Class Creator Patrick Ness Talks Tone & Doctor Who Cameos

Where does this show fall on the Torchwood-Sarah Jane spectrum?

Doctor Whospinoff Classpremieres this Saturday, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the show set at Coal Hill Academy will expand and challenge the existing Who-verse for American viewers.

We had a chance to sit down with the cast and showrunner Patrick Ness of Classat last year’s New York Comic Con to talk about where the spinoff will fit into the larger fictional universe, as well as the ways in which this show hopes to stand on its own. Here’s what we learned…

Where does Class fall in terms of tone?

When asked where Classwill fall in terms of the Torchwood-Sarah Janespectrum, Ness was reluctant to clarify the new spinoff in those terms.

— Kayti Burt (@kaytiburt) October 14, 2016

Instead, Ness compared Classto the state of current young adult fiction, a medium he knows well as the author of multiple YA novels, including the Chaos Walkingtrilogy. 

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If you’re not a big reader of YA fiction, you’d be very surprised to know how dark it can get, how funny it is, the things it engages with, how deep it is thematically. So that’s how I think of it. I don’t sort of put it on a continuum between Sarah Jane and Torchwood. It’s sort of off to the side. But, if you read YA — which millions and millions and millions of adults do — you’re gonna get where we’re coming from.

Will Class feature lots of Doctor Who cameos?

We know that Peter Capaldi will be appearing as The Doctor in the Classseries premiere, but will we get lots of references to former Doctor Whocharacters (i.e. Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter and original companion who happened to go to Coal Hill)? 

— Kayti Burt (@kaytiburt) October 14, 2016

Ness said of the possibility of cameos, that “Classhas to stand on its own” and “you can’t lean too hard on the past,” adding:

What I’ve always preferred is a sort of an engagement with the current universe, and that, to me, is more interesting. And also I think Easter Eggs are more fun than leaning on a cameo that is just kind of a distraction. It takes you out of the story.

So there are fun ways to do it, while being our own thing. Because why wouldn’t we want to be respectful of this universe? It’s a hell of a place to play. It’s so much fun. So why not engage with it. There’s certainly no fear of it, but we’ve got to stand on our own — but we’re standing on our own in this magnificent, huge universe that is so worth engaging and exploring.

On the many meanings of the title “Class”…

Choosing the title of Classfeels like a very loaded choice for the Doctor Whospinoff, especially when you think of the potential socio-economic conontations. We asked Ness about if this was an intentional choice at NYCC and whether or not these socio-economic themes would be explored in Class. He said:

The English tend to talk ceaselessly about class. It’s a big, messy issue. So I thought, ‘Let’s call it Class and let’s mess them up.’ … It’s really fun to do that because then you leave it ambiguous enough and you can apply meaning to it and that’s what you want.

You want people to bring themselves to it. That’s what the best sci-fi does. That’s what the best YA does. It invites you in and asks, ‘Who would you be here?’ What Hogwarts class are you in? If I asked that question, you would all immediately know. That’s the magic of YA, it asks: who are you in this place? 

— Kayti Burt (@kaytiburt) October 14, 2016

Cast member Vivian Oparah (Tanya) added: “Also, in British slang, ‘class’ also means ‘sick,’ like ‘really good,’ and obviously the show’s sick, so…”

There you have it, folks: Classis going to be class. (Oh god, I’m probably not using that right.) 

Class premieres on April 15th on BBC America at 10 pm.

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