Class: Series 1
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Class: Series 1

When a television series reaches a certain degree of popularity, or perhaps cult status, the network will be highly motivated to repeat the formula that contributed to its success. Among the most popular ways of accomplishing this goal is the venerable technique of the spinoff. Taking breakout characters and transplanting them into another, often related, the situation has been used practically since the beginning of TV as the most popular means of home entertainment. In modern times the spinoff has been used to extend the context and mythos of the story or allow the examination of characters and events within the same fictional universe tangentially associated with the main storyline. This is the case with the latest offering of BBC’s most popular and longest-running franchise, Doctor Who, ‘Class.' Thanks to the genius plot point of regeneration the series has lasted over half a century. During this period, it was inevitable for spinoffs to occur with examples such as ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ and ‘Torchwood.' Last year another show was added to the roster with ‘Class.' Although it was cancelled after only a single season, the premise was imaginative and consistent with the long-established themes of the original series. It was officially connected to The Doctor with the appearance of his 12th regeneration portrayed by Peter Capaldi at the end of the pilot episode. Although the series had considerable potential most was left untapped due to a misapplication of the themes and failure to fully expand the character’s development into circumstances beyond the originating threats. With many such sources for new material significantly exaggerated the studio’s penchant for immediate gratification as demonstrated by the all-important ratings. On its own merits the progenitor show ‘Doctor Who,' has generated many spinoffs but to date, few have gathered any substantial success, and unfortunately, this show did little to rectify the mater.

The location of s TV show called ‘Class’ is obviously set in a school. A corollary to this shifts the targeted demographic to a somewhat younger age than typical for a series that has lasted fifty years. The Doctor’s fan base encompasses many that still remembers the original incarnations. The school playing host to the new set of characters is the fictional English private school, Coal Hill Academy. This institution of education has been a consistent destination if the TARDIS since the early sixties, frequented by many regenerations of the heroic Time Lord. It is explained that the repeated proximity to the comic powered TARDIS has infused the institution with residual energy of the transcendental conveyance has imprinted it with a special multidimensional energy signature. Consistent with the continually expanding mythos and special canon locations like this have been integral to their stories, for example, another spinoff, ‘Torchwood’ as a refueling station. Now, with the inclusion of ‘Class,’ this concept is again reinforced with a new generation of Whovian characters.

A group of students attending Coal Hill Academy is just entering their third year. Traditionally, this is the school grade where the students are afforded more freedom such as changing from the school uniform into the expressive outfits of their choosing. Arguably the one affected by these changes is the youngest of the class, Tanya Adeola (Vivian Oprah), a child prodigy of Nigerian parents. She has skipped ahead three years due to her intellectual gifts and academic prowess. Ram Singh (Fady Elsayed) is the school’s star footballer, a status that made him tough albeit antisocial. His life, and by extension, his attitude, is drastically altered when he loses a leg. Before the end of the first episode, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) does manage to locate a suitable replacement. In stories such as this, there is usually the presence of an archetype, the attractive, intelligent girl, that has to overcome her inherent shy disposition transforming her into a natural leader. That crucial role is held by April MacLean (Sophie Hopkins). When she is pulled into the unfolding, extraordinary circumstance, she also is forced to face substantial life changes. It is soon discovered that one student is harboring a secret, galactic in scope. Charlie Smith (Greg Austin), ostensibly. A handsome and bright young man who is an extraterrestrial, he is not just any alien from beyond our little corner of the universe but royalty. Charlie is the prince of the Rhodians and the last of his species. A devastating interplanetary war resulted in a dual genocide. Monitoring the prince is a member of the opposing faction, the Quill, Andrea Quill (Katherine Kelly). After the conflict, she was enslaved, bound as the servant and protector of the prince. Andrea is restricted from using any weapon; its effects will rebind on her. The last member of the core cadre is Matteusz Andrzejewski (Jordan Renzo), a student born in Poland and the boyfriend of Charlie.

The first episode brings the principle characters directly into the initiating dramatic event when the group is forced to fight a dragon which leads to a deadly confrontation with a powerful force from another dimension, the Shadow Kin. They are ruled by their king, Corakinus (Paul Marc Davies). During the climactic battle, the unexpected happens to result in the Shadow King and April to share a heart. This inexorably binds them together, a connection that spans the interdimensional rift. That rift appears as a literal rip in the very fabric of spacetime. In this dimension, it is perceived as a ragged tear in a wall or thin air. The Same effect was used extensively before particularly in the introduction of Doctor’s companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillian). Typical of all spinoffs in this strong franchise connection is maintained creating strong ties to the progenitor show. The series does manage to avoid the usual pitfall of any spinoff, over-reliance on characters from the parent show. The Doctor is occasionally mentioned but remained unseen. The story is left to its characters. Originally it was intended as a series with the potential for renewal but turned into an eight-episode story arc targeting young adults.

The primary focus of the initial episodes focused primarily with April coming to grips with her codependency and her all-out fight to reclaim control of her life. Using plot points consistent with the scholarly model of the heroic journey by Professor Joseph Campbell, April is forced to seek out her enemy, confronting him for supremacy inn his realm. With only eight episodes to accomplish this objective, there was precious little time to establish other themes allowing them to unfold properly. The story could have supported additional seasons if a few of the single episode threats were better developed and given the bandwidth necessary to launch their contribution to the substance of the spinoff. It has become commonplace for this approach, the limited run series or story arc, particularly those separated from the main series to this extent. Another recent example was over at the ABC Network where the highly successful ‘Once Upon a Time’ was used to create ‘Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.' It also lasted only a single season. The rationale is sound, but experience demonstrates that such endeavors are best when crafted as a limited run and not expected run extend its run or progress in parallel with the original series. The only major franchise with any degree of success has been series created by Dick Wolf. Both ‘Law 7 Order’ and ‘Chicago Fire’ have budded off into several overlapping series. The specific ingredient required for this was not included, perhaps by design. As it turned out, the eight episodes did provide an entertaining story of a shy young woman into a self-assured leader. The series does primarily appeal to dedicated fans of the Doctor but any science fiction fan.

Posted 10/08/2017

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