Class S01E03 “Nightvisiting” REVIEW
- And we’re back! With a montage of a couple falling in love, getting married, having a child and seeing her grow up.
- It’s Tanya. Her family whole and happy and then, two years ago exactly, we see her numbly watch her dad’s body being wheeled out of the house. We see her family take her to lay flowers at his grave. We see life go on and we see Tanya quietly hating that it has. We see her kiss a photo of her dad and then…
- …her dad appears in her bedroom.
- And bless her she doesn’t buy it for a SECOND. Even after Dad claims he’s reached out across time and space to reach her. He tells her he knows how much pain she’s in and that he can help. He offers his hand and she, just, manages, to resist and leave the room. Inside, we see the tentacle that her dad has extruded out of flow out across London and back, of course, to the Coal Hill rift.
- Matteusz goes to see Miss Quill. Well, actually goes to see Charlie. He explains he’s been thrown out.
- Meanwhile Ram calls Tanya but there’s no response. All of them are unaware of the tentacles outside their windows.
- April is practicing a piece of music called “Nightvisiting” when Ram calls. She explains about Tanya’s anniversary and Ram, being endearingly rubbish as he is, mocks her a bit for being multi-talented.
- Miss Quill is reading when there’s a knock at the door. On Skype, there’s a knock on Ram’s window.
- At Miss Quill’s, Matteusz tells Charlie that his dad threw him out because now he has a boyfriend he can’t hide from the fact his son is gay anymore.
- Downstairs, an older women suddenly appears and calls Miss Quill Andra. Quill responds that no one alive knows that name.
- At Tanya’s flat, her family are wrapped up in alien tendrils…
- On Skype, April watches as Ram turns and runs from the room. Rachel, very recently dead Rachel, is walking into the room, connected to a tentacle. She looks at the screen, April yells and shuts it off.
- Tanya goes back to her room. She asks why she was first and her “dad” claims she was the one that missed him the most. Cutting between Miss Quill’s and Tanya’s places, we see Tanya’s dad and Miss Quill’s sister explain what they are. They are the Lankin, a race that collects souls, and looks after them. Souls give off energy, and by collecting them, the Lankin can give the souls what they need and they can be used as a power source. Tanya’s dad asks her to take his hand so, years from now, when she dies, she can find him.
- Outside his house, Ram is the first one to spot the huge network of vine-like tendrils covering every house. He cuts one and it knits together. Rachel calls to him from his room and he runs off.
- At Miss Quill’s house, Matteusz and Charlie are still talking. Matteusz tells Charlie he loves him. Charlie, bless him, kisses him.
- Downstairs, the Lankin explain that they weren’t able to reach Earth until cracks started appearing on the planet. Miss Quill is having absolutely none of it, especially given the brutal nature of the Quill’s familial relationships. Likewise Tanya is really doubtful, although she’s starting to buy it.
- Ram, out on the street, sees an old man tearfully reunited with his mother. She takes his hand and INSTANTLY the tendril linked to his “mother” yanks him off into the air.
- At Miss Quill’s, Charlie and Mattesuz are talking about love. Charlie’s people view love as a business contract. He stumblingly talks about how humans have so much more choice. It’s halting and sweet and we love that the two gay characters in this episode are amongst the happiest people we see.
- Downstairs, Miss Quill’s “sister” is getting antsy. She tries to goad Miss Quill into a fight and Quill gets more information out of her about the tendrils; that the souls have to stay connected to the “great trunk”. Both Miss Quill’s sister and Tanya’s dad are clearly getting desperate, ramping up the sales pitch.
- Tanya, because she’s smart, asks her dad why he calls her Puddle. He tells her the story, and she is so close to buying it.
- Ram’s still running, down London streets covered in vines and cocooned people.
- At Miss Quill’s, she’s still not buying it. Upstairs, Charlie and X are having sex as, nearby, other tendrils open the windows…
- Ram calls April and they team up and have our favourite conversation from the show so far about rationality and why April is as smart and calm as she is.
- Upstairs at Miss Quill’s two tendrils start to weave into people…
- Downstairs, Miss Quill’s sister ramps the sale pitch again. She reminds Quill of her vow to kill her the last time they met and, suddenly, there’s a gun in her hand and Quill for the first time is rattled…
- April and Ram stop for a rest and April opens up. She explains about how her dad was a fiddle player whose gradual alcoholism led to a suicide attempt and the car accident that paralysed her mum. April had therapy, she got better and life went on because she decided it had to, otherwise her dad would have won. It’s quiet and friendly and has this core of steel to it and April is now officially our favourite character.
- They kiss and yay!
- At Quill’s Charlie wakes up and gets a flash of his parents standing at the end of the bed. Ram and April reach the school and see that the core tendril is coming from the rift. They notice the main tendril is in the direction of Tanya’s apartment and head there.
