When it was announced that Doctor Who would be taking a leave of absence over the 2016 TV season, Whovians around the world gave an audible groan. No new ‘Who’ until 2017? Impossible! Unthinkable! How would we make it through the dark, ‘Who’-less days with only the prospect of one paltry Christmas Special to look forward to? Well, personally, I’m distracting myself with the imminent arrival of Class – a new series set in one of the most iconic of all ‘Who’ locations: Coal Hill School.
Doctor Who‘s debut episode introduced us to Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, teachers at Coal Hill secondary school who are baffled by their student Susan Foreman’s impressive yet eccentric knowledge of Science and History. Their investigations into Susan’s home life led them to encounter her grandfather, a mysterious old man called “The Doctor”, and… presto! We have our first-ever TARDIS crew.
Over it’s 53-year history, the program has returned to Coal Hill on multiple occasions. Recently, it was where Clara Oswald held a day job when not running around fighting Daleks with The Doctor. Carnegie Medal-winning author Patrick Ness will be overseeing this new series set entirely in and around goings-on at Coal Hill, which has apparently been upgraded to Academy status. The 8-episode series will air in late 2016, and current ‘Who’ show-runner/bone-of-contention Steven Moffat will executive produce.
Ness is best known as an author of Young Adult novels (including the ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy and the soon-to-be-a-motion-picture ‘A Monster Calls’) so it seems appropriate that this most recent addition to the TV ‘Whoniverse’ is skewed slightly younger than the last spin-off, Russell T. Davies’ decidedly more “adult” Torchwood. It will, however, presumably be skewed older than the prior spin-off – the much missed Sarah Jane Adventures.
Heading what is being referred to as an ‘ensemble cast’ is Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill, a teacher at Coal Hill Academy. Of course, scuttlebutt has it that Miss Quill is far more than a simple teacher – with theories already racing across the rumor mill suggesting that she’s a future incarnation of The Doctor or possibly a relation of a “classic Who”-era companion. (Jo Grant’s granddaughter, anyone?)
Kelly is best known for her work in such series as Happy Valley and Mr. Selfridge. Most recently she appeared with Tom Hiddleston in the AMC adaptation of John LeCarré’s thriller The Night Manager.
Appearing as her students are a group of (mostly) new faces. Very little has been revealed about the characters, save that the show will “…deal with the stresses of everyday life, including friends, parents, school work, sex, and sorrow, and also the horrors that come from time travel.” (Quoting from the official BBC press announcement)
Yes, it seems that being the site of so much attention from The Doctor has had the effect of thinning out the barriers of Time & Space and all sorts of horrors are just waiting to slip through. The BBC press release also makes mention of something (or someone) called Shadow. As with Miss Quill’s identity, speculation has run rampant, with many feeling certain that this is probably a “Classic Who” menace resurrected for the new era. Time will tell.
As to the other big question everyone’s been asking – that is, will Peter Capaldi be making an appearance as The Doctor? – the answer would seem to be ‘yes’. Photos appeared online that show the iconic TARDIS being filmed on the Class set in Cardiff, Wales. And where the Blue Box appears, can The Doctor be far behind?
I’m looking forward to Class. Ness’ books have a keen sense of the extraordinary in the everyday, which seems to me ideal for a writer working in Doctor Who’s particular backyard. Additionally, Ness has had some prior experience writing for ‘Who’: his tale ‘Tip of the Tongue’ was one of 12 stories released in e-book format in 2013 for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It’s a 5th Doctor story, set in 1945 America and well worth the read.
Moffat has said that Class will be the British Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “…dark and sexy and right now.” Which sounds like typical Moffat hyperbole but doesn’t really tell us much. More intriguing is this, also from the press release:
What if your planet was massacred and you were the sole survivor?
What if a legendary figure out of space and time found you a place to hide?
But what if the things that want to kill you have tracked you down?
And worst of all, what if you haven’t studied for your exams…?
Those four lines have me more excited than all of the comparisons to Buffy… in the world.
BBC have yet to announce a proper air date for Class, but I’d say it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing it sometime in the autumn.
After all… when else would Class start?