Release Dates: 2016
Number of Episodes: 8
This spinoff series from Doctor Who was designed as a young adult science fiction drama with the scripts being written by popular young adult author Patrick Ness. It’s curious that in many ways Class is darker and more mature (and more gory) than Doctor Who, although teens actually do like that kind of thing, tv productions don’t generally recognize it. The premise of a team of people fighting off the monster-of-the-week that emerges from a rift in space and time is very much reminiscent of the very grown-up Torchwood.
The show is set at the Coal Hill School, a frequent setting of Doctor Who going back to the first episode in 1963. Because of the Doctor’s frequent visits to Coal Hill with the TARDIS time and space have become unstable creating the rift. The Doctor has also placed two alien refugees at the school, disguised as human for their protection: Charlie, the prince of the Rhodians, and Ms. Quill, a revolutionary from the same planet who is tied to Charlie by a mental link that forces her to act his protector. They are each the only survivors of their species after genocide by the Shadow Kin.
The rest of the kids are ordinary, highly-intelligent students with the typical problems of teenagers. Ram is talented football player who grieves the loss of his girlfriend to the Shadow Kin. April is nerdy and well-behaved, but hides a troubled past with her father. Tanya is the youngest in the group having moved up three years at the school and comes from a Nigerian immigrant family. Matteusz is a Polish immigrant who is ostracized by his parents for being gay, and has a romance with Charlie.
The cast are all really charming and the show does a great job at developing their characters, albeit sometimes unevenly to serve the plot. The scripts are especially good at exploring grief and young people learning to trust and work with one another. Ms. Quill is a scene stealing anti-hero, revolutionary become physics teacher. The Shadow Kin are the main villain in this series and the four episodes they appear in are strained by the Shadow Kin being rather ridiculous and uninteresting.
The best two episodes come near the end of the series. Episode 6 – “Detained” – is a bottle episode where the five students are shoved out of normal space-time and encounter a creature that makes them confess uncomfortable truths. It’s good drama and also symbolic of young people learning to communicate with one another honestly. The next episode – “The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did” – features Ms. Quill on adventure using a TARDIS-like device to travel into metaphysical realities in search of regaining her free will. It’s a very imaginative and really lets Katherine Kelly to expand her character and acting chops.
Unfortunately, Class was canceled after one season, which is possibly a good thing because the cliffhanger hints at a premise that I don’t think would’ve worked well. If the showrunners had known that they had only one season I think that they could’ve have reshaped these 8 episodes into a more self-contained miniseries. But now we’ll just have to use our imaginations – and Big Finish audio dramas – to find out to find out what happens next.