Ever felt like Doctor Who needed a spinoff high school drama? No? Well, we're getting one anyway. And, in all fairness, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about Class — the hype machine surrounding it isn't going into overdrive, and it's written by Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness.
Set at Coal Hill Academy, Class will examine the lives of four sixth form students who happen to encounter some weird extraterrestrial shenanigans; they then have to learn how to deal with this on top of their studies and adolescent social life. Also, their physics teacher Miss Quill might be evil. Might.
Class is set to debut on the BBC on October 22, and expect it to be a little more Torchwood, a little less The Sarah Jane Adventures. With adult themes threaded throughout (it's got sex and everything), Ness has mentioned that he doesn't just want teenagers to enjoy this, he wants adults to watch it, too. By the looks of things, Class is going to be pretty damn edgy. Whoa.
Here's What We Know Of The Plot So Far
We've actually got a little bit of a synopsis for the first episode, called "For Tonight We Might Die," courtesy of Den of Geek. The sinister undertones are hard to miss:
It’s a new term at Coal Hill Academy, and students are preparing for their Autumn Prom. But when the school comes under attack, four alienated students must form an unlikely alliance to defeat them. And this incursion is only the beginning…Charlie (Greg Austin), April (Sophie Hopkins), Ram (Fady Elsayed) and Tanya (Vivian Oparah), assisted by their physics teacher Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly), are charged with a great responsibility by the mysterious alien known as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi): guard against the creatures of nightmare that want nothing more than to find a way through to Earth and take it for their own.
The fact that the pupils are getting ready for an autumn prom doesn't quite ring true for me; I've never encountered an English school that has a prom at the beginning of a new school year, which makes me question the authenticity of the setting. Then again, I'm only going by my personal experience with the British education system, so their school's probably just nicer than mine.
While the premise of "four alienated students must form an unlikely alliance" (nice sci-fi pun) sounds a little bit too stereotypically high school on first glance, Ness did mention to Empire that he wasn't "telling stories of the 'chosen ones' ... I'm interested in real consequences." So making a negative judgement based on the synopsis could be a tad harsh for me to do right now, as going by what we've heard from Ness, there could be a bit more to it than what meets the eye.
Also, we've been all but told that the Doctor's going to be in the first episode, so that's a nice addition. There's nothing better to brighten up your day than Peter Capaldi's smiling face.
Wait, An Experienced Young Adult Fiction Writer Is The Showrunner?
Yup. From the limited exposure I've had to Ness's novels, I'm actually very impressed so far, and I'm not easily impressed. In the past Doctor Who has suffered with some not-so-great representations of teenagers, so getting someone in who has been highly praised for their YA depictions is a clever move.
When it's hinted that Class is going to be dark, with Ness at the helm I don't doubt it. His novel More Than This explores themes of suicide, domestic abuse and murder, so colour me intrigued about the occurrence of these topics (or similar ones) in Class.
Who's Even In This Show, Anyway?
The main cast was unveiled a little while ago, and the name that particularly caught my eye was Katherine Kelly. As a huge fan of her Mr Selfridge character Lady Mae, I'm excited to see that there are some aspects of that character retained for Miss Quill — notably, her scathing remarks and confident demeanor, as seen in this featurette released by BBC Three.
There's also a lot of new faces in Class. Greg Austin also appeared in Mr Selfridge, while Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah are fairly new on the scene.
Recently, during a Class Facebook Live Q&A, the issue of LGBT and racial representation was asked, and Oparah answered:
"I personally think minority representation is important because when you're young, you're always looking to sort of [find someone like yourself] ... It's good to see yourself [represented] and be like, 'Oh you know what, I can get into those spaces and there are those spaces for me.' ... The show's not a special case, it just is what it should be."
Class producer Derek Ritchie also points out that this is the whole point of YA fiction: Young people feeling affirmed by these characters, and growing up confident in who they are.
So, to sum it all up: Class has bundles of potential. There's still a lot of mystery surrounding it, but, going by Ness's previous works, it's likely to make for compelling viewing. With a nod toward the diversity of the characters and the Doctor Who lore, I'm actually feeling optimistic about this, which is very out of character for me.
Class will hit the BBC on October 22, check out the teaser trailer below.
What do you all think of Class so far? Let me know in the comments!