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

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“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.

Related:

Doctor Who Review: Series 12 Overview

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Class Series 1 Episode 8 Review – The Lost

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As an episode of television in its own right, it’s simply far too crowded – in attempting to tie off the various plot arcs of this season, while introducing a new arc for a potential second season (more on which shortly), it does rather seem that Patrick Ness over reaches himself. The Lost moves far too quickly between different beats, creating a real tonal mishmash that can only be described as a disaster; one almost gets whiplash in moving from the unnecessary gratuity of the murder of Ram and Tanya’s parents to the teen romance aspects of the show.

Sadly, the finale of Class was a pretty disappointing conclusion – a rather resounding let down after the promise of the prior episodes. You can find my full series retrospective here.

(Coming back to this in May 2018, and noticing I only wrote 885 words for this review! Definitely need to go back over Class again.)

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Class Series 1 Episode 6 Review – Detained

class detained patrick ness greg austin fady elsayad jordan renzo vivian oparah sophie hopkins wayne che yip doctor who big finish

On the strength of Ness’ writing, the central conceit of the episode is able to transcend its apparent artifice, instead providing the impetus for some powerful character drama. It’s often moving, consistently nuanced, and regularly insightful; Ness has a real ability to get to the heart of his characters, and Detained is the best example of this. There’s a real energy to this episode – it’s a tense, moody piece of drama, quite unlike anything the show has given us so far. And yet, in many ways, one can’t help but feel that Class would have been significantly diminished, to the point of being incomplete, without this episode.

Frankly, this is undoubtedly the best episode of Class’ run. If we get a second season, more of this, please.

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Class Series 1 Episode 5 Review – Brave-ish Heart

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The episode is far more effective when it’s grounded in the personal – in Charlie’s fear of letting down the last of his people, or in Quill’s rage and need for revenge. It’s some of Greg Austin and Katherine Kelly’s best work in the series so far, in fact, and it does a long way to elevate the material in the few places where it drags; certainly, Quill’s raw emotion when Charlie refuses to kill the Shadowkin is a standout moment for the character, who has thus far been somewhat neglected in terms of development. It’s a particularly insightful look into the psyche of this character, and goes a long way towards helping us gain a far deeper understanding of just what motivates her.

Another review of Class. I did this one at something of a remove from the preceding episodes, so there’s definitely something of a perspective shift for these last four instalments.

For anyone wondering about the lengthy gap between the final four reviews and the initial set, basically… well, the weekly workload got the better of me, basically, and I lost track of the Class reviews along the way. So what I decided to do was review the back four in keeping with their (ridiculously scheduled) BBC One repeats. If you like, you can pretend it was about keeping the series in public consciousness when it was on again. Really it was just my mistake. Ah well.

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Class Series 1 Episode 4 Review – Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart

class shadowkin corakinus paul marc davis april maclean sophie hopkins patrick ness phillipa langdale co owner of a lonely heart

There’s an interesting running thread regarding parents running through this episode, with Ram’s dad forming a direct contrast to April’s, and the parents’ evening that forms a backdrop to the episode. It’s nice to see a YA property that does depict one of the main characters trusting their parents, confiding in them about the aliens and so on, and actually maintaining a positive relationship with them. Equally, though, the depiction of April’s family is quite effective, with Sophie Hopkins giving another stellar performance. It’s clear that she’s a very talented actress, effortlessly switching between the vulnerabilities of April to the rage of the Shadowkin. 

Perhaps one of the weaker episodes of Class, but it had a lot of good stuff nonetheless.

The picture for this review is the Shadowkin, who irritated me no end. Fun fact, though: Paul Marc Davis, who played Corakinus, is the only actor to be in Doctor WhoClassTorchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. That’s pretty neat, right?

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