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Doctor Who's new class (2016)

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4 Class

Two episodes available now BBC3

BBC3 has a history of piggybacking on the success of Doctor Who. First Torchwood, now Class. This teen school drama with a sci-fi twist aims to bring the Tardis to a new generation with the help of Peter Capaldi.

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Class is both the latest and the very oldest thing in Doctor Who's sprawling mythology — the young adult drama penned by Patrick Ness is set in Coal Hill, the London school that educated the Doctor's granddaughter Susan in the very first episode back in November 1963.

"Doctor Who wasn't on when I was growing up, so although I was aware of the show, I had no idea how significant the school was to its history," says Ness, 45, the Carnegie Medal-winning author of A Monster Calls. "Now I'm aware, I need to do it justice. I'm hoping to do for British schools what Buffy did for US high schools."

The American-born UK resident's young adult fiction mixes sci-fi and horror with personal reflections on sexuality, identity, family and isolation. With Class, he's added a little of the last theme to the Doctor's high-energy romping. Episode one features the Time Lord, as played by Peter Capaldi (right), up to his usual tricks in the canteen. "Then, as usual, the Doctor leaves and everyone is left to deal with the consequences of what he's done," Ness adds. "I like that idea — that we see the aftermath of a heroic battle and its effects on the children of the school."

The show focuses on four youngsters at Coal Hill Academy — Charlie, Ram, April and Tanya — as they struggle to deal with ruptures in space/time resulting from the Time Lord's adventures, helped by their kick-ass physics teacher Miss Quill, who's played by Katherine Kelly.

Charlie is clearly Ness's favourite — he's from another planet, confident, good-looking and gay. "I grew up gay in American suburbia," Ness explains, "so Charlie is the kind of hero I wish I'd had on my TV. His sexuality isn't his story, it's just who he dates."

You can't patronise young adults, Ness insists, and you can't get away without a strong emotional plot — so he hopes it won't just be under-18s who tune in...


Class isn't the only place you can see Doctor Who this month. The missing 1966 story The Power of the Daleks has been reconstructed in animated form and is available from 5 November via BBC Store.


MEET THE CAST

Sophie Hopkins

APRIL, THE MOTHER HEN

What was it like working with Peter Capaldi? It was like watching a masterclass. We all sat back in disbelief.

How have you found the Doctor Who fan reaction? It's overwhelming. I can't believe there are Class fans now. I've described it as like seeing a picture of an album without listening to it and going, "That's my favourite album!" It's really touching that there's that amount of support.


Fady Elsayed

RAM, THE PASSIONATE STUDENT

Were you a Doctor Who fan before you joined Class?

I tuned in during the time of David Tennant. He was my Doctor. But since I got the role for Class I've watched the entire first season of Doctor Who.

You tweet a lot - have you got in any trouble due to the secrecy surrounding the series?

You're always walking past all these props and Daleks and all these crazy things

you can't blame me for taking a picture!


Vivian Oparah

TANYA, THE BABY OF THE GROUP

What can you tell us about your character?

I'm the baby of the group - I'm three years younger than everyone else but I'm super-smart so I got moved up into the sixth form. Tanya is very sure of herself based on how much she knows about everything around her.

What's it like being a part of the Doctor Who universe?

This is my first job ever. It's a huge job to get - a lot of my friends are diehard Doctor Who fans. I did watch a bit of Doctor Who but I wasn't too much of a fan.


Greg Austin

CHARLIE, THE ALIEN

You've worked with Katherine Kelly before. What's the dynamic like this time?

Oh, it's completely different! It was really weird when I first heard that Katherine would be playing Miss Quill. Working with her on Mr Selfridge was such an experience-she is just amazing to watch. Seeing Peter Capaldi work with her in a scene was really cool to watch, too.

What would you say to Doctor Who fans who are wary of another spin-off?

What I'm hoping is that Doctor Who fans will be surprised. It'll be something in there that they know and love, but also something new and exciting.

INTERVIEWS HUW FULLERTON


AT A GLANCE

Class First two episodes available now

While Doctor Who may not be on TV this autumn, fans need not fret. In its absence, online channel BBC3 commissioned this spin-off set in the same world to tide viewers over until the Tardis rematerialises at Christmas. Set in a London school, Class follows four sixth-form students who battle alien threats while struggling with complex love lives, personal struggles and exams. Oh, and Peter Capaldi's Time Lord is a significant presence.

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