How Excited Are You By the New Doctor Who Spinoff Class?

October 2, 2015

So did you stay up for the big announcement? Were you one of the bleary-eyed fans who delayed their bedtime on a weeknight to find out what the big deal was? And more importantly, what did you think of the news when it was finally revealed on Twitter at 11pm UK time on Thursday?

You’ll surely be aware by now that Doctor Who is to have another spin-off show, Class, set in Coal Hill School where incredible dangers will be breaking through to threaten the earth. Aimed at a young adult audience, the show will air next year on BBC3 and will be overseen by best-selling author Patrick Ness.

The danger with pre-announcing that a major piece of news is on its way is that some people are inevitably going to be disappointed when it doesn’t turn out to be what they were hoping for. Prior to the announcement some fans worked themselves up into a frenzy speculating that this could only mean a new companion, missing adventures found, online Eighth Doctor adventures, a movie in 2016 or any other longed-for project.

It’s probably fair to say that the reaction on Twitter was one of ‘anticipointment’ – that rather underwhelming feeling when something eagerly awaited just doesn’t live up to the hype. Although not universal, it seemed that the prospect of a YA series set in a comprehensive school really didn’t fill fans with unbridled joy.

It’s always a mistake, of course, to think that the voices on Twitter are in any way representative of the wider population. And it would surely be unfair to dismiss Class (is it me or does that feel like a working title?) before a single episode has been shot, let alone transmitted.

The most intriguing element of the news is surely the involvement of Patrick Ness, a hugely successful author who didn’t need to sign up for this new project to advance his writing career. The safe option would have been to hand the gig to someone who already has a few Doctor Who episodes under their belt rather than go with a writer new to television. Details are scarce so far as to the show’s format (eight 45 minute episodes are planned) but although Ness will be working with Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin as Executive Producers it’s probably safe to assume that Class will be very much his vision.

Views are divided as to the benefits of the new show having its home on BBC3, by then likely to be an online-only channel if the BBC Trust approves the corporation’s plans to save money by taking it off-air. Will the programme go unnoticed in the crowded ether of the Internet? Or will the channel moving online (and the prospect of repeat screenings for Class on BBC1) mean there could be more resources available?

Time will tell.

If nothing else the news demonstrates continued faith in Doctor Who among the BBC’s senior management which, for anyone feeling twitchy after a couple of weeks of headlines about massive falls in ratings, has to be welcome news.

So what do you think? How excited are you about enrolling in Class in 2016? Vote in our poll and let us have your comments below!


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37 comments on “How Excited Are You By the New Doctor Who Spinoff Class?

  1. FrancoPabloDiablo Oct 2, 2015

    All I want to see is Ian again. William Russell is a legend to us Who fans and if they can’t/won’t feature him in the series proper then this is the next best thing – much like Nicholas Courtney’s appearance in the SJA’s. Ian was there when it all began, and he is still there (at Coal Hill School). Let’s see him again! Ian and Barbara had no knowledge of the Doctor regenerating, imagine how great a storyline could be with Capaldi trying to convince Ian that he is in fact the same man he travelled through time with all these years ago.

    • Mark North Oct 2, 2015

      The other good thing about William Russell is that DW fans would allow for the physical differences between Ian in 1963-4 and the present day. I think, after the initial shock of seeing Dr#12 instead of DR#1, that Capaldi would get along fine with Ian…

      • Quinton Kyle Hoover Oct 2, 2015

        Well, Ian already met 11 a year after leaving the TARDIS, so he would likely know.

    • Rory1978 Oct 2, 2015

      I think this would be a wonderful idea for story in either series! Dr 12 spending time with Ian and gently revealing who he is throughout the narrative…perhaps only to realise that Ian sensed the truth from the beginning?

      • Gary Murden Oct 3, 2015

        As much as I dislike Doctor light stories, Clara getting a performance review and it going badly, her blurting out helping the Doctor and Ian sat there, with sound bites of his travels playing, and him saving Clara’s job would be ok as fanservice.

        The “Available at BBC shop” line as the outro plays, showing either DVD or CD covers wouldn’t offend either.

  2. Simon Spencer Oct 2, 2015

    I can understand the BBC would want to do another show, but what the hell were they thinking? Individual episodes involving Clara’s students is entertaining, though a whole season of that is another and feels like a yawn…

    I think the studio has a classroom fixation given how many other shows (after-school with the old Demon Headmaster and Grange Hill series, or primetime with Waterloo Road) have done, which could’ve been better spent on mysteries with Madam Vastra or perhaps another aspect of the extended fiction entirely; one that treads between SJA and DW in terms of its audience.

    • Quinton Kyle Hoover Oct 2, 2015

      It sounds like the Sarah Jane Adventures without Sarah Jane… Which I think could be cool.

