For over 50 years, Doctor Who has built up a dedicated following who enjoy all its adventure, humor, historical and futuristic imagination, as well as “timey-wimey” and philosophical paradoxes. Like many popular sci-fi and fantasy series, and particularly in its 2005 revived form, the show has also won over viewers by creating worlds that are more progressive, diverse, and often better than the one we live in.
The current Whoverse, under the direction of showrunners Russell T. Davies (for seasons 1-4) and Stephen Moffat (the current showrunner), has always been fairly inclusive of LGBT characters. The most well-known is John Barrowman’s pansexual character Captain Jack Harkness, a fan-favorite who earned his own series, Torchwood. The new Who spin-off Class, which hopes to appeal to a teenage audience, will continue to strive for inclusivity.
Though the show is scheduled to premiere this fall, the BBC hasn’t released too many details about the characters in Class. After the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, however, Class series writer Patrick Ness revealed on Twitter that keeping viewers spoiler-free was far less important to him than addressing questions about LGBT representation in his new TV show.
Been asked if Class will have LGBT representation in it. Will a lead character with a boyfriend who he kisses & sleeps with & loves do?— Patrick Ness (@Patrick_Ness) June 13, 2016
We were keeping that secret, but today that secret doesn't seem very important. #lovewins— Patrick Ness (@Patrick_Ness) June 13, 2016
There's way more than one character on the show, of course; lots of stories to be told. WITH ALIENS & TERROR & EMOTIONS & STUFF!!!— Patrick Ness (@Patrick_Ness) June 13, 2016
Class takes place at Coal Hill school, where Doctor Who companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) was once a teacher. While we don’t yet know which characters Ness refers to in his tweets, we do know that Katherine Kelly (Mr. Selfridge) will play an influential teacher, with Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah portraying students. The official synopsis reveals the show will cover the typical teenage struggles and drama, with the added pressure of the possible “end of existence.”
With the announcement of Pearl Mackie as the next companion on Doctor Who, Moffat acknowledged the racial diversity in the Whoverse, but added: “We decided that the new companion was going to be non-white, and that was an absolute decision, because we need to do better on that. We just have to.” Looking at the cast decisions on Class, along with Ness’ tweets on the LGBT characters, it seems the spin-off is also eyeing wider representation.
The time travel aspect of Doctor Who has always provided a way to address diversity in multiple ways, including plotlines that explored both prejudice and acceptance. While intimacy often remains fairly PG-rated on Who, Ness’ description of the gay character on Class seems to imply we might see a fuller relationship portrayed. Moffat has described the spin-off as “dark and sexy,” combining all the things we love about this franchise with more of the day-to-day life that modern teenagers can relate to. If the new series can present an interesting, complex group of characters, and in the true spirit of “love is love,” this should be an excellent next step in the evolution of the Whoverse.
Class is set to premiere on BBC-3 in Fall 2016.
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