In about a month’s time, we’re going to see the first new Doctor Who spinoff since the end of Torchwood: Miracle Day in 2011 – Class, set at Coal Hill School, featuring a group of emerging actors, and most notably, written and overseen by popular YA author Patrick Ness. It’s this notable distinction that sets Class apart from its predecessors; unlike Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures, Class is far more auteur lead, shaping up to be very much Patrick Ness’ program.
It started around two years or so ago, with a refusal: Patrick Ness was asked to write an episode of Doctor Who, but declined, on the basis that he was writing a lot for other people, and wanted to devote more time to his own projects. Fair enough, as I’m sure all would agree. Not long after, though, the BBC re-approached Ness with a new pitch: they were planning a school based spinoff of Doctor Who, and wanted to know if he’d be interested in running it. The answer, as you can imagine, was a resounding yes.
Which is, in fact, rather fantastic, because Patrick Ness is the perfect candidate for this series. He’s got a long and established history of writing for YA properties, and can be considered one of the foremost authors within the genre – his Chaos Walking trilogy is quite highly regarded, as is his novel A Monster Calls, a movie adaptation of which, starring Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, will be released later this year. However, it’s one of his more recent novels that makes it really clear how apt a choice Ness was to spearhead this spinoff, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Class shared more than a few similarities with said book.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a novel about the background characters; the people who aren’t the Chosen Ones, who could never be the Chosen Ones, and mostly just want to be left to live their lives in peace. It follows a group of American students in their senior year, and throws their lives into the foreground – relegating the expansive epic about a secret alien invasion largely to the background. It’s a pretty clever deconstruction of the standard YA tropes, and quite a funny one too; there’s an entertaining jab directed at Ness’ friend John Green, writer of The Fault in Our Stars, when one of the main characters remarks that the alien invasion is “worse than when they were all beautifully dying of cancer”.
You can see how this approach might translate well to Class – rather than focusing on the Doctor and his companions, the story will follow a group of normal students (insofar as any teenager can be termed “normal”, of course) who are thrust into a world much bigger – albeit perhaps not more complicated – than their own.
And so, with not much longer to go before the latest addition to the Doctor Who world, we can see yet another reason to be excited about the show:
The BBC found the perfect writer in Patrick Ness.
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