  3. Random Comments Oct 2, 2015

    *quietly cries for the Paul McGann TV series that should have been*

    • The soundscape on Dark Eyes is so staggeringly good, the telly pictures couldn’t be as good as the ones in my head.

    • Dr. Moo Oct 3, 2015

      No, no. Let him have Big Finish. There should only ever be one TV Doctor on the go at a time, outside of Multi-Doctor events.

  4. Namnoot Oct 2, 2015

    I’m willing to give it a shot and Ness has good pedigree and his DW novella was pretty good. Very disappointed that it’s not a Paternoster Gang spin-off, or something featuring UNIT. I do not want this show to be some sex-filled ironic thing like Skins. It could go either way: Hunger Games most certainly wasn’t Skins; Buffy at times resembled it. The fact it has a YA label means nothing as anyone who has done extensive YA reading or watched YA shows like Pretty Little Liars (not to mention Skins and its American spiritual ancestor MTV Undressed) can tell you. Not saying we need another Sarah Jane, but the tone is going to determine whether this thing is actually accepted by fandom. Torchwood has its supporters but it was never fully embraced by Who fandom because its tone was too adult for the franchise (so much so the powers that be forbade the Doctor from ever crossing over, though Martha was OK). If they find a happy medium they should do well. I am concerned though that by pretty much confirming that Clara has nothing to do with it they’re telegraphing something about her fate. Radio Times’ story basically speculates outright it confirms the D-word for her.

    I agree with those who say there’s no excuse for William Russell not to at least make a cameo appearance on this.

    • Semi-Evil Semi-Genius Oct 4, 2015

      Torchwood had many problems other than tone. The characters’ sheer incompetence, the lack of consistency in how their universe operated, and the date rape of the pilot were all issues.

  5. Luke Foord Oct 2, 2015

    Glad I gave up on social media couple years back. I had no idea there was any announcement of any sort coming. But am I excited about it? No, I know nothing about it.

  6. Rick714 Oct 2, 2015

    I admit that the spinoff really doesn’t interest me at all. If it starred William Russell, that would definitely be a bonus and I’d check it out but Bill is turning 91 this year, so I don’t see that happening. Liz Sladen was the only reason SJA was as popular as it was and admittedly, I did watch whenever the doctor stopped by.

    I’m also unfamiliar with Ness, so not a lot for me there. I’m guessing they’ll have Courtney as one of the stars, which also does not help….

  7. Rory1978 Oct 2, 2015

    Interesting…I’m curious to give it a shot. The cynical side of me is wondering whether this announcement may also be part of a ‘softening blow’ if indeed the next series of WHO is shorter (as rumoured). The EVEN more cynical part of wonders whether this venture signals a countdown to Moffat’s departure? in much the same way that SJA was a stepping stone for RTD?

    • Rory1978 Oct 2, 2015

      or maybe, just maybe, the researchers/demographers realised that a large ‘chunk’ of the untapped ‘who’ audience were the late teens? Perhaps this format would gently shepherd this potential audience towards WHO? Could these be the same teens who enjoyed SJA when they were younger?

  8. matthewsee Oct 3, 2015

    I have been seeing a lot of Degrassi lately and I am getting the sense that Class could easily be Degrassi, Doctor Who-style.

    • Semi-Evil Semi-Genius Oct 4, 2015

      Oh no, a Cyber-Man put me in a wheelchair. And this Sontaran wants me to put out on the first date. And I’ve got exams next week, but I am stranded in 1892.

  9. Gary Murden Oct 3, 2015

    I like the idea, as this will allow Doctor Who to focus on Time and space, but at the same time I can’t see why it is being done.

    Sarah Jane was a great character, with a huge fan base and nostalgia value.

    There was a genuine connection to the the main show through her.

    Likewise this show will need a connection, and unless they do some epic writing, which they might, I can’t see a character strong enough to bridge the shows.

    Osgood (not much character, if we are being honest) and Clara the marmite, have been mentioned but why would Osgood leave unit to become a teacher?

    Why would Jenna want to quit the A show only to walk into the B show?

    I have a feeling that this is only being made as next series will be a collection of uneven specials.

    Really would like to be wrong (have been on many occasions) but I doubt it.

    A four part 8th Doctor show would be nice though.

    • Edward Delingford Oct 3, 2015

      The showrunner, Patrick Ness has already advised that Clara is NOT a character in this show. It’s set in Coal Hill School but it doesn’t appear to have any other strong links with the main show in terms of lead characters and it remains to be seen how it connects with the general Who mythos. Given it’s on BBC3 and aimed at the YA audience, it’s likely to in fact be slightly ‘racier’ than Who which has to appeal to the widest family audience (0-99 years). It will be nothing like SJA as that was for CBBC, ie aimed squarely at children. I doubt we’ll ever see the Doctor either but may have him referenced or hear the Tardis in the background etc. I am sure we’ll see William Russell though – I bet Steven Moffat will insist on it!

