Welcome the Class of Coal Hill School 2017
At the Fathom Events Doctor Who season premiere on Monday, not only did I get to watch the new episode and introduction to Bill Potts, I also got to see sneak preview of the Doctor Who spin-off Class (which Sam also got to see at Wondercon). We return to Coal Hill School revamped and ready for anything.
Class also lifts some tropes straight out of Doctor Who: an alien who is the last of his kind comes to Earth. Add in the idea of thinning time (“it’s like a Hellmouth”) and an awkward band of companions. That’s Class.
Each weirdo is weird in their own way. And Class has a lovely array of high school characters. There’s the strange new boy Charlie, the kind, but lonely April, the underage genius Tanya, the soccer jock Ram, and the beautiful and foreign kid Matteusz.
The plot line for the first episode seems lifted straight from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And maybe that’s the point. The 20th Anniversary of Buffy just passed and we haven’t had a successful group like the Scooby Gang since that show ended in 2003. So maybe it’s time for a supernatural crime-fighting teenage team, complete with a curmudgeonly adult.
The show also manages to cover some ground that Doctor Who can’t: race, sexuality, disability, and more gore and sex than allowed in the family-friendly Tardis. Because as important as Doctor Who is (and as much as I love the fact that Bill is gay, and that Jack and River are some form of queer), it is still a BBC safe show. There will always be hints, tidbits, metaphors and such.
But Class, which premieres on BBC Three, has a bit more freedom to deep-dive into these themes. In the first episode there are two boys kissing. They are main characters, they are not killed off in the first episode, and they are not defined by their sexuality. So as long as Class doesn’t #buryyourgays, there is plenty of room for it to expand.
Same goes for race, with two members of Coal Hill School acknowledged for their different cultural backgrounds. Thanks to their relationship, Class can (hopefully) delve into what it is to be people of color in a majority-white dynamic. Which is certainly something the Scooby Gang never could do.
So those are my hopes: more exploration into very real conversations and an alien show that can take us to more places that Doctor Who can’t. If the idea is that this is the crew that protects the Earth when the Doctor isn’t around, then they must deal with their human problems as well as their supernatural.
I’ll certainly give Class a few more episodes. I’ve waited a long time for a Buffy/Torchwood follow-up. Here’s hoping that Class can live up to expectations.