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Friday, 2 October 2015

Third Doctor Who Spin-Off Series Commissioned

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It all started out as a mild curiosity in a junk-yard and soon enough, the spirit of adventure will return to its roots.
The BBC have today announced the commissioning of a new eight-part TV series set in the world of their long-running science-fiction drama Doctor Who for broadcast on BBC Three and BBC One next year.

Just as was the case with its spiritual predecessors, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, this third companion programme will chronicle the exploits of a range of never-before-seen characters - some of whom may well even have connections to the eccentric Time Lord at the Whoniverse's heart - as they encounter extraterrestrial adversaries from the very depths of time and space whilst living out their days as students of Coal Hill School (better known as the initial setting for Who's very first serial, "An Unearthly Child", as well as its memorable 50th Anniversary Special, "The Day of the Doctor").

Oh, and its name? Class. Granted, as show titles go, that's not exactly up with the best of them, but it's most certainly indicative of the young adult audience towards which Season One will purportedly be geared, as is the Beeb's emphasis on its inspirations (Buffy and The Hunger Games, to be specific) and on how the series' presumably youthful band of protagonists will have to navigate just as many educational obstacles as unearthly ones (if only the rest of us were so lucky during our secondary school years) in their bid to protect the city of London from harm. One truth has become equally apparent in the past twenty-four hours, though - everyone involved will most likely have to deal moreover with the similarly unenviable challenge of appeasing a hefty portion of Who's already-sceptical fandom in scripting, filming and marketing their pet project, since despite the success of both of the mother show's first two spin-offs, plenty of social media-endowed Whovians have already voiced numerous doubts regarding the potential tonal limitations of an Earth-bound saga which, its executive producer has confirmed via Twitter, won't feature Jenna Coleman's Clara Oswald in any capacity despite her status as a member of Coal Hill's ever-fluctuating staff team.

Yet in mentioning the man taking Class' seemingly unwieldy reins, we've reached the singular, pivotal reason why fans needn't lose all hope by any means. Taking control of proceedings in the role of showrunner will be none other than Patrick Ness, a ludicrously talented American novelist who recently brought us a Who-themed short story in the form of May 2013's understated yet brilliant Fifth Doctor tale "Tip of the Tongue", but who's rightly better known for his near-perfect Chaos Walking trilogy, each instalment of which managed to demonstrate with paramount ease its scribe's unparalleled flair for dynamic structuring, layered characterisation and subversive storytelling, and the first outing of which - The Knife of Never Letting Go - has even earned itself a (still planned, we hope!) film adaptation from The Hunger Games studio Lionsgate Films.

Enough about Ness' remarkable literary backlog, though - let's just say that there couldn't be a writer more perfectly suited to transforming a lacklustre premise such as Class' into an unforgettable televisual experience, as confirmed in recent years by his masterful reworking of the late Siobhan Dowd's A Monster Calls conceit into one of the most emotionally fulfilling Carnegie Medal victors in years, and if our unrelenting enthusiasm for his work isn't sufficient evidence of how ideal a selection Who helmsman Steven Moffat has made here, then hopefully the following official comments from Ness, BBC Three's commander-in-chief and the Moff himself will finish the job:
  • PATRICK NESS (HEAD WRITER & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) ON HIS INITIAL REACTION - "I'm astounded and thrilled to be entering the Doctor Who universe, which is as vast as time and space itself. [...] I can't wait for people to meet the heroes of Class, to meet the all-new villains and aliens, to remember that the horrors of the darkest corners of existence are just about on par with having to pass your A-Levels."
  • DAMIAN KAVANAGH (BBC THREE CONTROLLER) ON NESS' APPOINTMENT - "Patrick understands young audiences and I'm delighted he will use his incredible skills as a storyteller to delight audiences on BBC Three."
  • STEVEN MOFFAT (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) ON CLASS' TONE - "No one has documented the dark and exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we're bringing his brilliant story-telling into Doctor Who. This is growing up in modern Britain - but with monsters!"
Class will give its first action-packed lecture to the world at large in Autumn 2016, although the precise medium through which the show will make its momentous début has yet to be nailed down; apparently, each of its eight episodes will première online via iPlayer's BBC3 section before airing on BBC One and ultimately BBC Three - in the event that the TV channel's still up and running, anyway - by that point, as was outlined by Ness in a (refreshingly clear-cut) tweet that we've included below. Stay tuned to On-Screen for production updates aplenty as we move towards the series' projected Spring '16 filming start-date.

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