5 reasons to watch CLASS, Patrick Ness’s DOCTOR WHO spinoff

In truth, there are so many more than just five reasons to watch CLASS.

Class logo

It’s beyond awesome. It’s extraordinary TV. It’s not just in the highest echelon of DOCTOR WHO storytelling, it’s in the highest echelon of TV storytelling… of ANY storytelling of any kind. The show is thrilling, exhilarating, hilarious, emotional, terrifying and utterly, utterly grounded in the authentic lives of five teenagers at the newly remodeled Coal Hill Academy… which just happens to have a rip in space-time that lets through all kinds of horrors.

Here are the five most pressing reasons for you to watch.

THE CAST

Class - Ep6

The cast of CLASS is a truly bad-ass collection of excellent actors. They all play wounded characters with complex lives and pasts, and they do it brilliantly, with everyone bringing just the right balance of humor and ALL THE EMOTIONS and copious amounts of badassery. That’s a tricky and delicate balance, but they all do it: Sophie Hopkins as April, the nice girl who’s anything but meek, Fady Elsayed as Ram, the tormented, anguished soccer star (football in the UK btw), Greg Austin as the uptight Charlie who’s carrying cosmic levels of baggage, Vivian Oprah as Tanya, grieving for the loss of her father and struggling with being a 14 year-old in a class of 17 year-olds, and Jordan Renzo as Matteusz, Charlie’s Polish boyfriend, and in some ways the moral center of the show. That’s the gang. But we can’t forget the sinister, spiky Miss Quill, played with delicious malevolence by the fantastic Katherine Kelly, who brings rage, nonchalance, and pathos to a powerhouse of a role. Quite possibly the best line-readings you’ll find anywhere on TV in 2017. In fact, without a doubt the best. An iconic performance that rivals any in the DOCTOR WHO universe.

Class Quill

THE STORYTELLING

It’s hard to talk about the storytelling on this show without (a) destroying my thesaurus in search of enough superlatives and (b) giving anything away. Suffice it to say, the level of storytelling in this show is amongst the best we’ve ever seen from DOCTOR WHO.

Class Ram

Awesome storytelling very much pictured.

There are individual episodes of CLASS that are top 5 of any in the Whoniverse. The overall arc shifts and evolves powerfully, driving all 8 episodes (each of which works so brilliantly alone but still form part of a stunning whole) to a jaw-dropping, head-spinning, gut-punching finale that BEGS FOR ANOTHER SEASON DO YOU HEAR ME BBC AND BBC AMERICA???? As writer and showrunner Patrick Ness himself put it on Twitter…

Speaking of Mr. Ness…

PATRICK NESS

The rhinoceros-loving, permanently blue polo-beshirted YA megastar author who brought us the stunning CHAOS WALKING trilogy—as well as the frankly traumatic A MONSTER CALLS (novel and screenplay), brilliant sci-fi/contemporary masterpieces MORE THAN THIS and THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, and the forthcoming RELEASE—is the only writer who could have made CLASS what it is.

Ness

Not pictured: blue polo. Or rhinos.

His ability to weave thrilling tales about genuinely grounded and authentic teens, stories that are shot through with savagely cutting humor and heart-hurting sadness, is unparalleled (I mean, except maybe by J.K. Rowling and Joss Whedon… they all sit on a single throne of awesomeness. It’s a tight fit). His writing in CLASS is on a whole new level. His characters are compelling, complex, beautifully diverse in a way that just reflects the world, funny, fierce, and brave. As they deal with tests, detentions, and, yes, terrifying monsters from throughout the universe, they keep everything painfully grounded and real. The writing here is just a joy to behold. The jokes hit hard, the emotions even harder, and it’s genuinely horrifying and scary when it needs to be. It brings a thrilling edge to the Whoniverse that we’ve never seen before.

THE DIRECTING / CINEMATOGRAPHY / EDITING / EFFECTS / MUSIC

I snuck a few extras in there. Of course, the show couldn’t be great without Ness writing some seriously intense scripts and a series of wonderful performances to really bring them to life, but it could have gone horribly wrong elsewhere. Simple things like putting the camera in the wrong place, lighting shots too brightly, editing too loosely or clumsily, adding music that doesn’t feel quite right… You know when you’re watching a show, and something just feels off? Yeah… you won’t have that feeling here. Because this show never puts a foot wrong. It’s kind of incredible.

Class Quill Charlie

Ed Bazalgette directs 3 of the 8 episodes, while the rest are beautifully shot by Phillipa Langdale, Wayne Yip, and Julian Holmes. They do a phenomenal job. This is fantastic-looking sci-fi that’s slick, has depth, looks gritty and ferocious, and really foregrounds the performances. One episode takes place pretty much entirely in one classroom—and it’s one of the most visually fascinating and kinetic episodes of all of them. The special effects are amazing, easily on a par with the flagship show, and in some cases, far more convincing. Every element of this show comes together to form one hilarious, emotionally devastating joyride through space and time.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW DEPENDS ON IT

At the time of writing, the show hasn’t been picked up for a second season… but it hasn’t been canceled either. It aired in the UK last year on an online-only channel, and reading between the lines, it seems like the powers that be are waiting to see how it performs on BBC America. So, my geeks, my nerds, my Doctor Who fans, my fans of sci-fi, of great TV, of great storytelling: Deploy! PLEASE WATCH THIS SHOW. We need joyously great TV shows like this. It’s genuinely up there with monster hits like STRANGER THINGS and GAME OF THRONES, it hits you in the feels like THIS IS US (OK, maybe it doesn’t reduce you to a quivering pile of sadness every single week, but it’s not far off), it’s at least as witty as BUFFY ever was, and sometimes more so, it introduces some truly scary and iconic new monsters and threats, and it’s got a visceral edge that you won’t be expecting.