      My own gut reaction is that this may be a way of loosely linking an idea which Patrick Ness had for a show to Who to give it a much higher profile and attract an audience. It might also be that the BBC were very keen to hook him in (he’s an incredibly well regarded author) and by allowing him to share the great brain and resources of Moffat and Minchin, it makes the deal sweeter for him and might lead to him doing more work for the Beeb.

      Lastly, I bet this reflects the BBC’s own concerns that they aren’t nabbing this particular segment of the viewing audience with Who. Clearly the brilliant start over the last two weeks has kept the older viewers happy with all of the continuity links and the younger viewers will have enjoyed a lot of the slapstick humour as well. I saw somewhere that the consolidated figures with unique iPlayer views are going to be comfortably over 8 million and closer to 9 million when we see them later this month which shows that the audience is still there.

      So, I think it’s a win-win, allowing the BBC to grab a huge talent with an existing large youth following into their stable with an eye to other programmes down the track, plus it may attract viewers to Class back to Who. Perhaps, who knows?, Ness may be a writer Who wants to come on board on a regular basis as well. Having Moffat and Minchin as your tutors for television can only be a good thing.

      The only odd thing, I think, is the name – Class – think it’s a bit plain but everything I’ve seen from Patrick Ness on his twitter feed is very exciting. He’s made it clear he doesn’t like cliché, he likes to challenge his audience and he wants to make it a real and heartfelt show with genuine scares and also to really push the boundaries. All sounds good to me and even if I’m not the target audience, I’ll certainly keep an eye out for it. I used to watch the off SJA episode an in fact the one Russell wrote for Matt was not only the best SJA episode I saw, but I thought it was one of Russell’s best scripts and he really understood Matt’s doctor. A real pity, Steven Moffat couldn’t get him back for one episode (and as we know Steven has begged him year in and year out).

      • Gary Murden Oct 3, 2015

        Thanks for the info. I thought the Sara Jane scripts were pitch perfect for their audience.

        I will watch, I remember thinking I couldn’t be done with Donna after the Christmas special but she was incredible though out season four.

        Definitely in the wait and see box.

        • I was just the same over Donna – and delighted to be proved wrong.
          But I hope they don’t mean the same kind of ‘young adult’ as Torchwood. Children of Earth was mesmeric telly, with dozens of brilliant actors not just PC giving flawless performances, but the rest didn’t live up to its Who origins the way SJA did.
          I don’t think the Doctor could have dropped in on Torchwood the way he did SJA and I hope he’ll be able to do in this new spinoff if it comes out right. If just to meet Ian one last time.

          • Gary Murden Oct 3, 2015

            Thanks for the reply.

            Who knows, in a years time we might all be praising this show.

            I am too old to be the target audience, but give me a good format, decent actors and a tight script I’ll watch.

            Torchwood was inconsistent, rather than all bad in my mind, but I can see where you are coming from.

            A Skins with aliens and guns wouldn’t do a thing for me, but if someone does want that then fair play to them.

          • Semi-Evil Semi-Genius Oct 4, 2015

            If they don’t bring in Ian, and don’t have the Doctor, or any companions, then why bother? Is it a Doctor Who spinoff at that point? Sure, they could use some foes, but who? SJA Adventures had to stick with lesser enemies. You can’t bring in Daleks or Cyber-Men, and beat them, or it lessens the need for the Doctor entirely. Give Ian his due honors.

            I think somehow reintroducing Susan could be their only idea, and they would have to definitively say she is a Time Lady, capable of regeneration to do that. With Moffat’s love of putting his label on every part of Doctor Who possible, I’m sure he would. And despite his claims otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maisie Williams could be Susan. Even if you consider that actress’ business with Game of Thrones, and the possibility she could be too busy with that, she could regenerate into a new actress to appear on Class. All speculation, and I’m not saying it will happen, but that’s one of my theories.

  10. BrittlePacker Oct 3, 2015

    I might have a look at the first episode, but it doesn’t really interest me. Of course it’s not aimed at me – I doubt mid forties counts as young adult to anyone other than my mother!

    My instant reaction was “Oh, Grange Hill with monsters. No thanks!” but if a certain Mr Russell (or Mr Capaldi in his borrowed caretaker coat) was to make an appearance, I believe I could be persuaded to have a look…

  11. Planet of the Deaf Oct 3, 2015

    I think this is a great idea, take a highly regarded Young Adult author, give him his first TV series, but tie it loosely into the Doctor Who empire, which will attract curious Who viewers. Just the sort of thing BBC3 should be doing.

