When I first heard that a new spin-off for Doctor Who was to be airing this year I was in two minds about it.
Essentially a newer, more mature version of acclaimed series The Sarah Jane Adventures (RIP Elisabeth Sladen), Class revolves around a set of sixth form students at Coal Hill Academy, a school that has featured in the original show since its debut in 1963. Much like the previous spin-off, the series forms unlikely friendships amongst a group of young people after they encounter and fight against alien life around their school.
This was what interested me to the show. The Sarah Jane Adventures was one of my favourite series and provided a new angle to a television programme that I’ve been dedicated to since it was brought back in 2005. However, whilst SJA attracted people of all ages, it’s main target audience was very clearly pre-teen/teenagers. Being 9 years older now than when the show was first broadcast I was worried that a new spin-off wouldn’t be so appealing.
I was clearly wrong.
Although still formed of a primarily teenage cast, the move from high school students to sixth form ones has seen the spin-off become a lot more adult than its predecessor. After all, you wouldn’t have seen someone stabbed with a sword and another have their leg cut in half on The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s also not something you’d see on Doctor Who (not so brutally anyway).
That is, I suppose, the benefit of having a series that is mainly broadcast online. Whilst the main show and SJA are/were given prime-time slots on their respective days, the freedom of online accessibility means that the producers are less constrained by a need to be family friendly.
Not that Class’s audience isn’t as far reaching as these other shows.
Before the brutal action at Coal Hill Academy’s prom, the show very much felt like a slightly older version of SJA. Greg Austin’s character Charlie is as brilliantly alien/human as Tommy Knight’s Luke, whilst Sophie Hopkin’s April is just as kind-hearted and loving as Yasmin Paige’s Maria. The only place where character profiles differ from the predecessor is with Katherine Kelly’s Miss Quill whose blunt, sarcastic character is a far cry from Sladen’s passionate mother figure. Though that isn’t a bad thing, not in the slightest. If anything Kelly’s anti-hero is quite possibly the show’s strongest and funniest character.
Is it a bad thing that Class is essentially a more adult replication of The Sarah Jane Adventures?
Not at all. Everything about SJA was brilliant and enjoyable, and there is enough differences between the two shows to allow Class to stand out on its own.
Could there potentially be a crossover between the new show and some of its predecessor’s much-loved characters like Luke and Clyde?
I would say its unlikely, mainly because the more adult nature of the show makes it more fitting for a crossover with Doctor Who’s other popular spin-off Torchwood.
What I do know is that any doubts about Class not being for more have been well and truly put to rest. Judging from its pilot alone the series has a brilliant (and diverse) cast, a format that has been proven to work in the past, and a tone that encompasses the humour, darkness and humanity present across the other spin-offs and main show.
I only hope this is just the start of something great for a franchise that has struggled to find its feet in recent years.
Episodes 1-3 are available now on BBC iPlayer. Future episodes debut at 10am every Saturday.
*header image taken by Quinn Dombrowski at https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/