On Saturday, the first two episodes of the BBC’s new Doctor Who spin-off series Class were finally released on BBC Three online. After watching these first two glimpses into the world of the Whoniverse’s Coal Hill School, here’s our impression of the series so far.
To fans of Doctor Who, the name Coal Hill School should be easily recognisable. It’s the school where Clara Oswald, recent companion of the Doctor, and her boyfriend Danny Pink, both taught. But its history in the Doctor Who universe goes back much further than that – Coal Hill featured in the very first episode of the classic series of Doctor Who way back in 1963, being the place the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, went to school on Earth. So, Class has a lot of history to live up to.
Essentially, Class is a mash-up of the two other modern-era Doctor Who spin-offs; Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The former was a more adult version of its parent show, featuring more graphic scenes and more open discussions and depictions of sexuality, whilst the latter was a series aimed at the younger viewers of Doctor Who, centring on several teenagers and a former companion of the Doctor.
Class uses both the age-range of the main characters in Sarah Jane and the focus on sex and relationships found in Torchwood, as well as the rather Torchwood-esque premise of a weakness in the fabric of space-time, to create its own story. Although on paper this new series seems to be very much building off the back of its predecessors, Class tries to throw in several new elements to prove that it is its own show.
The new series focuses around sixth-form students April, Ram, Charlie, and Tanya, and their teacher Miss Quill. But these are no ordinary teenagers, and as the first episode unfolds, it is clear that their lives have been changed forever. Episode one, For Tonight We Might Die, focuses around April’s organisation of the Autumn Prom, and the mysterious shadow creatures that featured heavily in the trailers for the series.
Although the story itself was interesting, there was a lot jammed into this episode, and at times it felt like it was trying too hard. But as a first episode, this is not unexpected; there’s a lot to introduce.
For Tonight We Might Die also featured a cameo from none other than the Doctor himself in his twelfth incarnation, Peter Capaldi. This grounds the series firmly in the Doctor Who universe, and mirrors both previous television spin-offs, which often featured references to and appearances from the Doctor. His references to Ikea, and the students’ likening of his explanation to a popular TV series, also injected some entertaining moments to the episode.
Episode two, The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo, focuses more on Ram’s character, and his struggle to cope with the events of the previous episode. Featuring an intriguing, albeit confusing, main ‘monster’, this instalment is far more gory and noticeably adult that Doctor Who. Although it arguably still doesn’t go as far as Torchwood in some aspects of the series, Class has distanced itself from the status of family show.
Verdict: My first impression of the show is positive, though not wildly so. I am going to continue with the series, and hope I grow to love it as much as I did Sarah Jane, but Class is very different. It has potential, and its overt diversity is a positive step towards mainstream inclusivity, but it still has a little way to go. Stay tuned.
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