Doctor Who spin-off review: Class: Catfish

Tanya makes a new friend in Catfish, the second episode from Doctor Who spin-off box set Class: Volume 3. But who is he really?

The second episode of Doctor Who spin-off box set Class: The Audio Adventures: Volume 3 focuses on Tanya. Not just the youngest of the group but also one of the smartest, she often struggles to fit in with the rest of her friends. Fortunately, she makes a new friend with Paul, the new boy in school. But is he everything that he appears to be?

Kate Thorman’s first script for Class is one that suits the Doctor Who spin-off extremely well. Catfish does feature a strong sci-fi element but, like the TV series, there’s a heavy focus on exploring the personal lives of these characters.

This is especially true of Tanya in this episode. Thorman is keen to explore exactly how the character thinks and feels about her friends. Putting her in a relationship – and rather quickly, too – is a neat idea, especially as this was something that was never explored in the TV series. As a result, we get to explore some of Tanya’s most deep-rooted fears and insecurities in a fresh way.

Doctor Who

Joanna McGibbon plays Tanya Adeola in this episode.
(Image Courtesy: Big Finish Productions)

New Tanya

Playing Tanya in this episode is Joanna McGibbon. While Tanya is an established character, she was previously played by Vivian Oparah. Taking over a major role from someone else is no easy task, but McGibbon plays the part just right and makes it her own, fully embracing the awkwardness and vulnerability of the character.

At times, Tanya can be a challenging character to like in this episode, particularly as her insecurity becomes more and more open as the story goes on. But at the same time, it also feels right – not only was Tanya insecure in the TV series, but she is also a teenager, so the characterization definitely fits. Especially with her in a new relationship – for a long time, you’re not sure if the increased insecurity is down to her or Paul, which adds a strong element of uncertainty.

For a long while, you are left wondering how the sci-fi aspect will fit into the episode. But it definitely pays off when you find out what the title refers to. It’s not only a horrifying idea, but one that I would have liked to have seen explored just a little more. But it still has a satisfying payoff. The resolution, while not exactly subtle, still works, and the message it has is an important one.

Catfish is an episode that takes its time, but it does eventually pay off as a decent episode. It captures the spirit of the TV series well while also telling a good story. A strong writer’s debut for the series.

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How do you feel about recasting? Do you think Class was successful at portraying teenagers in general? Let us know in the comments below.

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