Class cast & crew on their Doctor Who spinoff, cancellation woes, & Series 2 plans

doctor who class patrick ness weeping angels series 2 frank skinner derek landy juno dawson kim curran interview oral history behind the scenes greg austin sophie hopkins jordan renzo

“I loved every minute of it,” says Patrick Ness of his Doctor Who spin-off Class. “I’d be doing it now if they’d let me.”

Following a group of students at Coal Hill school, Class was Doctor Who’s third spin-off since its 2005 revival. With a celebrated young adult author at the helm, Class was a series in the same vein as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, always bursting with ideas and deeply invested in its characters. After the success of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, Class seemed set to reach similar heights – until it didn’t.

Five years since the show was first released on October 22nd 2016, creator Patrick Ness, director Ed Bazalgette, and stars Greg Austin, Sophie Hopkins, and Jordan Renzo look back on Class – reflecting on its complicated relationship with Doctor Who, their experiences making the show, its untimely cancellation, and the series two episodes we never saw. 

My latest piece for Radio Times, and one I’m personally very excited about: a fifth anniversary retrospective for the Doctor Who spinoff Class, including a number of never before revealed behind the scenes production details about both the show’s early development and its unrealised second series, from the BBC’s suggestion it might star Frank Skinner to just what Patrick Ness had in mind for the Weeping Angel civil war.

Class was one of the first series I wrote about professionally, many years ago; I was very fond of the show back then, to the point that when I was writing this article, trying to cite the claim it was a well-received show, I just kept running into my own old reviews. Made me laugh, that.

I’m still fond of it now: I rewatched the first episode, For Tonight We Might Die, as part of my preparation for this piece, and I loved it. Certainly, it’s not without its problems, little details here and there that I’m inclined to criticise, but on the whole I loved it – to me it felt like a show full of ideas and bursting with energy. In fact, I’d love it if the Chibnall era of Doctor Who was a little bit more like Class.

Somewhere in this show there’s the first draft of the future, I think. Or a future, anyway.


Doctor Who Review: Series 12 Overview

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Skulduggery Pleasant Movie Casting

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So! Skulduggery Pleasant is a series of books which I am extremely fond of – they’ve always been my favourite books, really. I’ve written a little bit about them before, but never on the topic of one of the things that’s always interested me about the series – the possibility of a movie. I suppose in many ways that’s just the spectre of Harry Potter, looming over every book that came in its wake – Skulduggery Pleasant doesn’t really need a movie, and it’d probably be even more difficult to adapt than the Potter books were.

But, you know. I enjoy the challenge of fancasting the roles, and trying to come up with a group of actors who fit the characters. So, let’s begin with the main roles of the first book…

Benedict Cumberbatch as Skulduggery Pleasant

skulduggery pleasant movie benedict cumberbatch fancast derek landy

I know, I know. Cumberbatch is in everything at the minute, and he’s starting to grate on a lot of people. Realistically speaking, I suppose it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t actually have the time for these movies – Dr Strange will take up a lot of his time, and I can’t imagine it’d leave him inclined to take on another franchise movie.

But I do think he’d be well suited to this role. Typically, Benedict Cumberbatch gives very well mannered, precise performances; the level of attention he pays to his roles would come in handy here, I think. I also think Cumberbatch has got a great voice for this role – one of Skulduggery’s defining characteristics is his voice.

Also! Cumberbatch has some experience with motion capture, which I think would be the best way to depict Skulduggery. Alternatively, if that’s too expensive, there’s the option of Red Skull style makeup as another possibility.

Honourable mentions: David Tennant, possibly Paul McGann

Maisie Williams as Valkyrie Cain/Stephanie Edgely

skulduggery pleasant movie casting valkyrie cain stephanie edgely maisie williams derek landy game of thrones

Now, in the past, I would actually have advocated that an unknown actress play this role, simply because there aren’t any famous actresses young enough who are the right age for the character; no one knew who Daniel Radcliffe was before Harry Potter, after all.

