Tonight, the first episode of Doctor Who spin-off Class is set to air on BBC America.
The show has already been released in the UK, of course, receiving its iPlayer debut in October 2016 and airing on BBC One in January, just a few months later. Now it’s time for this strange yet compelling programme to come to America. If you’re watching Doctor Who on BBC America, stick around after each episode to see Class. If you’re in the UK, but you’ve never watched Class before – well, you can still check it out on BBC iPlayer. Whether you’re a Doctor Who fan or simply like good TV, Class is a programme that should be on your radar.
When Class was first announced, the potential was obvious: a young adult sci-fi series set in the Doctor Who world, positioning itself as a British Buffy the Vampire Slayer with aliens. Even starting from such a fantastic premise, there was something else to set this show apart – Patrick Ness. Class comes not only from the world of Doctor Who, but from the mind of acclaimed YA writer Patrick Ness, who is genuinely one of the most talented novelists working today.
This talent is obvious throughout the duration of Class, as Ness is able to imbue the show with the best of the YA genre. YA Television is experiencing something of a renaissance at the moment, and Ness is able to keep up with the best of it and then some – Class consistently putting a new spin on what we’ve seen before, finding a fresh take and creating fresh potential. Young Adult, after all, doesn’t mean trite or small – in many respects, this genre is on the bleeding edge of drama, consistently going further and finding ways to be new and interesting in ways the rest of television could only dream of.
Of course, it doesn’t just come down to Patrick Ness. Class also benefits immensely from a hugely talented cast – from Happy Valley star Katherine Kelly as the sublime Miss Quill to newcomer Vivian Oparah (it’s no mistake that the BBC have placed her on their annual ‘hot list’ of up and coming talent), the cast routinely give excellent performances. They bring life to the show, often elevating the material there were given further still.
Admittedly, Class isn’t perfect. There are kinks to iron out, there are lapses, and there are flaws – but at the same time, they’re always interesting flaws. No matter what, though, Class never fails to be engaging and thought provoking – which is surely exactly what you want from a drama, isn’t it?
Besides, what programme is perfect?
Let’s return to that original comparison to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, given that it was invited by the original announcement of Class. Is Class as good as Buffy? Well, no – but that’s not an entirely accurate comparison anyway. If you’re asking if Class is as good as the Buffy that we remember, then no. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in all its glory, is seven seasons and 144 episodes long. Class is eight episodes long; when you compare Class with Buffy’s first eight episodes, few of which are any good, it’s clear who comes off as the winner.
So, consider. Class may be imperfect, yes. But it’s brimming with potential in such a way that’s entirely unlike anything we’ve seen from Doctor Who, or much of British television in general. Indeed, the sixth episode of Class, Detained, is so well written, acted and directed as to be able to stand amongst the best of Doctor Who from the last twelve years. That’s no small feat
If Class can match Doctor Who and be better than Buffy at this stage… well, just think of what Class could become with another few years.
And that’s why it’s worth watching this strange, fabulous programme. Because Class is in something of a precarious position at the moment; a second season renewal is largely dependent upon its overseas success. The BBC America audience is more important than ever – and that’s why it’s so important to be watching Class over these next few weeks. (That’s primarily true of American viewers, of course, but it’s difficult to see how a spike in iPlayer views and DVD sales would count against the show.)
That, in the end, is why you should be watching Class. In many ways, it’s fantastic – despite its imperfections, there’s a lot to love, and a lot of potential for growth. If given the chance, it could grow into something truly memorable, standing above and beyond its parent show.
(Not entirely unlike a teenager, really.)
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