It’s only a matter of days now until BBC Three’s Class arrives. The Doctor Who spin-off, created by Patrick Ness, is one of the most anticipated shows of the year for Whovians, following a group of tenagers at Coal Hill Academy, who have to fight to save the world from dark, sinister alien forces – and make sure they get their homework done on time.
A Doctor Who show without Doctor Who, set somewhere old but exploring pastures new? All released on the UK’s first online TV channel? What exactly can you expect from this intriguing series? We round up what we know so far:
1. It takes place somewhere familiar
Set in contemporary London, Class takes place in Shoreditch’s Coal Hill Academy (former Coal Hill School), which has been part of the Doctor Who universe since its very first episode in 1963. The Doctor’s granddaughter went there – and all the ensuing time-travelling over the years has worn down the walls of space and time. Something is pressing in on the other side, waiting to kill everyone.
The show will follow four students – Charlie (Greg Austin), April (Sophie Hopkins), Ram (Fady Elsayed) and Tanya (Vivian Oparah) – preparing for the Autumn Prom at the start of a new term, but when the school comes under attack, they form an unlikely alliance, charged with a responsibility by The Doctor to guard against the creatures of nightmare that want nothing more than to find a way through to Earth and take it for their own.
2. The Doctor will appear… but not very much
Yes, you heard his name correctly: Peter Capaldi’s The Doctor will appear in Episode 1 of the series, For Tonight We Might Die.
But he’s not going to be a regular presence on the show.
“Our show is about what happens to people when the Doctor is done. He leaves you behind to deal with the rest,” explained Ness at the New York Comic Con last week. “When he says, ‘The universe is different for you now,’ what do you do? That’s our show.”
3. Cameoes aren’t on the cards
Just like The Doctor, cameos from old Who friends aren’t on the cards for Class.
“I think cameo appearances are like penises,” Ness joked with CBR. “If you put it in the scene it’s all people are going to look at. So you have to have it there for a really, really good reason… I don’t want anything to take away from the story.”
4. It won’t skimp on the teen angst
Teenage hormones, exams, detention. Extra-terrestrials aren’t the only threats facing our young heroes – and Class won’t skimp on the teenage angst. Unlike Who’s previous spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, this will embrace its young adult audience.
“Everybody knows students disappear from this school and no one talks about it,” explained Ness, which he views as the perfect backdrop for something not unlike Buffy the Vampire Slayer in tone.
“Adults watch that, because it’s a great show, but the POV and the agency are all teenage, and that’s what we want to do with Class,” he told Empire Magazine. “It needs to be from the point of view of the sixth-formers – but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a ‘young show’.”
Photo: BBC / Simon Ridgeway
5. It’s got a good writer behind it
Who better than Ness to tackle such themes in an exciting format? The writer was behind the Chaos Walking trilogy, but also penned A Monster Calls. The latter he’s just adapted into an astonishing film, full of fantastical imagination and heartfelt coming-of-age emotion. Ness is supported behind the camera by Doctor Who director Ed Bazalgette, Producer Derek Ritchie, and Executive Producers Brian Minchin and Steven Moffat.
“I’ve always wondered if there could be a British Buffy – it’s taken the brilliant Patrick Ness to figure out how to make it happen,” commented Moffat, when the show was first announced.
6. There will be new monsters
“We’ve got some really great, really creepy monsters. We’ve got some that do unexpected things and play unexpected roles,” revealed Ness. “I love the idea that if you don’t have the Doctor around, sometimes you might face an alien that you’ll never know the name of, you’ll never know their motivation. You’ll just have to deal with whatever it is.”
He relished the chance to push the boundaries and try something new. “I thought, ‘You know, if the worst happens and we only get eight episodes, I’m going to go out guns blazing. And so if you have a chance to make up brand new Doctor Who monsters, yeah. I just did my best.”
“I love the place,” he added, of the Doctor Who universe as a whole. “And the opportunity to engage in it, the opportunity to make new monsters, the opportunity to look at it from a different point of view, I mean the Whoniverse is so huge and so full of possibility! Literally, it’s infinite. It’s all of time and space. Just to have a corner and to get to take a look at it through the eyes of these four,” He said, gesturing to the beaming cast mates, “what a pleasure. What an opportunity!”
7. The cast are all newcomers
The young actors playing our four students are all relative newcomers, all holding their own fair share of secrets and fears, navigating friends, parents, school work, sex, sorrow – and possibly the end of existence.
“We searched far and wide for this amazing cast, fantastic actors who understand what we’re aiming for with this show,” said Ness of the casting.
They’ll be joined by Katherine Kelly as the kids’ physic teacher, Miss Quill, who reunites with Austin, with whom she co-starred in Mr. Selfridge.
“How lucky we are to get Katherine Kelly! She’s been stunning in Happy Valley, The Night Manager and Mr Selfridge, just wait until you see her here,” enthused Ness.
8. It starts this Saturday
Class kicks off with a double-bill of two episodes – For Tonight We Might Die and The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo. (You can read their synopses here.) They will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from 10am on Saturday 22nd October. Before then, Episode 1 will have a world premiere on Thursday 20th October at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, the home of Coal Hill, with tickets previously given away to members of the public through a random draw.
Stay tuned for our spoiler-free verdict on Class’ opening episodes. Until then, check out our guide to what’s coming soon on BBC Three.