BBC Class: The Doctor Who Spin-Off We Needed
22nd October 2016.
After attending a screening of the first episode (iconically named ‘For Tonight We Might Die’) at the official BBC Class Premiere, I was itching to watch it again as well as the second episode on the programme’s official release date. The wait through Friday was agonising because in the space of 45 minutes Class had already captured my undivided attention. This morning came and I found myself excitedly opening the brand new BBC3 Online; a feeling I have been sadly losing over the last couple of series of Doctor Who.
Episode two, titled ‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’, lived up to the hype of episode one. But what remains to stand out is how perfectly in sync everything is. From the sublime writing (courtesy of Patrick Ness), to the stellar cast and their undeniable chemistry. This friendship was obvious from the premiere Q&A yet it is just as easy to see onscreen. Everyone involved loves this project dearly and understandably so. The pressure of contributing to the vast Doctor Who universe doesn’t seem to faze them, but in fact fuel them instead to create something immeasurably exciting. That;s exactly what they have done.
Class is coming after a succession of well-loved Doctor Who spin-off programmes. In fact, the release of episodes one and two happen to be on the 10th anniversary of the first broadcast of Torchwood. Any show that parallels alongside Doctor Who holds a weighted history on their shoulders, as well as a pressure to bring something fresh and revitalising to such a long-running narrative universe. But after witnessing episode one and two, it is safely assured that Class means business and is here to stay.
The programme itself revolves around the lives of April (Sophie Hopkins), Ram (Fady Elsayed), Charlie (Greg Austin) and Tanya (Vivian Oparah), all students of the now legendary Coal Hill. Fighting aliens and defending the Earth is nothing new to the Doctor Who universe, but what makes Class so special is the characterisation itself. The richness to each protagonist has been written effortlessly by Patrick Ness in so that every viewer has that connection to something, that feeling of an identity shared. At the premiere Q&A, a lot of attendees like myself were interested to know more about how this diverse range of characters came to be and Patrick’s response demonstrated just how current and understanding his mentality is:
“I never saw myself on screen and not having that as an audience is harmful.”
This one line says so much about how television should be made. Ness made it clear that writing for television should come from the heart and not for some “dreaded tick box”; if we want to change the perception of the world, we must act and write as if the world is already changed. It is this way of thinking that gives Class an undoubtable presence and presents it as a leading light of how television can be both entertaining and simultaneously a power for good.
Being honest, I had some apprehension for this programme because I wanted it to live up to an already established standard within the Doctor Who Universe; the main show itself as well as its previous spin-offs have all offered something unique and I desperately wanted Class to do the same. Without a doubt, Class has blasted that apprehension away and exceeded all expectations.
Overall, Class in such a short space of time has firmly carved its place within this fictional universe. It embodies the youthful charm of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the darkness of Torchwood, and that undeniable feeling of belonging that Doctor Who has given to audiences for almost 53 years. Class has something special and I have full confidence that the remaining six episodes will continue to impress.
You can catch the first two episodes of Class on BBC iPlayer right now (UK) with each episode uploaded online every Saturday.