Doctor Who spin-offs are surprisingly common, the most well known being Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and now we can add Class to the ever expanding Who-niverse. Set at Coal Hill Academy, a school steeped in Doctor Who lore, it is violent, gory and scary. Absolutely not for younger viewers. At times the level of gore is quite surprising, not what you’d expect, far nastier than anything Torchwood committed to screen. The blood and swearing certainly sets this apart from the main show but it still manages to feel like it exists in a world with The Doctor.
Brought to life by popular novelist Patrick Ness, Class has been described as a British “Buffy” and this isn’t an unfair comparison.
A double bill of episodes open the series, the first ‘For Tonight We Might Die’ is absolutely the stronger of the pair, and not just because of its Gallifreyan guest star, it is a very strong opening episode that has to introduce a lot of characters and set up some ongoing threads and mysteries. This episode is a lot of fun, right up until it takes a nastier turn towards the end, with pints of blood being spilled, school kids being impaled and a limb being lopped, this is not for the squeamish. And you can’t help get the feeling no one is safe, not even the main cast.
Much of the humour works too, offsetting the always surprising dark nature of the show. I hope some of the future episodes keep the blood and guts to a minimum as it becomes quite distracting.
There are faults. Most of the characters work well but the do have tendency to feel like archetypes, hopefully they will develop in less obvious directions than it appears. The dialogue isn’t have as snappy as it thinks it is, and a few cracks do start to appear in the second episode ‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’ which has some great effects all things considered but a story that is not only all over the place, it also feels incomplete, 45 minutes is more than adequate to tell a story like this and feels like much is missing and unexplained. This second episode focuses mainly on Ram and his increasingly survivor guilt, actor Fady Elsayed sells it well and it does feel like Ram is the character to watch. His friendship with Tanya is endearing, and the pair spend much of the episode together, investigating the brutal skinning of several teachers and staff members.
We have a pair of aliens, one student and one teacher, in form of Charlie and Miss Quill. The standout cast member is Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill, she is forced to live by a strict set of rules and can be incredibly ruthless. The Doctor would see her as a villain, if he stayed around long enough to witness her behavior, but she adds a layer of intriguing unpredictability to proceedings. She will kill to complete her mission.
Enjoyable and shocking, Class is a surprisingly worthy addition to the Who-niverse, and feels like it is more than capable of standing on its own feet without The Doctor appearing each week to help out. We’ve been told he won’t be returning during the first season, and that all the monsters will be new, but I find that hard to believe. Part of the fun of these shows existing in shared universe is the connective elements, a Sontaran or Weeping Angel showing up could be fun.
Class is on BBC3 on Saturday, it currently has no US airdate.