Doctor Who might not be airing a full season this year, but we've still got the annual Christmas special to look forward to, before season ten arrives in Spring 2017. It's already been previously confirmed that the Doctor's new companion, Bill, played by newcomer Pearl Mackie, won't make her debut this Christmas. Instead, she will join the show as the Doctor's new assistant during season 10. Also confirmed is the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole, whose character will play a more substantial role in proceedings this time around, though it's not known for certain how many episodes he will appear in. Once season ten draws to a close, showrunner Steven Moffat will step down from his duties, to be succeeded by Chris Chibnall.
Without the usual season's run to build interest in the Christmas special, and also to tie in with the release of the Doctor Who spinoff, Class (more on that in a moment), BBC America has announced its first ever Doctor Who panel for New York Comic-Con, on Friday, October 7th. Appearing at the panel will be the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, along with Lucas and Mackie, who will be making her first panel appearance. Moffat will also be present, with executive producer Brian Minchin and fans attending the panel will get an exclusive first-look at footage from the Christmas special.
Also in attendance will be cast and crew from the new spinoff show, Class. The show's stars, Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins, and Vivian Oparah, will be present, with showrunnner Patrick Ness and executive producer Brian Minchin. Again, the panel will preview footage of the show, which will air alongside Doctor Who season ten on BBC America next spring. U.K. viewers, however, don't have to wait nearly as long; Class will make its debut on BBC3 online on Saturday, October 22nd, when the first two episodes will drop. When announcing the panel, BBC America also confirmed that Capaldi will guest star as the Doctor in episode one, a great way to entice people to watch:
— Class (@bbcclass) September 23, 2016
Class will also star Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill, and is set in Coal Hill School, a place that has featured many times in Doctor Who's past. Most recently, fans will recall that Coal Hill was the school that Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) taught at. Though primarily aimed at the YA audience, Class will be hoping to draw many of the Doctor Who fans in, too. The premise of the show describes the toll that all the Doctor's time traveling has had on the school:
"Four Coal Hill School students who have hidden secrets and desires, navigate a life of friends, parents, school work, sex, sorrow – and possibly the end of existence. Coal Hill School has been a part of the Doctor Who universe since the very beginning, but that has come at a price. Time traveling over the years has caused the very walls of space and time to become thin. There’s something pressing in on the other side, something waiting for its chance to kill everyone and everything, to bring us all into Shadow."
You can check out an official banner released for Class, below:
Featuring a diverse cast of newcomers, Class is aiming to be current and relatable to older teenagers while still presenting the supernatural side that Doctor Who fans enjoy. In fact, Ness has previously cited the still-popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an influence for the show, adding that adults watch it because it's a good show that happens to be from the point of view of teenagers - and he's hoping to achieve the same with Class.
He faces quite a battle, though. Firstly, Class will air on (in the U.K.) on one of the BBC's online channels, meaning viewing figures will not be as high as if it was given a regular channel slot. Secondly, there's no denying that with Capaldi at the helm of the TARDIS, Doctor Who viewing figures have been dwindling too. Not all of that is necessarily down to Capaldi's presence, of course, but it's an unavoidable fact. When Torchwood, another Doctor Who spinoff, first aired, it was put on BBC 3 but swiftly moved to BBC 2 and then BBC 1 because of its popularity. However, at the time (2006-2011), Doctor Who was also a vastly popular show. How Class will fare, especially when Doctor Who has been absent on our screens for more than a year, remains to be seen.
The next Doctor Who Christmas special will air this holidays on BBC1 and BBC America. Season 10 will air in Spring, 2017.
Class will air on BBC3 from October 22nd in the U.K., and on BBC America in Spring 2017.
Sources: BBC America