×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Class’ and ‘Doctor Who’ on BBC America

Class” starts out on familiar ground: Characters run down a hallway, pursued by a nightmare creature. So far, so “Doctor Who” (which also returns the same night, and naturally involves its own hallway chase).

Class,” a spinoff from the venerated sci-fi mothership currently starring Peter Capaldi, doesn’t stray all that far from the basic formula of the original. It’s got monsters, an unfortunate rip in the fabric of time and space, pop culture-obsessed characters who quip and banter, and an acerbic adult on hand to provide guidance and, on occasion, to skillfully exude irritation.

What “Class” doesn’t have yet is its very own reason to exist. It generally riffs on the kinds of plots and premises that have been “Doctor Who’s” stock in trade for decades, but on “Class,” those storylines feel a bit threadbare and padded.

In “Class,” the ratio of adult to young companions has been altered: Aboard “Doctor Who’s” TARDIS, in addition to the Doctor himself, there’s usually one companion — two is usually the maximum. In the spinoff, however, Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly) has four young people around her, all of whom are students at the Coal Hill Academy (a place that will be familiar to “Doctor Who” fans, given that several episodes in recent years have been set at a slightly different version of the school). Miss Quill, despite her status as a teacher at Coal Hill, isn’t much inclined to act as a mentor or friend, given that she’s a refugee from another planet who is locked into involuntary servitude to one of the other characters.

Miss Quill is by far the best part of “Class”: She’s dreadfully unimpressed with Earth, schools, teenagers and her lot in life, and Katherine Kelly gives her frustration a great deal of subversive energy. The rest of the characters, unfortunately, are quite dull.

On paper, the Coal Hill students have the kinds of problems that should make them interesting, but “Class” fails to give the alien invasions, or the students’ romances and ongoing emotional dilemmas, the kind of consistent urgency they need to be watchable. Sitting through multiple episodes of “Class,” which are competent without being memorable, makes one wish that the CW had gotten the job of making a “Doctor Who” spinoff set at a high school. On that network, both the episodic plots and the characters’ relationships would gain traction with enjoyable efficiency, but on “Class,” a character who is the last of his race comes off as anything but tragic, and other traits and obstacles feel similarly perfunctory and predictable. There’s just not enough to grab on to for all but the most devoted “Doctor Who” completists.

Over on the TARDIS, big changes are afoot, and some of them also involve a student. Bill (Pearl Mackie), a young woman with a thirst for knowledge, joins the team in the TARDIS, and if the first episode of the new season — which is Capaldi’s last as the Doctor — is a bit of a greatest-hits rehash, that is easy to forgive.

Mackie is an energetic and enjoyable addition to the show, and her down-to-Earth character brings a healthy skepticism to all things Doctor-related. Even more charming than Bill’s curiosity and intelligence are her interactions with Nardole (Matt Lucas), the rather stolid but amusing character the Doctor came across in his recent travels across the galaxy. The “Doctor Who” season premiere is essentially a comedic romp across the galaxy, and with performers this skilled clearly having fun lobbing their dialogue back and forth, it’s hard to quibble with the the thin and literally watered-down nature of the plot. (There’s a water menace, it’s not worth explaining.)

With this trio in the TARDIS, “Doctor Who” looks set to give Capaldi a send-off season full of cheeky, lively chemistry, as long as the show stays away from the kind of overwrought, superficial and undernourished storytelling that it has peddled at times in recent years. (The show has been remarkably uneven in recent years, though Capaldi has been consistently outstanding.)

“Class” has more characters — five series regulars, to be exact — and yet the core “Doctor Who” trio is a more satisfying team. But somehow that seems appropriate for a show about a man who flies around in a blue box that is bigger on the inside; size isn’t everything.

TV Review: 'Class' and 'Doctor Who' on BBC America

"Class": Drama; 8 episodes (4 reviewed); BBC America, Sat. April 15, 10:10 p.m. “Doctor Who” returns  Sat. April 15, 9 p.m. Both 60 mins.

Crew: “Class” executive producers, Patrick Ness, Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin.

More TV

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    'The First' Canceled at Hulu After One Season

    Hulu has grounded the space exploration drama “The First” after one season, Variety has confirmed. The series hailed from Beau Willimon and starred Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in Penn’s first regular television role. “The First” was set in the near future and followed the first human mission to Mars. Hulu gave the show a straight-to-series order in [...]

  • Nicole Maines Supergirl Trans Hollywood Portrait

    TV Roundup: 'Supergirl' Drops First Look at Nicole Maines as TV's First Trans Superhero

    In today’s TV News Roundup, The CW releases a first look at Nicole Maines on “Supergirl” and Variety unveils an exclusive look at Gabriel Iglesias’ new comedy special.  FIRST LOOKS truTV has released the first trailer for season 2 of Emmy-nominated series “At Home with Amy Sedaris.” The variety sketch comedy returns Tuesday, Feb. 19 at [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most

    Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most Outrageous Moments

    It is perhaps only fitting that two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, one of the most high-profile fraudulent failures in history, would arrive during the same week — a fitting cap on a tragicomedy of errors that, as both films outline in excruciating detail, unfolded like a slow-motion plane crash in the spring of [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • annapurna logo

    Annapurna TV Taps Amazon's Patrick Chu as Senior VP, Promotes Ali Krug

    Annapurna TV has brought on Patrick Chu as the division’s new senior VP. Prior to that, he had served as an executive for Amazon in drama, production, and development, where he oversaw small-screen adaptations of “Hanna” and “The Hunt.” He will develop and produce new TV projects, focusing on drama, at his new role at [...]

  • Emmys: Why The TV Academy Finally

    Why the TV Academy Finally Ended Emmys DVD Madness, and Who Might Benefit the Most

    Three years ago, Netflix overwhelmed Television Academy members by sending out a 20-pound shipment of DVD screeners. It was an exercise in excess, as insiders suggested that the streamer spent as much as $4 million to produce and ship the multiple boxes. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos hated the idea of sending out these [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content