But with a bit of thought, I’ve actually changed my position: it is damn near impossible to adapt a nine book series straight from page to screen. It’s actually really impressive to think that Harry Potter did it at all – you just wouldn’t be able to replicate that with Skulduggery. It’s far more likely that we’d see a series of films lifting from and adapting multiple books at once; I think five films is probably the upper limit on the length of the series.

It makes sense, then, to cast an experienced actress who you know can play the role well; Maisie Williams could probably play the role slightly younger anyway, perhaps 15 or 16 rather than her actual 18. I do really think, though, that she’s talented enough to play this role exceptionally well; Val can easily be the next Katniss, and Maisie Williams is definitely talented enough to be the next Jennifer Lawrence.

Honourable mentions: Well, an unknown really. I’m sure there’s someone who could play the role well.

Idris Elba as Ghastly Bespoke

skulduggery pleasant movie casting idris elba ghastly bespoke derek landy

This, I imagine, is relatively self-explanatory. Idris Elba is a really great actor, and I think he’d be well suited to the character of Ghastly, able to bring the right sort of nuance and subtlety to the role.

Ghastly is one of my favourite characters in the books, for the record; Idris Elba is definitely the sort of actor you’d want bringing this role to life, because he’s really very skilled.

It is, true, something of a departure from the source material, wherein Ghastly is a white man… but honestly, Idris Elba really is the best actor for the role. Can you genuinely think of someone else who fits the bill? I’ll wait. No? Me neither.

Honourable mentions: There really isn’t anyone else I’d want to see in this role. I used to think Michael Chiklis was a possibility, but I’m less convinced now. I suppose Tom Hardy is a possibility, but I’d be more inclined to choose him for Mr Bliss.

Natalie Dormer as Tanith Low

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I mean, my first preference for a future role for Natalie Dormer, if I were for some reason dictating her career choices, would be as the Doctor. That’s the role I’d most like to see her play, really, even moreso than Tanith.

But, if it were possible to have both, Natalie Dormer would absolutely be my first choice to play Tanith; I definitely think she could pull off the different challenges the role would bring, across the length of the series. (Spoilers!)

Plus, if the Tanith Low and the Maleficent Seven book was ever adapted to be a movie (which, admittedly, seems unlikely to me; perhaps a tie in television miniseries?) Natalie Dormer is absolutely the sort of actress who could carry something like that and hold the lead role.

Honourable mentions: Again, no one else really comes to mind. Alice Eve is a name that comes up often though, when I’ve spoken to other people about it.

Katie McGrath as China Sorrows

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Katie McGrath is basically just how I’ve always pictured China, really; I’m basing this a little in terms of her portrayal of Morgana from Merlin, though somewhat more the later seasons than the earlier ones. I do think she’d be able to give the right performance for this role, in any case.

Incidentally, Katie McGrath is also the only one of the actors I’ve picked out so far who’s actually Irish. Skulduggery Pleasant is set in Ireland, so it’d probably be important for at least some of the actors to have accents; thus far I have made sure to limit the casting to actors from the British Isles, in any case.

Also! Derek Landy knows Katie McGrath, so that’s a nice connection.

Honourable mention: Ruth Negga, from Agents of SHIELD, is another possibility.

Mads Mikkelsen as Nefarian Serpine

skulduggery pleasant movie casting fancast nefarian serpine mads mikklesen villain derek landy

So this one is actually the biggest departure from what I’d previously planned out; for a couple of years before making this post, I’ve had the previous five choices essentially set in stone. For Serpine, I’d always sort of leaned towards Tom Hiddleston, because I imagined Serpine as being somewhat similar to the way Hiddleston played Loki.

But with a bit more consideration, I actually decided that Mads Mikkelsen would be a better choice; again, it’s something of a departure from the source material, in that he’s not even a British actor, but I think you can probably take a few liberties with it.

The reasoning behind this, in any case, is because I think Mikkelsen is a better age for the role; the characters of Serpine and Skulduggery are supposed to have a real history together, and there’s a real weight to that history, which I don’t think would necessarily be conveyed with younger actors. Also, I do think that Mikkelsen would be very good at portraying the calm exterior of Serpine, as well as the moments of sheer rage.

Honourable mentions: Tom Hiddleston, as I’ve already said, and quite possibly David Tennant.