So watch this damn thing. You’ll be glad you did.

For more info on the show, head on over to the BBC America CLASS site.

CLASS starts its 8 episode run on BBC America at 10.10pm Saturday April 15, following the premiere episode of Peter Capaldi’s final season as DOCTOR WHO.

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Torchwood: Rendition / Dead Of Night

Following on from Russell T. Davies’ powerhouse opener, episodes two and three of Torchwood: Miracle Day continue the blazing momentum, alongside the steady and terrifying extrapolation of the series’ central conceit: no-one is dying, but no-one is healing either.

Dark Angel, Smallville and House writer Doris Egan grabs the narrative baton from Davies for the second episode, Rendition, and doesn’t miss a step or a beat. Egan presses the pedal to the metal from the very beginning, and only cranks it up from there. With the barest of outlines — the Torchwood team are on a flight to America, the conspiracy begins to emerge, the consequences of the miracle continue to unfold — Egan busts out a breathless, frantic and engrossing hour of TV. Her screenplay is nimble, dancing furiously between the strands and keeping them all flowing. Whether it’s the desperately improvised cure for Captain Jack, which is a masterclass scene in itself (blending highly technical dialogue with massively high stakes and a relentless supply of quips and one-liners for the cranky as hell Rex Matheson, and geek goddess Gwen Cooper), or the evolution of Oswald Danes, or the CIA conspiracy, Egan keeps it moving, energetic and alternately entertaining and chilling as hell. Egan also gives Gwen multiple hero moments, and verbal punches that hit as hard as the real punches that Gwen throws, including the standout line of the episode, delivered with awesome style by Eve Myles: “I’m Welsh.” Cue right hook.

By the end of the episode the team have landed, fought their way out of a trap, and escaped. In a Mini Cooper. (And to think some fans have been complaining about Torchwood being too American — (a) duh; and (b) trust me, Davies has made this even more Welsh than it was in seasons 1-3. Which is a good thing.).

From there, it falls to geek TV writing legend Jane Espenson (Buffy, BSG, Game Of Thrones) to take us into the Dead Of Night. For the first time this season, the show pauses to take a breath. It’s an interlude of sorts, although, being Torchwood, all kinds of crazy shit still happens. The change in pace is a good thing: it allows the viewers to really catch up, and lets the devastating implications continue to unravel and sink in. Espenson gets lots of juicy scenes to sink her brilliantly geeky teeth into: the bumpy integration of the new Torchwood team as they learn to work together for the first time (which, as Espenson has noted, could serve as a metaphor for the transatlantic writers room that Davies established for this season), the revelation of PhiCorp’s involvement, and Oswald Danes’ disturbing revelation of his true, dark self.

And an eye-popping double sex scene.

Espenson handles these pivotal moments with skill and gravitas, saving her humor, unleashing it sparingly but in the most brilliant of ways. She deserves an Emmy just for Jack’s “you should see the other guy” (it’s all in the context), which may be one of the greatest one-liners in sci-fi TV history. She also does a wonderful job with continuing Gwen Cooper’s ascendancy far beyond official Legendary status. Eve Myles has never had such great lines, has never had so many brilliantly moving, cool and geeky moments as she has in this season. Myles attacks every scene with subtlety, relish, tongue in cheek when need be, and flat-out heartbreaking acting when necessary.

Espenson, as you might expect, weaves the melancholy and the thrilling both expertly and seamlessly. In midst of it all, in the darkest hour of the night, Jack’s lonely phone call to Gwen was a beautiful piece of dramatic writing. Around that, the heavy lifting of the plot was done elegantly, with the haunting, silent march of the masked soulless, and the great reveal of the scale of PhiCorp’s involvement (done with a huge warehouse vista and Espenson’s other Emmy-worthy, geek-legend line of the episode, “bigger on the inside than the outside”). Espenson also made time for Esther and Gwen to discuss the poet Robert Frost, which provided great shading in the episode, and allowed Alexa Havins to develop her tremulous and vulnerable portrayal of Esther.

Mention must be also made of Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose, whose characters’ involvement with the miracle and its chaotically unfolding ramifications has been separate and enigmatic thus far, though their paths and significance have been beginnging to entwine. Pullman is truly extraordinary as the insane child murderer, and Ambrose is deliciously deceptive and shady in her apparent role as PhiCorp’s PR, Jilly Kitzinger. Both of them fully inhabit their roles, investing them with magnetism that is both horrific and hypnotic.

Horrific and hypnotic sum up this season so far: the huge, escalating crisis dreamed up by Davies and his team expands with every episode. It’s an incredible story engine, full of mind-blowing, exhilaratingly scary possibilities. From the writing perspective alone, Torchwood: Miracle Day is a masterclass on many levels.