Doctor Who spinoff Class has been cancelled after its first season. The show was met with a lukewarm critical reception and middling ratings on both sides of the pond, but it wasn’t without its fans. As has become customary in the modern television era, those fans are wondering if the show could conceivably find life via some other network or streaming service.
Class concentrated on a group of students at Coal Hill Academy, a location that has its origins in the very first episode of Doctor Who back in 1963, when the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan was a student there who took her two favorite teachers with her on adventures in the TARDIS. More recent companions like Clara Oswald and Danny Pink were teachers at the school and it tends to be a hub for supernatural and alien hijinks.
In Class, the Doctor entrusts a group of students to investigate alien threats around the school. The show leaned on the darker side of Doctor Who storytelling and did an effective job of dealing with the characters’ personal lives, to boot. Nevertheless, the show couldn’t seem to find a strong audience in either the U.K. or America and was unceremoniously cancelled this week.
Even in this era of shows that never truly die, a number of factors suggest this is truly the end for Class. Originally developed for the teen-focused BBC Channel BBC3, that network was contracted into an online-only service, meaning Class was never going to reach as wide of an audience as was anticipated. It would eventually air on the flagship BBC1, but in late night time slots that were essentially a vote of no confidence from the network.
The show fared even worse in the U.S. The show’s premiere on BBC America was delayed for months so it could be aired back to back with season ten of Doctor Who, which had the unfortunate side effect of gutting any potential marketing push from the network in favor of Doctor Who itself. A truly special show could have possibly overcome some or all of these obstacles, but Class never quite got there.
Class fans looking for a kernel of hope are likely thinking of Torchwood, a Doctor Who spinoff that was improbably revived for a fourth season through a partnership between the BBC and American cable network Starz. Not only is it exceedingly rare for the BBC to make that sort of deal with a foreign network, but Torchwood was a veteran series coming off a popular, critically-hailed third season.
All of that said, the one hurdle Class was likely never going to overcome is the fact that the world of Doctor Who is going through a massive transitional period. Not only is current Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi bowing out after this year’s Christmas special to make way for Jodie Whittaker, longtime Who showrunner Steven Moffat is also stepping aside, as Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall boards the TARDIS. As Doctor Who essentially wipes the slate clean, it makes perfect sense that the BBC would close up shop on a little-watched, little-loved spinoff from the previous regime.
Class was a bold experiment, and the BBC should always be open to spinoffs that more fully explore the world of Doctor Who, but it’s likely we’ve seen the last of the Coal Hill gang.
Doctor Who returns with ‘Twice Upon A Time’ on December 25, 2017 on BBC America.
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