That, in any case, concludes this post. There’s still quite a few main roles I’ve not cast – particularly in the later books – so I’ll most likely continue this with a few more posts, actually. I’ve got some pretty good ideas for Vaurien Scapegrace and Erskine Ravel in particular, actually; prize for anyone who can guess the actors I have in mind.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this – agree, disagree – let me know in the comments! And, hey, if you liked these, or agreed with them, share it around; I don’t think this cast is actually, you know, possible, but it’d definitely show that we’re interested in a movie, and want to see these stories on the big screen.

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100 Books in a Year: Demons, Dying Girls, and the Homo Sapiens Agenda

100 books in a year reading challenge summer marathon books novels september 2015 2016

So, I was talking to my English teacher a while ago (read: she was talking to the class, and I was there) and she mentioned that every year she tries to read one hundred books. This started because of a competition with another girl a few years ago. (The girl won.) I, in my infinite arrogance, decided that I could probably make a decent stab at that if I put my mind to it. 

And thus, I shall. From the 12th September 2015 to the 12th September 2016, I intend to read 100 books. Just to make it a little harder on myself, though, they have to be books I’ve never read before. 

#1 – Demon Road – Derek Landy – 4/5

So, here we are, at the beginning. Derek Landy. I’ve met him, actually. Very nice man. And a very good writer! He wrote, in case you did not know, the Skulduggery Pleasant book series, of which I am quite a fan. This is his first novel outside of the series, which has now finished. (I cried.)

It’s not really a huge departure from the norm, but it is noticeably different. It’s a little more adult – not in an offputting or overly edgy way, but something that much more deftly handled. I admit, I was going into it expecting something a lot closer to Skulduggery, particularly in terms of the humour of it, which wasn’t present in the same way. There were definitely glimpses of it, and the character Glen really embodies it, but it wasn’t there to the same extent. But that’s fine, really. I can (and will) re-read the Skulduggery series one day again, and there will be all that lovely, distinctive humour once again. (I owe so much to those books.)

But now, there’s Demon Road – an original novel by one of my favourite authors, containing the same strongly drawn characters and atmospheric prose that I’ve grown to love.

#2 – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews – 5/5

This invites comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars, I suppose, doesn’t it? To be fair, there are definite elements of a John Green novel to it. Not just in terms of the girl dying of cancer, but also the main characters. You’ve got Greg, with an interest in film making, and Earl, his weird friend, who makes films with him. They’re strongly drawn, they have weird hobbies, and there’s a girl who’s dying. If you did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, this is probably definitely one to check out.

But, at the same time, the book is positioned as very much Not A John Green Novel. There’s a sort of low key reference to it at one point – the narrator very explicitly says that there will not be any schmaltzy messages or tumblr style quotes. He gives an example; I forget what it was, but it may as well have been “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” 

It works, I think. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is much more acerbic and rough around the edges than a John Green novel. It feels very real. At the end of it, there’s no real message. (At least, not one that I took away from it.) There isn’t a love story, or a great romantic climax.

Death just happens, and you’ve got to live with it. (I suppose that is a message. Shh.)

#3 – Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertelli – 4/5

Russell T Davies, who is a writer I very much admire, once said that homosexual love stories are more interesting than heterosexual love stories because they’re still quite new and different. The iconography of them is something we’re less familiar with; the images aren’t seared onto our brains in the same way. (He said that in The Writer’s Tale, if you’re interested. Definitely would recommend it. The quote is better served in context, too, rather than with my paraphrasing of it.)

He’s right, I think, and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a fairly good demonstration of that. It’s a love story (amongst other things) between two boys of 17. There’s an element of a mystery, too – at the beginning of the novel, the two boys (Simon and ‘Blue’) don’t actually know each other’s identities; they communicate through anonymous emails, and a fairly major aspect of the book is their slow realisation of who is who. In essence, it’s a very interesting take on the standard preconceptions of a love story.

It’s also a very 2015 book. It, more than any other YA novel I’ve read, captures the essence of “teenager in 2015″. Not perfectly, no, but very close. You’ve got references to tumblr and Adventure Time and Doctor Who and Harry Potter slash fiction, none of which feel forced, and all coming together to create something very easily identifiable. This is definitely something that people on tumblr should check out.

