Attendees at New York Comic-Con have been given a look at the trailers for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special and the spin-off Class. Since I am something of an Doctor Who uber-fan, I’m not going to stop with just the videos. I’m also going to dive into the spin-off with a brief rundown of what we already know about the series, and a bit of analysis of the trailer. Aren’t you lucky?
Let’s start off with the familiar—a trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas special. Only this year is more interesting than most as it will involve the Doctor teaming up with a superhero named Doctor Mysterio:
Now let’s take a look at Class. First, the teaser:
Then, the full trailer:
So, here’s what we know:
- The series showrunner is Patrick Ness, an American-born London-based writer perhaps best known for his young adult novels including A Monster Calls and the Chaos Walking series. He’s actually written for Doctor Who before, having contributed the Fifth Doctor short story “Tip of the Tongue” for Puffin Books’ anniversary series of stories.
- The first season (which IMDb has listed as a mini-series, so there may not be a second) will consist of 8 45-minute episodes, all written by Ness.
- It debuts on BBC Three in the UK on October 22nd, with a later broadcast on BBC One. It’ll be broadcast on BBC America in the US sometime in 2017. Speculation is that it’ll be double-banked with season 10 of Doctor Who. That speculation comes from me. I’m speculating that.
- Steven Moffat is executive-producing alongside Ness and Who producer Brian Minchin.
- The series takes place at Coal Hill Academy, formerly Coal Hill School, which appeared in the very first episode of Doctor Who way back in 1963. More recently, it’s the school Clara Oswald taught at from the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” right up to the 2015 season. It also appeared in the 1988 story “Remembrance of the Daleks”, which I mention mostly because it’s a fantastic story that you should all go watch immediately.
- The series will skew a little more mature in tone from the parent show, but not as adult as the Russell T Davies-helmed spin-off Torchwood.
- Peter Capaldi will be appearing in the first episode of the show as the Twelfth Doctor.
- This is the fourth BBC-produced spin-off from the long-running scifi series, after K-9 & Company, Torchwood and The Sarah-Jane Adventures. It’s the fifth if we count the Australia-produced K-9 (I wouldn’t), and the second to feature a guest appearance by Capaldi, who also appeared in season 3 of Torchwood as someone who definitely was not the Doctor.
Spoiler alert: Some of the following analysis will contain spoilers for the 2014 and 2015 seasons of Doctor Who, so if you’re catching up and don’t want to get spoiled, you should probably stop here.
Firstly, that teaser. Oh, that teaser. It’s dark, it’s moody, and it focuses very heavily on a monologue given by the Doctor (which I’d wager was written and recorded specifically for this trailer, though I’ll be happy to be proven wrong about that), and the implication is that he’s fully aware of what’s going on at Coal Hill Academy. My guess is that the first episode will feature the Doctor actively involved in saving the day, but tootling off at the end leaving the kids of Coal Hill to defend themselves against… whatever it is they’re going to have to defend themselves against.
And what will they have to face? We’re given our first hints at “the shadows”, and an ominous black shape is seen moving among the shadows in a dark and gloomy corridor of the school. It’d be easy, and probably lazy, to suggest that the shadows in question are the Vashta Nerada from the 2007 Tenth Doctor story “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”, and given the tone of Patrick Ness’ writing it’s highly unlikely that these shadows, which are being very heavily positioned as the Big Bad of the show, are going to be everyone’s favorite skellington-makers.
We’re given a bit more of a glimpse of the shadow in the full trailer, which gives us our first look at the cast of the series as well as a proper idea of the premise – sharp, attractive-looking teens dealing with whatever monstrosities happen to come through cracks in space and time that open within the school. The tone of the trailer definitely hits those Buffy the Vampire Slayer notes that Moffat hinted at when the show was first announced earlier this year. Indeed, Buffy gets a shout-out in the trailer, as do Once Upon a Time and The Vampire Diaries. The impression one gets from the trailer is that this is a show that knows exactly which, haha, class of show it belongs to, and what shows it considers to be good company. That’s a positive sign, as far as I’m concerned – Ness, Moffat and company seem to be aiming to produce a show that can sit among those American heavy-hitters, and the shout-out speaks to a confidence in the endeavor. I like that. I admire it.
The appearance of the Twelfth Doctor’s new Sonic Screwdriver also places the series squarely after the events of the 2015 Christmas special. It had been speculated that the series would take place concurrently with the 2015 season of Doctor Who, which would allow for a cameo from Clara Oswald. That doesn’t seem likely now.
I’ll say this, though – this trailer has upgraded my interested from “It’s connected to Doctor Who so I’ll probably watch it” to “I absolutely have to watch this.” Doctor Who spin-offs have a rocky history, from Torchwood with its prepubescent idea of what “mature” is supposed to be, to The Sarah-Jane Adventures which tried very hard to take the template of classic Who and reinvent it for a younger audience with mixes results, to K-9 which we absolutely do not talk about under any circumstances. From the trailer alone, though, Class already looks like it might just succeed where its predecessors have failed in producing a scifi-fantasy series that can stand on its own legs while justifying its connection to its parent show. This actually looks like it’s going to be very, very good.
The biggest disappoint, if one were to go looking for something to be disappointed with, comes from BBC America, who have decided to put off broadcasting the show until at least Spring 2017. By that time the show will have come and gone from British telly, and even Australia will have had it by then (Australia’s ABC2 is airing it two days after its UK debut). One of the reasons BBC America pushed for same-day broadcasts of Doctor Who was to combat piracy of the show. It’ll be interesting to see what a six-month gap between UK and US broadcast does to the viewing figures Stateside.
Mind you, with the show debuting on the now entirely online-only BBC Three in the UK, with a later broadcast on flagship network BBC One, do ratings even matter anymore? The way we watch telly have changed so much in the my-god-has-it-really-been-almost-twelve-bloody-years since Doctor Who returned to our screens, with DVRs and streaming services and what have you. That’s a conversation for people far, far smarter than I am.
Tell you what, though. Class looks really good. Whether you’ll be tuning in to watch it later this month, or waiting for its US debut in the Spring, I’m confident it’s going to be a program you’re not going to want to miss.