The Lost

(26 comments)

There’s something grimly and hilariously inevitable about Class ending with the Weeping Angels. I mean, it’s not as though “The Weeping Angels try to invade Earth” is a particularly gripping premise in and of itself, but after a fourth episode of the Shadow Kin it’s more than slightly galling to see the show offer such a straightforwardly superior alternative, as though it wants to remind us one more time on the way out that this could have been a much more interesting show than it was.

Instead we get yet another case of the show being pretty good with a clear attitude of “will this do?” to it. The big bad returns. There are some carefully selected secondary character deaths - enough to flag “it’s the season finale and things are serious,” not enough to actually require that we grapple with it on a level other than having Ram or Tanya shout “my dad”/”my mom” in suitably distraught tones a few times. The trigger on the MacGuffin gets pulled, revelations are made about next season, and we end with a cliffhanger instead of a narrative resolution.

It’s not that there aren’t good bits. On the whole I quite liked the “if we kill them are we any better than them,” “yes” exchange, though it’s even better in the gifset version I’ve seen floating around Tumblr where it instead cuts to Tanya saying “white people” back in “Detaned.” Tanya fighting was delightful, even if it’s difficult to imagine how the 5-10 minutes of training she had with Quill could, you know, matter.

But a lot more noticeable than the good bits of the episode, or indeed the bad bits, are simply the bits that aren’t there at all. For instance, Corakinus’s plan is… what, exactly? Matteusz will be “five” in his count-up of kills, which handily implies a revenge scheme along the lines of “he’s going to kill someone close to each of our main characters,” except of course Quill and April don’t actually have anyone available (since we’ve apparently decided April’s mother can’t be killed, presumably because that would actually have consequences) the murders are distributed as one for Ram, three for Tanya, one for Charlie. All of which apparently exists to get April to return to the Underneath with him, except his actual plan is just to destroy the Earth apparently? I mean, you can tell how little actual weight is being put on this by the obligatory “but we beat you,” “yeah but we’re back” exchange between April and Corakinus, which all but counts on the fact that the viewer is sufficiently uninvested in the outcome of the midseason two-parter to just go “oh, OK, sure.” For the most part this isn’t a problem per se - the episode has enough momentum that a bit of incoherence in Corakinus’s plan doesn’t really register. But it illustrates a lack - the degree to which there’s nothing going on here but the raw, unfiltered bombast of a season finale with the big bad.

But this gets at the bigger thing that’s missing, which is any sort of character work whatsoever. The episode hinges on the April/Charlie relationship, which is, of April’s relationships with the other three core students, by some margin the least developed. And it gets next to no time to breathe here, because there is no time to breathe in this. Ram is reduced to sniveling from the sidelines, with essentially all of his development since the opening minutes of “The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo” undone in the cold open. Tanya gets a bit more, in that she’s at least paired with Quill to do some things, but it’s more that Tanya gets screentime than that she gets any actual character moments.

All of which is, if not minor stuff, certainly not major travesties. But it’s also all stuff that completely forecloses any possibility of this show being great. And more to the point, it’s stuff that forecloses any possibility of this show being unique or special. Surely the point of hiring a top young adult novelist to solo-write an entire eight episode show is to get a show that has its own perspective or voice. If the BBC wanted this, they could have just hired Toby Whithouse.

  • Two truly stellar bits of awful Ness dialogue here in Tanya’s “I am 100 years old now” monologue and, a possible series best, “do you ever feel like it’s so dark that it’ll never be light again.” Good lord.
  • Much as I like the departure from standardized Doctor Who ethics whereby using the weapon of mass destruction is treated as the right choice (which I like not so much because I’m fond of weapons of mass destruction as because I’m fond of disrupting ossified dogma within Doctor Who), there’s something a bit icky about the way in which Charlie’s status as a prince becomes an intrinsic moral force. “Aristocrats are necessary to do the dirty work” is a pretty spectacularly ugh message.
  • It doesn’t help that Quill’s back to a somewhat uncertain marginal role here. So the aristocrat gets pushed into a role of moral centrality, whereas the terrorist freedom fighter gets knocked up and lands firmly in the support role. Lame.
  • Dorothea almost managed to have an interesting arc-like thing. But killing her off seemed utterly pointless - I can’t imagine any execution of Season Two that wouldn’t be more interesting for having her in it. Instead the Governors get to be fairly generic-looking villains backed by Weeping Angels. And perhaps more to the point, nothing she did was ever bad enough to make her death feel cathartic. Instead it added to the sense that this would have been a better episode if it had spent more time finishing the story of season one than setting up a (presently not actually announced) season two.
  • Right. Rankings, rejigged a bit to reflect my overall sense of the show. See everyone towards the end of the month for some actual Doctor Who!
  1. Detained
  2. The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart/Brave-Ish Heart
  4. Nightvisiting
  5. For Tonight We Might Die
  6. The Lost
  7. The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

 

Comments

Chris C 2 months, 2 weeks ago

All in all, it screams 'I have never written for TV before and am not receiving meaningful supervision'.

