DOCTOR Who can be considered one of the most successful shows British television has ever produced, complete with a fan base that spreads worldwide. Since it first aired over 50 years ago it has lead to 26 seasons, a TV movie, and 3 TV spin-offs.
The newest of these spin-offs, created by Patrick Ness, is called Class and is aimed at young adults. Set at Coal Hill Academy, an iconic Doctor Who location, Class features a group of Sixth Form students and their teacher who fight alien threats as they appear through cracks in time and space. Well, somebody’s got to do it while the Doctor is swanning off in his little blue box.
It hasn’t got as much blood, sex and violence as first spin-off Torchwood, but still more than its parent show; enough to make the characters seem realistic. Despite being of the sci-fi genre, Ness has creates a realist portrayal of London by making the show as diverse as real life is, i.e. not dominated by white heterosexual males. Same-sex relationships are portrayed as casually as
any of the other relationships and Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparah, and Jordan Renzo represent the ethnic and cultural diversity that we see in real life London.
Class is also very good at incorporating real life issues into the sci-fi storytelling, with some episodes focussing on certain characters to allow their own stories to develop. Tanya’s (Oparah) unresolved grief over the death of her father is explored in the third episode ‘Nightvisiting’, and Ram’s (Elsayed) internal struggle with all the crazy going on around him is brought to the fore in the second episode ‘The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo.’ These character central episodes also allow the actors to demonstrate why they won the roles, as we see with Sophie Hopkins in episodes 4 and 5 where her character April gets a personality makeover. We see her morph from a little miss goodie-two-shoes into an empowered woman.
The mysterious and alien (literally) Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly) and Charlie (Greg Austin) are played by great actors but the characters could sometimes risk being present solely for comic relief. Their constant misunderstandings of planet Earth are brilliant – Miss Quill questioning whether The Hunger Games was based on a true story is a great, if brief, including.
However, slowly throughout the series Miss Quill and Charlie’s characters are developed beyond their awkward alienness. We see how alone Miss Quill really is beneath her hardy exterior – she is stuck on a foreign planet after all. We also see how the supposedly serene Prince Charlie can be unforgiving and brutal towards those who have wronged him – like Miss Quill.
I think Class is an excellent addition to the “Whoniverse” and could easily stand on its own two feet as a separate entity to Doctor Who. It is full of references that Whovians can geek-out over, but by no means do you need to be a fan of the main show to enjoy this spin-off. The whole first series of Class is currently available on BBC iPlayer – so you can watch to your heart’s content.