Life Experience

Posted in Audio by - September 12, 2018
Life Experience

Released August 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following an intriguing but overstuffed welcome back to the world of Class with ‘Gifted’ that focused on the developing relationship between April and Ram, ‘Life Experience’ by Jenny T Colgan scales back the focus on character to offer the franchise’s first true base under siege entry. After signing up for work experience at Sevelin Laboratories, Tanya and Ram soon find that this world of medical research has a dark secret at its core, and nobody is safe once that secret escapes its confines.

Class never shied away from showing violence on television, and Colgan ensures that violence is very much at the forefront here as a large group of characters is quickly cut down to allow a much more focused exploration of fear and the differing responses to it. The basic premise of a mysterious creature stalking the dark corridors and laboratories of a science facility and killing anyone it comes upon has formed the backbone of a multitude of science fiction stories, but although this chameleon-like creature ends up being alien in nature with a couple of notable nuances to hint at the far more otherworldly experimentation occurring here, the script never manages to bring anything completely new to the table to make it stand out in any meaningful way from its peers. So while this motley ensemble of the students, the mayor, and those from the laboratory are all engaging enough, they simply seem like predetermined plot pieces filling a stereotypic role rather than completely dynamic characters in their own right.

This is not to say that the entire story is a bust, because there is a genuine sense of tension throughout knowing that the mysterious danger is advancing on the core group and that Lu Corfield’s mysterious director Vanderburgh seems to have little interest in stopping this creature that is doing exactly what is should. At the same time, Tanya is allowed to showcase her fierce intelligence and skills of observation, and Colgan clearly has a firm grasp on the character that Vivian Oparah seizes upon to give a truly profound performance as she helps to uncover the façade of medical research and to later buy her companions time. Likewise, while there’s no real need or reason for the mayor to be present other than to add an authoritative voice filled with self-entitlement and snark, Jasmine M Stewart provides a nice counterpoint while expertly channeling the real-world attitudes and personalities of so many contemporary political figures.

One of the big set sequences involving fire doesn’t quite manage to come to life as well as might be expected, which means that the story misses an opportunity to successfully step away from the genre familiarities and clichés that it otherwise liberally uses. Indeed, with the non-action focused more on instinctual reaction rather than true character development, ‘Life Experience’ is something of a superficial story with glimpses of greater ideas beneath its surface, perhaps highlighted best by Vanderburgh’s own secret and what the presence of this furtive operation actually means for the world. The actual horror of the creature’s stalking the facility works well, but this is a story packed with familiar elements that never quite manages to distinguish itself from similar stories that have come before it despite strong performances from all involved.

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