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Ombund 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I was nonplussed by Ness's assertion on Twitter that in making Class he "learned I'm a stubborn mofo". Looking at what we got I can't really imagine what he had to be particularly stubborn about. Perhaps that's it though, maybe he refused proper supervision when more would have been advisable.

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Daibhid C 2 months, 2 weeks ago

there’s something a bit icky about the way in which Charlie’s status as a prince becomes an intrinsic moral force. “Aristocrats are necessary to do the dirty work” is a pretty spectacularly ugh message.

I didn't get that; to me Charlie's status as a prince just meant he was the one who had the ability to open the box; the morality or otherwise of doing so being entirely irrelevant.

Which could be because I didn't see opening the box as necessarily being the "right" choice - after all, Matteusz who, if he has a narrative purpose, appears to be Charlie's conscience, doesn't think so. Instead, the series seemed to be groping vaguely towards the idea that it wasn't as simple as "One of these things is The Right Thing To Do, or if it isn't there's probably a third option somewhere." Which was one of two interesting things I thought the series did, and to be fair, it seemed to put more effort into it than the other one (see previous rant).

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Riggio 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The Lost had a bunch of interesting things going on under the surface, but the story and direction didn't quite call attention to the coolest parts of its own narrative and ideas. Ness seems to focus on building a giant six-kitchen-sinks-and-a-bathtub-full-of-evil-aliens style finale that Russell T Davies used to do when he ran Doctor Who. Which is a shame, because even RTD couldn't hit all those landings perfectly and he needed to enter a near-dissociative trance to write them.

Anyway, piggybacking as usual.
https://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2016/12/if-i-could-create-virus-class-lost.html

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ViolentBeetle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Nuking the shadow kin was the one bit I definitely liked, because seeing Geneva-compliant ethos together with absolutely no-civilian adversary was always rather silly. If entire enemy nation is nothing but combatants, they are all fair game. Also, I'm glad of Shadow kin being destroyed because it means I am unlikely to be subjected to this orcs completely devoid of irony.

Now we've been in for an entire season and I can definitively start complaining about cast. They all have no business being main characters and at no point they actually justified being them. They went with mostly generic archetypes, but they never gave them any capacity to act those archetypes out. Tanya was hit them most, since she's allegedly smart, but aside from allegedly being few years younger (Not like she looks like it) her only sign of intelligence is regurgitating social justice dictionary. She simply has no scientific or xenological knowledge to do what designated geniuses do in fiction. And other characters are no better. Charlie is an alien, but he doesn't know jack about superior alien science. April was alien powers now, but she doesn't get to use them beside the middle two-parter. Ram is being a normal guy. Effectively, everyone beside Quill is being a damsel, and the show doesn't need more than one, if at all. "Ordinary kids fight aliens" is just not a very workable premise, it's a miracle SJA managed to make something out of it.

It could probably be amended if April is promoted to central character and the show get structured around her. She gets all the cool shadow powers and becomes a hero capable of getting things done. Charlie is an advanced alien aristocrat, so he should have know about alien superscience. Ram is generic normal guy - the show needs one. And Tanya is the one who can assist Charlie because she's smart enough to understand what he's doing. While Miss Quill acting as an unwilling mentor stuck with them. Now I've got some fairly generic cast, but it would work, which is a step above generic cast that doesn't.

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Phil Sandifer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh, I mostly liked the cast. Tanya in particular - I appreciated that being intelligent meant being better than anyone else at figuring stuff out as opposed to just having Galactic Wikipedia in your brain. And I don't think using her alien powers would have made April more interesting in the least.

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Phil Sandifer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Also, I think it's a pretty big mistake to treat Tanya as drawing from "social justice dictionary" as opposed to from her own lived experience as a black girl.

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Ombund 2 months, 2 weeks ago

That was certainly what they were aiming for, but for me it never managed to transcend the fact that we were getting a middle-aged white guy's impression of what a young black woman would say. It felt as if Tanya was regurgitating a couple of Tumblr articles Ness had read one time, and doing so in a way that bore no relation to the way people really talk. But again, this may be down to Ness's tin ear for dialogue as much as anything.

