The BBC has announced a surprise new Doctor Who spin-off targeted at young adults.
The unexpected news came from BBC Three, which has ordered eight episodes of Class, a 45-minute series set in Coal Hill School, London.
The name will ring lunch bells for many fans – located in London’s trendy Shoreditch, it’s where we met The Doctor for the very first time back in the 1960s, as pupil Susan Foreman turns out to be the granddaughter of William Hartnell’s Time Lord. Since then, it’s appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks and, more recently, has been the place of employment for Jenna Coleman’s teacher and time-travelling companion, Clara. (Picture above is Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, who briefly pretended to be a caretaker in Season 8.)
Taking place in the modern day, the show promises “Doctor Who like you’ve never seen it before”, bringing together the world of teen life and the creatures and threats of time and space.
Class is written by young adult author Patrick Ness and executive produced by Steven Moffatt and Brian Minchin, as well as Ness. It was commissioned by Damian Kavanagh, Controller of BBC Three, and Polly Hill, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning.
Moffat, who has long faced calls for a spin-off featuring his characters Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax in Victorian London, says of the new show: “No one has documented the dark and exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we’re bringing his brilliant storytelling into Doctor Who. This is growing up in modern Britain – but with monsters!”
Ness, who will be writing his first TV series, adds: “I’m astounded and thrilled to be entering the Doctor Who universe, which is as vast as time and space itself. There’s so much room there for all kinds of amazing stories, and to work with Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin to find a place to tell one of my own has been an absolute joy. I can’t wait for people to meet the heroes of Class, to meet the all-new villains and aliens, to remember that the horrors of the darkest corners of existence are just about on par with having to pass your A-Levels.”
The show might sound similar to the Sarah Jane Adventures, but the focus is firmly on an older audience, the kind of kids who watch The Hunger Games and Divergent. Indeed, the young adult world is having something of a moment at present; the choice of BBC Three as a channel is as much of a statement as anything else, especially with the channel soon to move to become an online-only destination.
“BBC Three will always innovate and offer opportunities for brilliant new talent,” notes Damian Kavanagh, Controller of BBC Three.
The popularity of Doctor Who, both on linear TV and on BBC iPlayer – it regularly appears in the VOD service’s most popular programmes – will no doubt have added to the appeal of a new flagship original show for the channel as it moves into unknown territory.
“The combination of Patrick and Steven Moffat is an exciting partnership that has created a brilliant Doctor Who spin-off for our BBC Three audience,” adds Polly Hill, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning.
The series will film in and around Wales from spring 2016 and be on air next year.
What do you think? Will you be signing up for Class, or still dreaming of Madame Vastra?