I think this is actually extremely exciting news, to be honest, and I’m a little surprised that some sections of fandom are calling it an anticlimax. It’s a new Doctor Who spin off, for goodness’ sakes!
Admittedly, though, I am probably the exact target demographic for this show – the characters are all going to be more or less my own age when it airs – so that is definitely contributing to my own excitement for the series, but come on. This is basically aiming for “sci-fi Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I am genuinely quite surprised that this isn’t interesting more people than it has; that’s one hell of a hook, surely? Particularly when you include Patrick Ness (an author I’ve never read personally, but one who’s prolific enough that I’ve heard lots of very good things about him) and also the fact that it’s a brand new Doctor Who spin off.
Because, however, I am an aspiring despot, I have a few ideas and suggestions of things that I’d like to see in the show…
5). Links to the wider “Whoniverse”
Yes, yes. I know. I’m a bit of a nerd, you see, and I like these things. I know that part of the misplaced disappointment at this announcement came from the lack of an anchor character from the main show, like Sarah Jane or Captain Jack. I don’t think it’s necessary, to be honest, to base the spin off around an entire character – honestly, there’s more than enough potential to this concept that you don’t need, say, Clara – but it would certainly be nice for characters to turn up from Doctor Who proper.
I think the main character that people are clamouring for is Ian Chesterton; it’d be really brilliant if William Russell is up for a cameo, or even a full appearance (you could easily have, say, the chairman of governors coming for a visit, and the kids trying to hide the alien from him… until he turns around and saves them all at the end!) but I think at this stage in his life, it’s entirely fair if he chooses not to. It’d be great if we did see some of the Sarah Jane Adventures characters turn up (”Rani Chandra, investigative journalist”) or perhaps Peter Capaldi himself at some stage.
That’s a little bit of a hard target to set, isn’t it? Especially after I just said it’d be nice to see some Doctor Who links in the show. I should really explain myself, I suppose.
With this concept, they have some opportunities that Doctor Who doesn’t really. It’d be a real shame, then, if all we got was basically just reheated Doctor Who leftovers; it’d be very easy to get something that’s functionally very similar to School Reunion or The Caretaker, or a classroom under siege type story with a monster that’s been recycled from the Doctor Who prop cupboard.
Hopefully, each episode of this show will feel distinctive in its own right, and be easily differentiated from its peers.
3). A Diverse Cast
This is something that’s quite important, I feel. The show has done rather well with this actually, particularly in terms of Coal Hill School, and also with this weekend’s Under the Lake, so I’m hoping to see this continue.
It’s particularly important, actually, for a show aimed at young people. (It’s on BBC Three, so it’s got the 15 – 25 ish range in mind, but it’s certainly likely that the younger crowd of Doctor Who fans will tune in too.) There are, obviously, far more eloquent people than I who have expressed this in a much more concise and meaningful way, but the sentiment is worth repeating: representation matters, and it particularly matters in the case of young people who are… well, I hate to say something like “who are only just finding themselves”, because it sounds so glib, but that is essentially what is I’d mean, no matter how I phrase it.
It is important for this show to have different character of colour, and it is important for them to have different female characters, and it is important to have different LGBT+ characters. That’s simply a matter of being true to life; teenagers like that exist, and that’s a fact. I know quite a few of them. It’s crucial to represent them accordingly.
2). Mature Storytelling
This is one that comes straight from Buffy, actually, which I maintain is a really excellent benchmark for Class to look to. You know how, quite often, the monster of the week on Buffy was something that represented an archetypical teenage problem? That’s an idea that I think they could use rather effectively on Class. I’m not suggesting a story on depression or anything (but, you know, if handled well…) but I do think that it’d work well if they kept the program grounded in real world issues.
We’re going to have an ensemble cast for this show, most likely; it’s important for us to really get to know them and see them develop over the course of this show.
1). A Sense of Fun
And, finally, the most important of all. This show should be fun. Yes, go for mature and compelling storylines, but never let it get bleak, and never lose sight of Doctor Who’s own sense of wonder.
Class, as something of a spiritual successor to The Sarah Jane Adventures, should really try to encapsulate the same central motif of its predecessor: Life on Earth can be an adventure too.
I have a lot of faith in this show. But a lot of expectations, too. It has so much potential, and I think if done right, it could be one of the best things to come out of the Doctor Who brand. And, you know, I believe they can live up to that.
Wow. I am so excited for this. And it’s still a year away!