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ViolentBeetle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm positve that as White adult American male you have total and comprehensive grasp of experiences of a black teenage girl in UK and so does Peter Ness.

But I was talking about her vocabulary, not her beliefs.

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Kiki 2 months, 2 weeks ago

> "Ordinary kids fight aliens" is just not a very workable premise

B... but Animorphs!

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taiey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

For some reason their sole obsession is on the characters' abilities, and the Animorphs can turn into animals.

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ViolentBeetle 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, I was specifically about abilities, not personality. If you fight powerful aliens and you don't have any power or weapon or skills, that's just getting silly. It usually ends by some contrivance bailing them out.

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Janine 2 months, 2 weeks ago

For once we're agreed!

That was pretty awful. This just strikes me as a show written by someone who hasn't even watched television before, let alone written it.

Rankings:
1. The Metaphysical Engine
2. Nightvisiting
3. The Lost (which despite its problems is at least engaging)
4. For Tonight We Might Die
5. Detained
6. Hearts
7. The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

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AntonB 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I'd say not only has Peter Ness not watched TV before but he's never heard real people speak. One wonders what he has done, apart from write some YA fiction. I mean are his books any good? Anyone read them?

I was vaguely hoping that the finale might offer a redemptive retcon reading for the preceding episodes. Though how that might have been achieved is a puzzle to me that I couldn't summon the energy to solve beyond 'it was all a collective bad dream to prepare them for the real battle in season 2'. That was Ness's job which he apparently didn't realise was necessary due to his being such a 'stubborn mofo'. Wow! How that phrase sums up his appalling grasp of vernacular. As it turned out the last episode actually made the others seem worse. Please, this can't go to a second series surely?

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Janine 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Actually, though, there were moments of mundane realism in there - like, despite the grasp of real human interactions, there were some moments that somehow managed to capture them a bit too well. The scenes between April and Ram in the Heart two-parter are an accurate representation of what happens when you try to talk like a television character in real life, which is just the perfect way to sum up Ness's approach.

I haven't read his books. Apparently they're good... but then, apparently this is too, so I'll believe that when I see (or rather read) it.

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Janine 2 months, 2 weeks ago

That should say "despite the poor grasp", sorry.

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AntonB 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I mean yeah, you do hear kids speak this way. It's that gruesome show-off thing they do, when they're aware that adults are in earshot, of TALKING REALLY LOUDLY IN WHAT THEY BELIEVE ARE WITTY AND SNAPPY ONE LINERS. I blame Joss Whedon and countless sitcoms with smart-ass teen characters.

What Ness has done in Class is create an unintentionally meta version of this. Entirely lacking in self awareness but rigidly convinced that It's breaking boundaries. Like the very teenspeak it's accidentally reflecting.

It's other problem was in its bland casting and the actors lack of commitment to the thin material. This might have also been down to the writing and in most instances the wooden direction. I'm sure if you look closely it'd be possible to catch them checking the audition notices in The Stage in between scenes.

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Tom Marshall 2 months, 2 weeks ago

His books are great, and much more praised and highly thought of than this his fledgling TV effort - he's much more a novelist than he is a scriptwriter.

"A Monster Calls" (which is a different novelist's idea, but she died of cancer, and her estate asked Patrick to write the final novel according to her wishes) is particularly excellent. Very moving, and - unusually - has some of the most vital and marvellous illustrations by which a book has ever been blessed to be accompanied.

The film (out now) has been getting good press, too.

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Tom Marshall 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Also I'm not quite sure why you feel the need to be so snappy and surly about this man ("one wonders what he has done", et al). He's a chronic-anxiety-attack-suffering gay man raised in a devout Evangelical Christian tradition for whom growing up obviously was the kind of war he's trying to depict for his characters, has written a number of extremely well-received novels (much more so than the series, as I say), and has done wonders among the YA audience you seem so keen to denigrate and put down (helping young men come out, for instance, which this series has already done as we know from letters to Radio Times, let alone what his books have achieved).

As far as I'm concerned, if "Class" made the burden of those tortuous and angsty teenage years a little lighter for some of the people most in the middle of it, most in need of that assurance - the rest of us safely on the other side of the shore be damned, and good for "Class". It's done some good in the world and justified its existence. As Charles Dickens said, "no one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for somebody else."

