, and another appears in Tanya's bedroom, witnessed by Ram who is on a video call with her.
Miss Quill wants to help April but cannot use her weapon against it. Charlie arrives in time and uses the weapon - a displacement gun - on the shadow creature.
This proves to be Corakinus - King of the Shadow Kin. Charlie's shot goes wrong. Corakinus has merged with April and they now share a heart - a side-effect of the displacement.
At the Prom, the Shadow Kin launch a massed attack. Ram's partner is killed, and when he tries to fight the creatures he loses part of his leg - cut off by one of their swords. April at one point is transferred to the dimension which is home to the Shadow Kin - the Underneath - and learns of their quest to find "the prince". He has an object known as the Cabinet of Souls, which he brought with him when he fled his home planet. The Shadow Kin see this as a great weapon which threatens them, and they want to obtain it.
The TARDIS materialises and the Doctor emerges. He has been keeping an eye on the Rhodian refugees and has been concerned about Charlie using the Cabinet.
April threatens to sacrifice herself by destroying Corakinus' heart. The Shadow Kin are forced to retreat back to their own dimension.
The Doctor temporarily seals the tear in dimensions, then helps Ram by providing him with a bionic leg. He warns Miss Quill and the young people of the threat posed by the damage to the area. There will be other alien dangers to face.
It later transpires that the Cabinet contains millions of Rhodian souls...
For Tonight We Might Die was written by Patrick Ness, creator of the series, and first broadcast on BBC 3 on 22nd October 2016. It is the opening instalment of a new spin-off from Doctor Who - the first new spin-off since The Sarah Jane Adventures nine years before. Anglo-American Ness is a well-known writer of Young Adult fiction, and this is the audience which Class appears to be pitched at.
One of his best known works - A Monster Calls - was made into a movie in 2016, starring Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson voicing the titular monster.
Steven Moffat acted as Executive Producer, as did Brian Minchin who held the same position on the parent programme.
2016 was a gap year for Doctor Who, with no series being produced between The Husbands of River Song and the following Christmas Special - The Return of Dr Mysterio.
Fans were pleased to hear about this spin-off because of this. Ness was a big name, and it was announced that the series would have concrete links with the parent series in that it was going to be set in and around Coal Hill School. This had first featured in An Unearthly Child, when Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright had been teachers, and the Doctor's granddaughter Susan was a pupil there.
The area - though not the school itself - was visited again in 1985 when the Sixth Doctor and Peri visited the junkyard at Totter's Lane in Attack of the Cybermen.
The school did get another visit back in 1963, when the Daleks used it as a base in Remembrance of the Daleks. They set up a transmat in the school basement.
More recently, Clara Oswald had obtained a job teaching English there, where she met Maths and gym teacher Danny Pink. A notice proclaimed Ian as Chairman of the School Board in The Day of the Doctor. The TARDIS was based on site for a time, when the Doctor took on a temporary job as School Caretaker. Temporal technology was used then to twice remove an alien Skovox Blitzer robot.
All this activity has damaged the area, creating a similar set-up to Torchwood's Cardiff Rift - where dangers from other planets and dimensions have a chance to break through to this one.
Something else which the fans were pleased about was the news that Peter Capaldi would be appearing in a cameo role to help launch the series. Neither Torchwood nor The Sarah Jane Adventures had featured the Doctor in their pilots / openers.
The only other previously seen character in this episode is Headmaster Mr Armitage, who had featured in a couple of Series 8 stories, most notably in The Caretaker. He is played by Nigel Betts.
Miss Quill is Katharine Kelly, who was well known for her six-year role as Becky McDonald in Coronation Street.
The younger members of the cast are led by Greg Austin as Charlie. He had featured in Mr Selfridge and is currently starring in Hunters on Amazon Prime, with Al Pacino.
As April we have Sophie Hopkins. Ram is Fady Elsayed. He was originally going to play Nabile in The Bells of St John, the young man who is captured by the wi-fi in the opening moments, but the sequence was re-recorded with another actor when Fady was no longer available.
Tanya is Vivian Oparah, and Matteusz is Jordan Renzo.
Playing Corakinus is Paul Marc Davis, who had portrayed the Trickster in The Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as the leader of the Futurekind in Utopia.
Corakinus and the Shadow Kin will prove to be recurring villains throughout the series, thanks to the notion of the shared heart. Other story arc elements include the Cabinet of Souls and the various relationships between the students (Charlie loves Matteusz, but is also fancied by April, and Tanya has an unrequited thing for April, whilst the relationship between Miss Quill and Charlie is one of forced dependency and mutual dislike and distrust).
Overall, an interesting start to the new series. The Shadow Kin are a great design and concept. We like the cantankerous Miss Quill from the outset, but the younger cast will take some getting used to. They don't all get much to do for now, other than Charlie and April.
Things you might like to know:
- The episode had a working title of "The Prom".
- The Doctor is stopped short by seeing the school In Memoriam board, which has the names C. Oswald and R.D. Pink on it.
- The school is said to be sited on Foreman Street in Shoreditch - from Susan's assumed surname.
- There are mentions of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries - series which had inspired it. The location of the school is said to resemble the "Hellmouth" from Buffy. Buffy had been one of the main inspirations for Russell T Davies' 2005 revamp (no pun intended) of the series and the character of Rose Tyler.
- The character of Mrs Linderhof who appears briefly is played by Laura-June Hudson. This is actually the costume designer June Hudson, who was responsible for much of the late Tom Baker era - including outfits for Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward and Tom's final burgundy costume.