You don’t need to be a devoted Doctor Who fan to enjoy Class, which premieres on April 15 immediately after the Doctor Who season 10 opener on BBC America. It’s a young adult drama, set in a British high school, which is affiliated to the universe of Doctor Who while not depending on the 50-plus year history of the Doctor and his various adventures.
But there are several points of crossover between the two shows, not least the monstrous alien races that attempt to invade Earth on a weekly basis. Here are just a few of the hidden facts and key talking points (without spoilers!) that make it such an enticing TV proposition:
Class is set in Coal Hill Academy, formerly Coal Hill Secondary School. Take a look…
— BBC America (@BBCAMERICA) April 12, 2017
It’s the educational establishment to which the First Doctor sent his granddaughter Susan, back in 1963. She was spotted as special by teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, who followed her to a junk yard in Totter’s Lane, where she lived with her grandfather. They found her inside a police box, which is actually a ship capable of traveling in space and time. Her grandfather turns out to be an old and crotchety eccentric who calls himself The Doctor.
It has since been renovated, and now both teacher and pupils stand between Earth and destruction at alien hands.
It’s also the school that was Clara Oswald’s place of work, where she met Danny Pink, and provided the Doctor with some gainful employment as a cleaner in “The Caretaker.” The names of Clara, Danny, and Susan Foreman now reside on the school’s memorial board.
Also, though the school was previously located on Coal Hill Road, within the world of Class, the refurbished school now sits on Foreman Road. A further nod to Susan Foreman, perhaps?
According to the school sign, as seen in “The Day of the Doctor,” Ian Chesterton came back from his travels with the First Doctor and took up a position as Chairman of the Governors at the school.
And when the school was renovated in Spring 2016, the main building was renamed the Barbara Wright Building, according to a sign seen just inside the entrance.
At one point, Tanya Adeola, the smartest and youngest of the loose affiliation of students who fully understand what is going on at the school, tries to hack into UNIT’s servers. The UNified Intelligence Taskforce is, of course, a military organization which was set up to investigate and combat extraterrestrial threats to the Earth. It has made regular appearances in Doctor Who since the early 1970s.
There’s a neat narrative parallel between Doctor Who and Class, in that Doctor Who starts with a misfit child in a high school who turns out to be from an alien planet. So does Class. That alien pupil — Charlie Smith, the prince of the Rhodians, played by Greg Austin — also turns out to live with an adult who has something of an attitude problem when faced with authority. And the school is riddled with cracks in time, thanks in part to the Doctor’s various adventures there.
As befits a drama set in a modern school, Class is filled with pop culture references — British and otherwise. Look out for nods to Idris Elba, The Hunger Games, the Hellmouths from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “that town in Once Upon a Time,” The Vampire Diaries, Brian Cox, the ITV dating TV show Take Me Out and even a double-decker London bus.
One particularly well-hidden nod to classic Doctor Who is the casting of Laura June Hudson as an old lady that Tanya encounters in a shop in the first episode, “For Tonight We Might Die.” Laura was Tom Baker‘s costume designer during the era of the Fourth Doctor.
The title of the fifth episode is “Brave Heart,” which may be a pun on the Mel Gibson film, but is far more likely (given that it is episode five) to be derived from the Fifth Doctor’s habit of rallying the spirits of his companion Tegan Jovanka with the words, “Brave heart, Tegan!”
Also: Miss Quill has all the best one-liners
She’s the responsible adult who helps to protect Coal Hill from alien invasion, although she is unable to use weapons (it’s all explained in the first episode). Luckily for her, she has a ferociously sharp tongue, which she uses indiscriminately on everyone she meets. Think Missy without all the hideous pain and death. Her are some of her better moments:
“April Maclean, the answer to the question are spinsters born or made.”
“You ludicrous Care Bear”
“Tell me Ram, was there a great big window of porn open as you typed?”
“Get a very big knife. No, wait. Get two.”
“You know what? Fine. Fine. You and your little team, you go and pretend to save the world. I’ll just stick to saving you from boring old death.”
— Class (@bbcclass) November 20, 2016