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AntonB 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If Class genuinely has helped anyone come to terms with their difficulties I'm very glad and while of course I sympathise with Ness's problem upbringing and am sorry he suffers from chronic anxiety this shouldn't allow him to not be a very good writer and in no way gives him license to immunity from criticism. I'm sorry if you found my critique a little harsh.

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Comment deleted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Camestros Felapton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Definite mixed feelings in the house. One member of the target audience got very grumpy with this episode and declared the Weeping Angels reveal as 'just stupid'.

1. everybody liked the cast overall
2. everybody liked Quill in general but not in this episode
3. Tanya's mum's death was a genuine shock to everybody I was watching it with - but I think that was because they'd got momentarily distracted by having an argument about how whiny Ram sounded v. OK to sound whiny if your dad just got stabbed.

Overall, I think the final episode was like the series. Good cast, good acting, dialogue a bit weak, some good ideas, but everything felt rushed.

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Alexander Smith 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Not content with going into the hospitality business in New York, now the Angels have started running a free school in London.

Remember when they were scary?

The main problem with this, as people have alluded to above, is that it's just too bland. The characters are too bland. Every character except Quill is just an utter wet weekend, and nothing like your actual eighteen year olds in east London. But then, the Shoreditch seen in Class is nothing like your actual east London. Doctor Who can get away with staging Cardiff as London because it moves on to a new location every episode - Class doesn't have that luxury, and I got no sense of 'place' or geography from the show at all. Buffy's Sunnydale felt more like a real place than Class's Shoreditch.

I just don't get how anyone's supposed to relate to these characters except in the broadest, blandest way possible - oh, she's lonely, she's smart, he's good at football. There's no life to them. What do they do for fun? Where do they go out? Why is it that the worst thing we see one of these kids doing is smoking?

Baffling. I do enjoy Quill, though - probably because she actually seems to enjoy herself just as much.

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dm 2 months, 1 week ago

Were the Angels ever really scary though? Obviously it's entirely subjective, but when Lawrence Miles described them as a "real-world thing likely to make children pretend to be scared" it really struck a chord with me.

I was raised on the classic series during the wilderness years, and though YMMV the only things in all of Doctor Who that have scared me were Tegan in Snakedance, The Sensorites, the Fendahl and the Garm. Essentially, very fucking weird shit that has no right to be in my living room and please get the fuck out I can't handle your existence (very effective in the Sensorites due to the inversion of a archetype, albeit one Who had barely used up to that point). What it came down to was that quiet, uncanny, looming powerful things might be stalking the world and they don't care whether I live or die.

I'm not saying that my experience is universal, but I have worked with children and a behaviour I witnessed a lot was a sort of pantomime "acting scared" thing, largely for the benefit of the adults present. When pressed to create something scary (usually in creative writing exercises), what they create is really fucking weird. Kids don't turn everyday things they don't like into monsters. They turn to their deepest fears (if they are lucky enough to have had a safe childhood), that fear of being left alone in a shopping centre, of strange shopkeepers in weird uniforms, of signs they can't read, of objects and machines (ATMs, parking meters, soda syphons) the purpose of which they can't fathom and are secretly scared they'll one day be left alone to figure out for themselves, when tasked to create something horrific.

The Weeping Angels, whose second story I really enjoy, are not a great monster. They're a TV critic's idea of a great, classic monster.

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dm 2 months, 1 week ago

Meant to add: while I can see that the angels might fit that mould, their MO really doesn't. They're always this conscious thing desperately trying to trick you. They have no authority or stature, despite being referred to repeatedly as ancient. This is probably why I like their two parter the best, because they were explicitly in a desperate situation, so you could imagine a much scarier version of them in their prime (also I just lapped up all the alchemical and magic realist stuff, I love when doctor who skips the technobabble)

And it's why I quite like the idea of them in Class. We assume there's some reason they need a weird dumb cult to bring them to earth, but they have a weird dumb cult so they must be scary.

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dm 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm going to say it again. In YA TV with no time for actual character and relationship development, chuck them all in a cafe or pizza place and have them laughing at shit. That's what this show needed for us to invest in and like these characters. Boomtown.

Overall, honestly, there was so much that was good about this. It was a pretty even good:bad ratio, but the good did leave me rooting for it, even as it collapsed into trite nonsense.

A lot of it felt like "doing good Doctor Who 10 years too late". It would have been very, very well received if it had come out instead of Torchwood. By the same token, had Torchwood come out now we'd have appreciated its campiness and its trashy 90s scifi-ness more, as well. So, really, it's more a problem of chronology than quality.

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