    Young Adult isn’t CBBC, Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a children’s programme. It’s a new show set in Coal Hill (and why not). No reason for any of the existing child actors to necessarily appear, I imagine the main characters will be A level students, not 13 year olds

    Moff isn’t the writer, so if Doctor Who S10 is delayed, it won’t be because of this show (more likely Sherlock is the reason).

  12. Dr. Moo Oct 3, 2015

    I will continue to watch every single thing that goes out under the Doctor Who banner, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. At the moment my reaction boils down to “Meh, it’s better than nothing”, because I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand it’s an extension of the most annoying aspect of recent Who to a full-blown spin-off, on the other it’s a new Doctor Who spin-off with Patrick Ness writing it. I think that’s a very important thing to remember at this stage. We’ve been promised more adventures in the Doctor Who universe from an incredibly capable writer. On the strength of that information alone surely we should at least give Class a chance?

  13. Prince Poopy Pooch Oct 3, 2015

    Totally underwhelmed by the announcement.

    For me the central premise of DW, namely The Doctor and the TARDIS going whenever and wherever is what attracts me to the show. I never cared for the approach of Torchwood and SJA where the action comes to Earth. Just not my bag. I see this as another SJA with slight differences. So I can’t see myself bothering to tune in for it.

    • Castellan Spandrel Oct 3, 2015

      “For me the central premise of DW, namely The Doctor and the TARDIS going whenever and wherever is what attracts me to the show.”

      -I still find DW entertaining most weeks, but this hits the nail on the head for me.

      I’d like a return to the ‘stranger in a strange land’ way of telling the stories, the Doctor and assistant finding themselves out of their depth every week. Even comparatively limp stuff like The Invisible Enemy gripped the younger me, because I enjoyed the sense of danger, a trip into the unknown.

      In recent years, we’ve seen the Doctor rebooting the universe, among other things. He’s become all-powerful, all-knowing. It can’t go on like this and still retain a sense of danger and urgency. You can’t get much bigger than rebooting reality!

      If I became showrunner, I’d nick the idea from the Eighth Doctor audio adventures/Trial of a Time Lord of the Doctor, companion-less at first, suffering from amnesia, to make him more vulnerable and less omniscient, and just plunge him into different adventures every week: the fundamentals of Doctor Who.

      As for ‘Class’? I’ll probably give it a go, but I do hope it isn’t a stop-gap for S10 of the main feature.

  14. TimeChaser Oct 3, 2015

    Sounds like a lame and desperate attempt to squeeze one last drop of blood from the stone.

    • Semi-Evil Semi-Genius Oct 4, 2015

      Coming 2017: The Paternoster Gang: The Series!!!

      Watch as the Paternoster Gang are abducted by Missy and taken to Future Space Victorian Britain Two (taking place on the ship from The Beast Below), with special guest appearances by Cyber-Brig, Liz 10, and Lynda-with-a-Y (guess what? she’s not dead! none of the characters on the show have ever died!). And they’re all getting their own sonics: Vastra gets a sonic veil, Jenny gets a sonic teacup, and Strax gets a sonic milk implant. And move over K9, get read for Meta-Crisis half-human, half-robot, half-dog K-10.

      • Pantz Oct 5, 2015

        I’m sure somewhere a tv producer is writing all this down!

  15. Not even my kindest friends would put me near the ‘young adult’ category, but I’m hooked on both Orphan Black and Humans, which may be the same kind of audience it’s going for.
    Problem is I don’t think you can aim to have a hit in this cult area, you have to aim to make the best version you can of the story you want to tell. Some wow people (and ratings) fast, others are cancelled too soon – Firefly – or not recognised for a decade or so – Blade Runner. If there’s a great story they want to tell good luck to them, but if they just want a Doctor Who lite for a specific audience and haven’t worked out a central unique idea that’ll grab people it could be embarassing.
    Maybe they could do a crossover – instead of one actor playing many people, we could have lots of actors playing the same person, travelling in a box, call it ‘Orphan Blue … oh; wait a minute…

  16. itsonlythesoaps Oct 4, 2015

    I’m not excited by this as at this point it is only planned for BBC 3. That means many of us may never see it, and if by then BBC3 is online only, then I wonder how good it would be.

    I know nothing of Mr. Ness as his regular writing (non-DW short story) is something I haven’t been exposed to and I read a decent amount of YA. Perhaps he is a lot more popular in the UK. I enjoy television shows and books that are in urban fantasy genre, so I’m not against it for that reason either.

    • TheFirst Oct 4, 2015

      Patrick Ness stated that the plan is for the episodes to be repeated on BBC1 each week, after they’ve appeared online on BBC 3.

    • Presumably it’ll appear on iPlayer after broadcast.

  17. Pantz Oct 5, 2015

    Doctor Who meets Grange Hill? I’ll pass.

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