Doctor Who Class finally debuted on BBC America, and it’s the more mature teen sci-fi story we’ve been waiting for.
It’s been a while since Doctor Who has aired a spinoff. Both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures ended much too soon. Torchwood suffered from BBC shortsightedness and a disastrous partnership with Starz that tossed the canon out the window. Sadly, The Sarah Jane Adventures ended with the untimely death of its star Elisabeth Sladen.
With The Sarah Jane Adventures, Whovians had a series that was very much for kids and tweens. It depicted silly, not too scary adventures on the level of Power Rangers. Torchwood, on the other hand, told an adult story that aired in the BBC post-watershed window (think American basic cable). Both series were great in their own right, but there was a hole in the middle that Class fills.
‘Doctor Who Class’ review
Without spoiling, we’ve seen the premiere, and Class ably fills a Doctor Who gap on a number of levels. Here’s what we think it gets most right.
1. Plausible teens in trouble dynamic
With a lot of teen based sci-fi there’s the constant question of “Where are their parents?” Due to the unique set-up of Class, the adults are worked in, or not, in a manner that makes sense. They are not the dumbest humans ever who don’t see the obvious, and when in the know, they are actually concerned about their kids.
2. Teens who actually sound like teens
Don’t you just hate it when writers come up with what they think teens sound like, or parse out scripts with issues that were so 1990’s? This is not the case here. For the most part, in fairness there are a couple of bumps, the teens of Class are likable and easy to relate to as teens of the 2010’s. You can see them as your friends and classmates. They are initially certain “types,” but they go beyond those types.
3. A legitimately diverse cast
There is lots of diversity in Class on many levels. The issues that these diverse groups face is woven into the series. There’s not a one-off episode that goes down the path of “Let’s make this the token LGBTQ episode” or “Let’s make this the feminist episode.” Issues like these evolve over time. Nothing is simple. Prejudices are exposed and examined, but not in a quick way.
4. Real stakes
In Doctor Who the danger level only goes so far. We haven’t had anyone get seriously injured or really die. Amy and Rory, Rose, and River were zapped into other universes where they lived on in some form. Danny was back as a Cyberman with a conscience. Clara is currently touring the universe between heartbeats with Ishildur. No one really died as in totally dead, didn’t come back, gone for good. Without spoiling, this is not the case with Class. Real death and real injury on the level we had in Torchwood happen, and this is a good thing.
5. Minimal appearances by the Doctor
What made Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures really work was the idea that the Doctor couldn’t be everywhere. What do humans do when the Doctor isn’t there? Alien threats don’t just happen when he is around. What does society do? Class is along the same level. The humans have to develop their own moral code in dealing with alien life. Do they make the right decisions? Can this be tied into how we deal with other cultures? The answer is there is no easy answer, and Class makes this apparent.
Don’t miss Doctor Who Class immediately following the Doctor Who premiere on BBC America.