Editorial: Why Class Failed

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been reviewing the first (and now only) series of Class. It’s been announced that the show has been put on hiatus and that Patrick Ness, the show’s creator and writer, has stepped down. As of now, the show will most likely not return.

So, it seems we have a failed experiment. Why? I have a few theories.

First of all, the promotion was sparse at best. It originally aired online a year before Doctor Who returned, and that was the only way it could be watched before it came to BBC TV. I think this wasn’t a good idea, especially since it seems as if it was only available to British markets. Also, when the show did air on TV, it was placed in a timeslot that, for British TV, wasn’t a good one. I hear it did good here in America, but we’re not the target audience.

Second, it doesn’t feel like a Doctor Who program. Torchwood and Sarah Jane were both targeted at different demographics, but still felt like a Doctor Who program. They had familiar faces along with new characters who did not appear on the main show. Both were written by people who were associated with Doctor Who: Chris Chibnall, Russell T. Davies, Helen Raynor, and more. Yes, there were writers who were unique to both shows, but these were people familiar with the Doctor Who mythos.  Patrick Ness was an unfamiliar name. Also, he wasn’t a head writer, he was the only writer. Many shows are the work of several writers, with a head writer or executive producer overseeing the production. This allows for a variety in ways the stories are told. Class had only one writer, so there was no one compensating for Ness’s flaws.  Class felt more like a school drama that happened to have aliens in it, and was only loosely associated with Doctor Who. Torchwood and Sarah Jane had monsters and elements that carried over from Doctor Who, and occasionally impacted Doctor Who as well, and vice versa.

Patrick Ness was a medium writer at best in terms of quality. His main problem was his pacing. Many of the episodes were slowly paced and padded out so they’d meet the correct run-time. Padding is a problem in all areas of TV, but if it’s well-written, you may not notice it.

The show also suffered from what I call “Torchwood syndrome”–an over-reliance on graphic sex and violence. In fact, the show was more violent than Torchwood on its best day! Torchwood eventually did manage to overcome the syndrome, and actually produced good stories once it did, while still using the graphic sex and violence at a more mature level. It’s one thing to have mature elements of story-telling, but it’s another to use it responsibly.

What I’m most disappointed in is that the show did have potential. If Ness was given a chance, I’m sure he could’ve ironed out its kinks. As I said, it was doing slightly better in America than in its home market. What BBC fails to realize is that TV shows need time to grow and improve. Many great shows had terrible beginnings. Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s first two seasons are mostly garbage compared to what came in seasons 3-5. Big Bang Theory’s first season isn’t terrible, but it’s awkward to watch because the actors don’t know their strengths and the jokes feel weak. Even the original run of Doctor Who with William Hartnell has its problems. When there were three companions at a time, the writers had difficulty juggling them, and Susan and Vicki were third wheels. Once Ian and Barbara left, Vicki became a slightly better character with Steven’s help. But executives want quick results, and often destroy a show before it even has a chance to get a good footing. (Firefly, anyone?) Sure, Star Trek: TOS and Twilight Zone were good for a pretty long time, until their final seasons, but that’s rare.

Anyway, that’s it for Class. Even though I didn’t completely enjoy it, I’m sorry to see it go.




2 comments on “Editorial: Why Class Failed

  1. Hmm…where to start. Of all the attempts at Doctoe Who spinoffs there’ve been, the only one that’s really resonated with me was The Sarah Jane Adventures. Didn’t care for Torchwood. I liked Class, but I thought the Doctor Who connection was unnecessary. I think I would have liked the show even more without the DW baggage attached to it, while I probably just wouldn’t have even looked at Torchwood in the first place without the DW connection, and it never appealed to me much, despite my half-dozen or more attempts to give it a chance. I understand the BBC’s desire to capitalize on its most beloved franchise (besides, perhaps, the soap opera Eastenders, which I think is still soldiering on), but they need to do it with a show that’s more like “Doctor Who–the Sequel.” The show with Lady Me and Clara would have been amazing, but if the actresses didn’t want to commit, the Beeb wouldn’t have had that choice. I did enjoy Class for what it was, and I would have watched another season of it—even if it had never been connected to DW in the first place.

  2. I just thought of another problem the show had: It didn’t start in Doctor Who. Most spin-offs start in the main show itself. John Barrowman and Sarah Jane were both introduced before they got their shows. Not one of the kids in Class were in any episodes of Doctor Who, even when Clara was teaching there.

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