The Problem with Class

As I write this in March 2017, there is no official word as to the second series of Class. There have been rumblings that the show has been cancelled and to be honest I cant say that I would be surprised.

Back in October 2015, the BBC announced that there was big news on social media which many (including myself) assumed that must have meant a lost episode had been found but we were let down when it was announced a new spin off series would launch. I was miffed like most people but after a few weeks thought that I would it might be ok but then the first sign that it might not be a total success came when it was announced that it would debut on BBC Three. Back in 2006, Torchwood launched on the channel and eventually moved to BBC One. However in February 2016, the channel ceased as a traditional TV channel and became online only so basically you would only be able to view it via the BBC iPlayer. I think I remember someone saying that it was a bit of a test to see whether launching dramas on the iplayer would draw people to the service. Ratings were never going to be sky high but ratings were between 20,000 and 60,000.

Like most stuff on the new BBC Three, it made its way to the main channels and despite this being tagged as Young Adult, the episodes were stuffed in the late-night timeslot in double bill instalments. This was another sign that things were going badly wrong with the series. Ratings would be ok for the first episode but come the second, the ratings would slide. Take for example the first two. For Tonight We Might Die got just over 1 million viewers. The second episode The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo got around half a million. As each week progressed, the ratings for the first episode got lower.

So why hasn’t the show connected with fans like Torchwood or Sarah Jane Adventures? There isn’t one single reason but I’ll try and give my theories as to why this is the poorest spin-off.

The first reason might be because we were getting a show that nobody wanted. Imagine that you’re a Manchester United fan and your use to getting regular matches, and then they decide they are taking a break for a year so the manager can do something else and in its place your going to get some amateur players who are going to be playing at Old Trafford instead. It’s football but not the sort you want. Well that’s what Doctor Who fans experienced when it was announced that Class was coming. I think that there was a lot of bad feeling aimed at the show which wasn’t really the fault of the show, that anger/frustration should really have been aimed at the BBC. Maybe the next time that the BBC want to make a big song and dance about a new spin-off they might want to warn fans beforehand that its not a lost episode or don’t announce it when we know we aren’t getting any new Who for a long time.

Another theory isn’t that there was no real link between Doctor Who and Class. Yes the Doctor appeared in the first episode and it had Coal Hill but that was it. At least with Torchwood there was Captain Jack and you had his presence to keep you going until you got to know the other characters. In Class, the Doctor appears and then says bye and we are left with these new characters and that was a mistake. There was also the principal that appeared in a few episodes of Doctor Who but he gets killed off. Also it wasn’t Coal Hill School. If your gonna called it Coal Hill Academy then it needs be the same Coal Hill that appeared in Doctor Who. It might as well have been called something else for the good it did.

Another problem was for me with the characters. They just didn’t gel. Even after six episodes it seemed like they were just random people who had not connection with each other. Lets start with Greg Austin who played Charlie Smith. I actually thought his character was quite good and at least there was something to the character. I think that largely stemmed from Charlie’s story with Quill but out of all the student characters, his was the best by a clear mile. Fady Elsayed who played Ram Singh was on a hiding to nothing. His character was just annoying because he was someone who didn’t fit in with the rest of the group but not in a good way. If he hadn’t been in the show then I don’t think the show would have suffered. Lets be honest, had he not lost his leg then there would be very little of note to say about the character. Next was Sophie Hopkins who played April MacLean who started out quite well but then just became a rather unbelievable hero. Vivian Oparah deserved better as Tanya Adeola. I thought that there was potential and there were moments of potential dotted throughout the series but largely wasted by the structure of the show. Then there was Katherine Kelly who was the best thing in the show. As Miss Quill, she had a nice sense of disdain for those around her and her attitude was perhaps the only lively thing in the entire series.

As I said they just didn’t gel. I know that it takes time but when Torchwood launched it seemed like the team connected and whilst they were all different and were a bit frosty with each other, they at least seemed like they were a team whereas the gang at Class just seemed like they had been cajoled into a room and told to get into a situation together. If there is a series two then the first thing that needs to be resolved is how to get them to at least seem like to the viewer they were on the same page.

I’m not going to talk about the quality of the scripts because they were ok and I thought that the opening episode was good and The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo was a very good episode. Nightvisiting was also another well written episode and at this point when I was watching, I thought that the show might work out but then the rest of the series carried on and it lost some of its punch and come the end of the series it never had the epic finale that I thought it should have done.

Class has some serious problems but then the first series of Torchwood wasn’t perfect by any means. It had different problems but it was a mixed bag that improved in series two. If there is a series two of Class then they need to sort out the characters and the way they interact with one another. If they manage to solve that then there is hope for the show because any new writers (or the ones used in the first series) would know the characters and the show and when you know what your writing then the quality improves.

I know that there are many who would be happy for Class to never return. I’m not one of them. I cant say that I was a huge fan of the series but I would be prepared to give it a second go and I don’t think I am the only one who thinks like that. Class is possibly going to go down in the history of Doctor Who as the spin-off that only ran for one series. Torchwood managed four, Sarah Jane Adventures did five and even K9 and Company has a sort of naff charm to it. I don’t think in 30 years, Class will have the same guilty pleasure vibe to it. I could be wrong but  I don’t think so.


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