The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did

Posted in Episode by - July 08, 2018
The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did

Aired 26 November 2016

Running concurrently with the preceding ‘Detained’ that so intimately explored the inner thoughts of the young students in a confined environment, ‘The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did’ represents the other extreme of storytelling as Quill comes into focus and writer Patrick Ness’s science fiction imagination is let loose to deliver a wholly distinct episode of Class.

With Quill so desperate to have the arn within her removed that death is an acceptable potential outcome of the attempt, a much greater appreciation of the character is gained through the journey that ensues at Dorothea’s behest within the metaphysical engine that can transfer individuals into a belief. With them is the more aloof Ballon, a shapeshifter trapped in one form, who is to act as Quill’s surgeon and who attains an arn within the idea of the heaven of that species as Dorothea orders Quill to remember her earliest childhood memory. Ness does a wonderful job in building in detail the different belief systems of these alien species in remarkably short order, and Ballon overcoming his fear to extract blood from the devil of his own species before then decapitating the Quill goddess to gain a brain for a practice run is a suitably dark and macabre exploration of the prospect of overcoming one’s first fear as Quill labels it, even if Ballon’s attempts to help Quill do so mean that she cannot fully explore her fury stemming from her goddess allowing her people to die.

Truly, one of the greatest strengths of the episode as Quill slowly becomes more optimistic and Ballon successfully removes the arn is the burgeoning romance between these two who share so much in common as they both intensely fight for their own freedom and try so desperately to reconnect with their lost species. When Dorothea claims that there is only enough energy to remove one of them from the illusion of Coal Hill that she instead reveals to be the Cabinet of Souls where time passes more quickly than in the real world, the two are told to fight to the death with Quill given a gun and Ballon told that the Governors have located his niece, the only other remaining member of his species. The two do initially try to resist, but the ensuing battle interspersed with their final conversation is incredibly powerful as the closure they could have given each other in different circumstances must remain permanently unexplored. With Ballon gaining the upper hand but then heartbreakingly suffering the ultimate fate because of Dorothea’s intervention, the fact that Quill then seems to escape by the Cabinet by a different means than previously mentioned as the only way out seemingly undercuts some of that drama retroactively, but the entire journey through the many locales and belief systems is emotionally resonant and among the most powerful storylines Class has yet offered.

As the penultimate episode in this current run of Class, the exceedingly small featured cast does nothing to limit the ambition and scale of this episode with its varied and visual locales that all come to life stunningly, and Katherine Kelly deserves full credit for making the most of her opportunity with Quill getting at least a hint of the meaningful exploration that the enigmatic character so clearly deserves. With Chiké Okonkwo and Pooky Quesnel likewise giving gripping performances that flesh out this gripping storyline that explores belief so effectively, ‘The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did’ may just be the closest to delivering a Doctor Who story that Class ever comes, and it succeeds admirably on all fronts while introducing an older and pregnant Quill and maintaining the mystery behind the Governors of Coal Hill and the incursions there that might not be as random as previously suspected.

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