- At Tanya’s, she tells her “dad” that her dad was a police officer and her mum would always worry. She talks about how her dad would always check in on her when he got home from a night shift, and how she used to do the same thing when she was little. Her dad begs her to come to him to lessen her pain.
- At Miss Quill’s, her sister begs her to take the gun. She explains that she can only reach out and Quill has to reach back. Charlie and Matteusz come down and Quill relaxes because finally she can act now Charlie is under threat. She takes her sister down and tells the boys to get knives.
- April and Ram arrive at Tanya’s house and April explains about nightvisiting, a genre of folk songs about ghosts visiting in the night. The songs have existed for centuries, suggesting that this may have happened before…
- At Quill’s, Charlie nails one of the tendril’s “hands” down with a screwdriver and Quill begins interrogating her. At the same time, Ram and April arrive at Tanya’s and April finally gets through to Charlie. They fill each other in and Ram and April go in to get Tanya.
- At Quill’s, she reveals that she knows the truth; the Lankin aren’t a race, it’s an individual. The tendrils are “tongues” and the Lankin is here to feed on human grief. The tendril tells them it’s found a grief that will make it incredible strong and then disappears. Charlie tells Quill it must have meant Tanya and they head off to kill it.
- At Tanya’s she is so close to her dad. He’s practically begging her to take his hands as Matteusz, Quill and Charlie head over through streets infested with tendrils.
- Ram and April find Tanya’s apartment covered with tendrils and the rest of the family wrapped up and cocooned. In her room, Tanya is still asking about what happens. Her “dad” claims she’ll become free. He BEGS her to take his hand and she still can’t quite believe it. His voice begins to break down as Ram calls out to her. She realises something is horribly wrong as Ram and April arrive. “Dad” explains that Tanya will be his heart in this world. April and Ram tell him they’ll have to go through him first and he knocks them out.
- Downstairs, Matteusz, Quill and Charlie hack through the tendrils and get to the flat.
- Upstairs, Ram and April are cocooned and “Dad” tells her that he’ll kill her family if she doesn’t take his hand. She bargains for her friends’ lives but it’s too late. She takes his hand.
- The feeding starts and… suddenly “Dad” recoils. Tanya yells at him that she’s given him her anger at her dad for leaving not her grief. He thrashes and scream and tells her she’s weakened him but not enough. He stands and…
- …Quill runs over the main tendril in a double decker bus. “Dad” is dragged outside, smashes against the ground and evaporates. The main tendril recoils back through the rift.
- Outside, the newly free Londoners have no memory of what happened. Quill watches her kids bond as a “team” and leaves, disgusted and perhaps a little unsure of how she really works.
- April walks Ram home and he’s endearingly rubbish. Matteusz and Charlie arrive back at Quill’s with her stalking along behind them like a permanently disgusted battle heron. As they head upstairs, she looks at the outline of the “gun” on the ground and says, “I am a warrior of the Quill race. And a warrior needs a GUN.”
- At Tanya’s she and her mum reminisce about her dad. Once her mum leaves, Tanya says goodbye to her dad and kisses his photo.
That sound you hear is a show definitely hitting its stride. “Nightvisiting” is a really strong hour of TV and, crucially, one that balances the needs of the Doctor Who franchise with the personal identity of the show.
The Doctor Who element comes from the Lankin, the latest in the queue of races who want to feed on Earth. They, or perhaps it, is is a gloriously squishy special effect too. The tendrils evoke every version of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (see them all, they’re all good or at least interesting) while the human bodies they generate are a neat call back to angler fish. It’s an idea that’s relatively simple to do, looks great and is really disturbing when it hits. Listen to Jasper’s voice in the final scenes as the lure breaks down. That’s vintage Who scary, and Class has hit that vein of work inside three episodes. Nicely done, everyone.
But where the show really sings is where it’s unique. The fact that Charlie and Matteusz’s relationship is a positive beat in the episode makes us want to punch the air. A lesser show would have spun whole episodes out of Matteusz’s break-up with his family and angst over his relationship. Here, it’s presented with the sort of realistic pragmatism that real life is shot through with. The fact it’s also very sweet and extremely funny helps too.
Likewise Ram and April have a really good week. We’re tremendously enjoying how the show is positioning Ram as something halfway between Xander and a Doctor Who companion. He’s not stupid by any means but he’s also still the one most tied to their old world view and that’s making his life difficult. We especially loved how his first reaction to seeing Rachel was running like Hell, because, again, it’s realistic. Fady Elsayed has tremendous natural presence but he’s also not afraid to keep the character honest and, again, that performance and the writing really lifts the episode.
