Class is back in session, this time focusing largely on Ram, the school sports king. I haven’t warmed to the characters yet, but I think that was the point: introduce us to some that are hard to like and slowly pull us in with a few at a time. Charlie, April and Tanya are very likable. Ram and Quill, not so much. But by giving us a coach who is an even bigger jerk to offset Ram, we can bond with him more. With Quill, she gets a very strange inspector to be colder than she is, which takes some doing, and it makes us more compassionate toward her. But what is the issue with The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo? It’s a surprisingly clever means to an end.
The entire episode focuses on the PTSD that Ram is experiencing. He suspects it himself at one point when he thinks he’s been hallucinating but that’s not the only sign of PTSD. As he has flashbacks to the death of his girlfriend, the evidence is writ large on the page of his life. He’s suffering. The filming is pretty fantastic for these sequences, interspersing the images from the previous episode over the current one in brief bursts to let the viewer know what is going on inside his mind. It’s pretty impressive that the show was willing to tackle this issue as it’s one that is almost never touched upon in the parent series, Doctor Who. The thrust of the episode is that Ram’s friends are all trying to get him to talk about his feelings and they think a shared trauma will help him express himself. But it’s Tanya, the 14 year old hacker, who is able to get through by doing exactly the opposite; letting him come to terms with it all on his own. It leads to an outstanding moment in the series. Ram asks: “how did you know when to start talking?”
I can’t overstate enough how impressive this question is. The show, an underrated and unsung hero in the Doctor Who universe, was addressing the value of opening up and the merits of seeking help when needed without flattening us with an over-the-head bashing like some writers do. It’s only after Ram finally opens up that he’s able to save everyone. He actually talks the attacking dragon into attacking the coach thus saving his friends, and then for an encore, goes home and opens up to his dad. In so doing, his father helps him practice (albeit probably with a head full of questions) and Ram starts to achieve his goal. It’s not an instant cure! It’s a step to getting better, and it starts when Ram opens up! Bravo to some really spectacular writing!
Quill, on the other hand, gets a more humorous storyline to offset the drama of what Ram is going through. She verbally assaults the strange inspector, then jumps on him and eventually throws him to the dragon only to learn his a robot. The payoff is more humorous than serious with her telling her newfound team only for them to totally dismiss it, until they find out that she kissed the robot. It’s a weaker story but opens a door to the mysterious “Governors”, mentioned earlier in this episode by the headmaster (“The Governors wouldn’t like it!”) The thing is, if it’s an evil entity or organization, does it really make sense to brand that title on a robot? In other words, do the Cybermats have a brand that says “Cybermen Inc”? Daleks might come up with a dippy plan like that, actually. Right after they create a game network to harvest humans… But seriously, what other race would create a brand? Unless the Governors are a human agency. Let’s give it time to unfold.
The biggest oversight of the episode for me is after Ram gets attacked, he does the logical thing: he hits the showers in the school. How did he get there unseen covered as he was in gore and viscera? Moreover, when the kids come into the locker room, does no one see his cybernetic leg? Maybe he wore socks into the shower? As a fun observation, I very much enjoyed that Quill wanted to play Sherlock Holmes, giving a complete rundown of the Inspector from calluses to suit fabric. She even sports a rather large magnifying glass later on. (Apt day for me; I watched this on January 6th – Sherlock’s “birthday”!) April says she doesn’t want to kill anyone, including bad guys. And Tanya has a line I applaud as well; when finding out that Ram is an athlete who smokes, she says, “how can you do anything that stupid?” I am truly amazed this show didn’t catch on. I really blame the powers-that-be for not broadcasting more about it. (Good lord, maybe that’s the work of The Governors!)
Well, the Class will go on protecting the Bunghole of Time, as they enjoy calling it. They might not be doing quite the same job the Doctor would have done but they will do their best and if this episode is anything to go by, they’re making great strides. Guess we will see how next week brings us deeper into the fold. Until then… Class dismissed. ML