On Saturday the newest spin off of the popular science-fiction TV series, Doctor Who, premiered in the UK. Class is set in Coal Hill school the central location that started off the main series way back in 1963, with the Doctor’s initial human companions being from there. Aimed at a young adult audience, this took all of the timey-wimey elements that has made the original show a hit and combined them with emotional and physical scenarios that will resonate with the target audience. So what is the verdict?
Warning. This article contains some spoilers.
Class is the third spin-off of Doctor Who to hit 21st century audiences but this is the first to suffer from a lack of a developed central character. Torchwood featured Captain Jack Harkness, who had appeared on the main show in the previous year, whilst Sarah Jane Smith was a fan favourite companion in the 1970s who was also a guest star in a revival episode. Class takes a risk by not adopting this concept and instead allows the audience to learn more about the five central characters, four of whom are teenagers. Luckily for the audience, The 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) appears in Episode 1 to set up the wider story arc but it felt more like the Doctor was bringing us this spin-off rather than a format that was both tied and untied to the parent show.
Cliched Characters but Represented Well
The characters are fairly likeable at this point, however with it being such a short series (only 8 episodes), expect a breath-neck pace that may leave less room for character development. With multiple characters comes the risk of alienating some slightly, in this case the child genius Tanya (Vivian Oparah) becomes more of a peripheral figure in the first couple of episodes, though the trailer for the third episode suggests a greater insight into her character. Class does go all out on its central characters in terms of representation, with a homosexual alien prince who dates a Polish student, a kind-hearted girl with a disabled mother, a child genius with only one parent and a hot-headed jock that mellows over the course of Episode 2. Of the four, the latter, Ram (Fady Elsayed), played a blinder with his character the right balance of aggression and pain.
Gore Showing a Darker Tone for Who
With the appearance of the Doctor in Episode 1, it could be thought that Class will have the same audience as the parent series. However, the sudden death of Rachel (Anna Shaffer) at the hands of the primary antagonist and the slightly gory amputation of Ram’s leg highlighted how it will be much more mature. The gore continues in Episode 2, with a dragon skinning alive humans off screen (thankfully), only for the camera to pan to the skinless bodies left behind and a large bloody piece of flesh falling into the bin.
Show Needs to Watch the Monster-of-the-Week Trope
Both of the previous modern spin-offs used techniques to make sure that it wasn’t just the team battling a different monster every single episode; Torchwood split these up with technological, character-driven plots, whilst The Sarah Jane Adventures used two parters and the occasional smaller scale peril. However, in the first two episodes Coal Hill has come under attack and people have died at the hands of the monsters. Episode 3 looks likely to be a similar story and this is my key fear of the series; Class needs to make sure it includes different perils and locations away from the school in order to not become extremely repetitive.
The Theme Song Needs to Go. Period
My biggest criticism of the first two episodes, which I have to admit impressed me a lot, was the horrible theme music. All three of the modern Doctor Who related shows have intro music that is instantly recognisable yet somehow fits into its niche in the show Universe. Torchwood is slighly mechanical and military whilst The Sarah Jane Adventures is more upbeat; both suggest a science fiction series though. Class’s theme feels like if Grange Hill was remade by an independent TV company that was trying to promote the next Avicii. As a young adult approach to science-fiction, there isn’t enough wonder that funnily enough is matched by the visual opening sequence.
Overall, I feel like this series has plenty of promise and will be a good addition to the Doctor Who universe if the team behind it put character development on the same level as their monster-of-the-week plots.
What do you think about Class?
Did you enjoy this new take on a science-fiction classic and if you didn’t, what do you think can be done to improve it?
Comment your thoughts in the section below.