But if this episode belongs to two people its Vivian Oparah and Sophie Hopkins. The speech April gives Ram about her dad is arguably the show’s finest moment to date. It echoes spiritual ancestor Dark Season in its unflinching look at personal horror but unlike Marcy from Dark Season, April’s made her peace with the world. It’s a curious peace, equal parts guarded and fists up and open hearted and joyous but she makes it work. Brave, quiet, determined and smart, April is one of the most interesting characters any Who show has featured in years.
But Vivian Oparah is the heart of the episode. Tanya is the anti-victim, almost scientifically dissecting what her “Dad” is telling her and still desperately wanting it to be true. Again, like Elsayed and Hopkins, it’s a realistic, grounded performance. Like them it gives the episode the emotional grounding and different perspective it and the show both need. And, like them, it’s a pheneomenally smart piece of acting that marks Oparah out as a talent to watch in the future.
“Nightvisiting” feels like exactly what Class has set out to be; a story about what happens when the Doctor isn’t around and the price people pay for stepping into the breach. It’s a little slow in the middle but that aside, this is a smart, pacy, very funny piece of TV and Class’s strongest episode so far. Bring on April and the alien sword.
- “Alien invasion or teen angst?”
“Teen angst is a pejorative phrase.” Please lots more of Matteusz being too nice for Miss Quill to frighten next week.
- “Holy Mother of Kanye.” Yes INDEED.
- “If heaven is being with the souls of everyone you’ve ever met, then yes.”
“Sounds like Hell.”
That too.” Miss Quill continues to be the grumpy, kind-of heroine we deserve.
- “Do you always have to be so goddamn sensible?”
“Yes! Yes I do always have to this be goddamn sensible!”
“Why? Why do you say that?”
“Because the world isn’t sensible haven’t you noticed?”
“Yeah. I noticed.”
“I decided a long time ago I could let that break me into pieces or make sure that it never got the chance. You just think I’m nice or sensible but really it’s war. I’m always at war.” This entire speech is our favourite thing about the episode.
- “Do you… often see your parents after sex?” Matteusz quietly gets two of the best lines this episode. This is the second. Also this whole thing with Charlie’s parents not even registering enough love with him for the Lankin to copy them is quietly really sad.
- “NO ONE disgraces the memory of my sister by making her nice!”
“By the way Matteusz lives with us now.”
“Whatever.” Miss Quill, for whom “pastoral care” is just another way of saying, “things that bore me.”
- “You don’t get to have my closure. So how does THAT taste?” Hell yes!
- Miss Quill’s reaction to The Hunger Games is brilliant.
- The DELAYED bus stop is a lovely piece of jet black humour.
- The pragmatic way Charlie and Matteusz are approaching their relationship, and how happy it makes them, is brilliant.
- The thematic tie at the heart of this episode is Doctor Who at its absolute best. The use of nightvisiting as the central motif and how the Lankin twists that is effortlessly clever and very nasty. Also, as Class needs to be, very personal.
- Strong performances from everyone this week. However, that conversation between Ram and April is our new favourite thing. Not just because it neatly casts Ram as the one with something to learn but because April’s strength is shown in a very human, very honest way. Plus, it looks like we get an April-centric (with swords) episode next week. WOOOO!
- In fact the slightly serialized nature of the show is really paying off. Quill’s need for a weapon this episode is going to be very important later on we suspect.
- Tanya. Every single moment Vivian Oparah is on screen this episode is great. It would have been so easy to just have her as a constantly suffering, hysterical victim. Instead, she asks all the right questions, makes all the right choices and it still almost rips her in two. Great writing and great acting.
- Just brilliant guest stars this week. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who does such a fantastic job as Jasper, can be seen in a small but pivotal role in Doctor Strange right now. His other credits include appearances in Holby City, The Last Panthers and Jesse Eisenberg movie The Double as well as deeply odd sort of spy thriller Turks & Caicos.
- Anastasia Hille, who’s also fantastic as Miss Quill’s sister, has had regular roles in You, Me and The Apocalypse, The Missing and others including The Bletchley Circle and The Tunnel.
- There’s a touch too much running around the streets this episode. Ram in particular doesn’t get much to do in the first half besides that.
- Quill’s stunt with the bus is fun but why does that drive the Lankin off? Is it because it breaks the connection with Tanya when her “Dad” is destroyed?
- Of course no one who was taken over can remember. Because otherwise Who as a franchise would finally have to make good on Jack’s decade old promise that the “21st century is when everything changes”. We know, we know, it’s debatable whether or not this is an issue but it does get tiresome.
- Ed Bazalgette, brilliantly, is the former lead guitarist of rock group The Vapors. He’s also the great great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette who designed London’s sewers. Ed directed and produced The Sewer King, a really good documentary about his ancestor. He’s also directed for EastEnders, Holby City, Poldark and others. He’s also on deck for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special and directed two of our favourite episodes last year “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived”.
- The episode is bookended by “Nightvisitor” by Jim Moray.
Review by Alasdair Stuart