BBC America’s Class review tackles alien invasions and high school

By Joshua Kaye

When it was first announced that a new spin-off for Doctor Who was announced, it was some pretty exciting news. When it was announced that the show wouldn’t revolve around characters that we’ve already met and have already grown to was a bit more concerning. The new show, Class, would focus on six high school students who go through the motions of every life as a high schooler, while also dealing with the struggles of alien invasions. As a former high schooler, it sounds like an alien invasion may be an actual vacation. With the first episode, any concerns that I felt about the series have been squashed.

For Tonight We Might Die opens up with a shot of Charlie, played by Greg Austin, walking into the school that all Whovians know, Coal Hill Academy. During the opening sequence, we get a sort of Donnie Darko like shot of all the characters we’re going to be following throughout the school year: Ram (Fady Elsayed), who appears to be a jock and pushes Charlie on his way in; April (Sophie Hawkins), who is busy trying to find volunteers to help her set up for prom; and Tanya (Vivian Oparah), who isn’t given much of a social life due to a strict, demanding mother. Along with Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly), a teacher at the Coal Hill Academy, these five find themselves forced to work together to take on an alien threat and save the world.

Without getting too much into the plot of the pilot episode, what can be said is this: there’s already so much more blood and gore in just this one episode alone than in all of the episodes of the New-Who era. Class doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s trying to cater to a more diverse audience, but it embraces the fact that these are high schoolers who are going through daily struggles and changes. While we see these students tackle the monsters who are known as the Shadow Kin (think Vashta Nerada, but not quite as terrifying), it’s how they tackle life, love, relationships, and friendships that really drives the show forward. The best, and most obvious comparison, in my opinion, would be what we were given 20 years ago with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Am I saying that Class is the British equivalent of Buffy? Not quite. But it’s heading on the right track and it feels like it has that same boldness that made Buffy a pioneer for generations of young adult-based shows.

Showrunner Patrick Ness has created his own little mini-verse within the ever expanding lore of Doctor Who and has created something that feels original and new. There are the obvious tie-ins and callbacks to Doctor Who, and there’s even a cameo appearance from Peter Capaldi himself, but Class is its own show. There’s no guarantee that fans of Doctor Who will enjoy Class, especially with Doctor Who being far more family-friendly in many ways. But I’ll be sitting down in front of a TV this Saturday, April 15th, to watch the American premiere of Class on BBC America. I recommend you do too.

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