Books Read: 3
Days since start: 2
Days until finish: 363
Currently reading: Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

Click here to see my progress reports and updates on this whole reading malarkey. Have any suggestions for books I should read? Get in touch!

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On Skulduggery Pleasant, ended

skulduggery pleasant the dying of the light skull derek landy tom perceval

I finished the final Skulduggery Pleasant book about two weeks ago.

It was a very, very good book, and a really fitting end to the series. It was not, admittedly, perfect. I could have done with another 300 hundred pages or so, because the final part of the book was a bit rushed, and there was, admittedly, one aspect I wasn’t quite happy with and probably never will be.

I loved it though, I really did.

There was a strange sense of completion, once I’d finished it. I’m struggling to articulate it really; when I closed the book, I wasn’t just closing that one particular book, but something a little bit more than that.

And I think that, on some levels, Derek Landy anticipated this, because in the final two books he brought back every character who’d ever appeared, even ones who just had little bit roles. It really helped to encompass everything, and tie it all up in a little bow. It was nice, it really was.

Except, of course, it isn’t the end, not quite. I deliberately didn’t read a couple of the short stories in Armageddon Outta Here, so there will always be, in effect, some “new” Skulduggery at any point. And, you know, fingers crossed for a film series at some point.

And, hey, I can always reread them.

So, essentially… the moment was prepared for, but it’s not the end. Not really. Not ever.

Note: “It’s not the end” became more literal in this case than I anticipated.

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On Skulduggery Pleasant ending

skulduggery pleasant sceptre of the ancients derek landy book 1 harper collins tom perceval valkyrie cain hd

At present, I’m re-reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series of books, by Derek Landy. It’s partly in preparation for the final book, but also procrastination as well; the book is downstairs, on my shelf, ready to be read. I’m putting it off, basically.

I read the first novel back in… uh, 2006 or 2007. It was shortly after the first book came out. (There was an advert in a Doctor Who Adventures magazine actually, and that prompted me to read it, which is quite funny to me.)

I loved the book, and still do to this day. I was vaguely worried about re-reading it now, almost ten years later, I’d be looking over it with a far more critical eye, and take issue with all sorts of little things that would ruin my enjoyment of it.

But. thankfully, that proved not to be the case. They were still just as witty, and smart, and downright brilliant as I remembered. Compelling characters, genius plots, and a wonderful style of prose.

Right now, I’m about 200 pages into Death Bringer, which is the sixth book. One of my favourites, in fact, if ever I had to pick out particular ones. There’s another two books to go after this, and then…. The Dying of the Light.

I’ve been delaying it as much as I can. I’m reading all of the short stories between books (The Lost Art of World Domination is a gift, frankly) and I’m going to read Tanith Low in The Maleficent Seven when I get around to it. But there’s only so long I can put it off for.

Skulduggery Pleasant is coming to an end. Drawing to a close. There’s a finite amount of time left. Soon it won’t be an ongoing story, but something that’s been… historized, as it were.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

These books have been a pretty massive part of my life for years. About eight, in fact. I’ve written letters to Derek Landy, got responses, met him (wonderful fellow), entered competitions to create a character, spent hours of my life playing games on the official website, reading blog posts about it… In fact, some of my closest friends to this day I developed connections with through those books. Skulduggery Pleasant is something thatto say the leastoccupies a rather special place in my heart.

And now, very soon, it’s going to end.

That is frankly bizarre. The only interest I’ve sustained for that long is, I’d say, Doctor Who, but I don’t have to worry about Doctor Who coming to an end in the same way.

Something that has been a big part of my life is going to be over. No more. Not ongoing. Done. Finished. It’ll be an ex-story.

Ironically, I can’t really figure out how to vocalise what that would feel like, how to articulate or express the way this would affect me. That sounds melodramatic, and it sort of is really. But screw it, I don’t care. This is a chapter of my life closing, and it is really weird. It’s strange to think that I have the end to that chapter sat downstairs, on a shelf, ready to be opened…

… ready to end.

But not yet. Not just yet.

After all, as the poem goes, rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

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