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Edited by Robert Beach
It’s been a little under a year since Doctor Who left our screens, but if you think the show runners have been dormant in that time, think again. Firstly, the proposed Doctor Who spin-off show Class went into development with plans to premiere sometime later this year. Secondly, Doctor Who is now primed for his triumphant return for this year’s Christmas special ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio.’ Both productions have more or less wrapped, and the major details are now starting to filter through in the form of some production stills, a behind-the-scenes video for the Christmas Special, and a full on trailer for Class, though the spin-off still lacks any release date.
The first major thing this trailer confirms is that the Doctor will appear on Class, which is unique as he’s only appeared previously in the spin-off Sarah Jane Adventures. As to the actual plot, it seems to center on a collection of tears in time and space that spring up around the school and let loose all manner of monsters from across reality. For whatever reason, it falls to the students of Cole Hill to defend against the invaders and refugees, a point punctuated by the inclusion of an alien among their ranks, or maybe even two.
The idea of tears in time and space is standard stuff for Doctor Who. So much so, a tear in reality drove the plot device of the previous spin-off Torchwood and similar tears served as the first season arc for Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, the series that began Stephen Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. I do wonder if the tears seen here are linked to those previous ones, but given how rare it is to see any connection between the current series and the Russel T. Davies era (from 2005 to 2010), I doubt it.
As to the monsters witnessed through the tears, those are most likely new creatures. And yet, they do remind me of the Pyroviles, a race of magma men last scene in ‘The Fires of Pompeii.’ Much like Torchwood, this was an episode produced before Moffat’s time as showrunner, but it’s also popped up in the more recent Canon.
In the episode ‘Girl Who Died,’ the episode is directly referenced and even seen in flashback, so it’s a little hard to take the monster design on display here as a mere coincidence. As to the aliens among the humans, I’m not sure who the member of the class is, but I suspect their teacher is a Time Lord, like the Doctor, now that the Time Lords and Gallifrey have been reintegrated into Doctor Who continuity.
Overall, I wouldn’t say I was that won over by Class, but I’m also acutely aware the show wasn’t made for me. Since its revival, Doctor Who has had to walk a delicate tightrope of broad appeal, existing as a show that’s intended for “the whole family to enjoy.” That’s probably a smart way to go given the high costs of the show, but it’s led to the spin-offs taking a more fragmented approach to their audiences.
Torchwood was a much more adult series full of sex while Sarah Jane Adventures was intended just for kids. Class clearly angles to bring in teen and preteen viewers, a group I’m not part of. I’m not sure if this approach will work, but, by the same token, this is the network that made Skins; so they seem to at least have their fingers near the pulse of the youth if not definitively on it.
As for the Christmas Special, I’m a little more hopeful for, though Doctor Who doing superheroes still makes me cringe a little. Something about Doctor Who’s broad appeal is that it has to take a watered-down approach to a lot of its ideas that can often end up short changing the experimental concept or landing you in straight-up parody.
This isn’t always the case, for I’m still hopeful for the special, but the superhero genre is a lot harder to get right than Western or Heist and requires a lot of exposition and juggling. It seems like the superhero is something that’s imposed on reality rather than something that’s happened naturally. That's something I don't care for today.
This is all just extrapolation, yet it seems like the superhero that’s on hand is someone forced upon present-day New York as part of the Doctor’s interactions with a random young child. That strikes me as a serious cop out and is emblematic of my issue with the modern series being very reserved in what it’s willing to do with setting and world building.
For instance, under the Davies era, aliens and the Doctor were common knowledge, but the Moffat years did away with that almost immediately. It’s the same way that the first Peter Capaldi special couldn’t feature Santa Claus. Instead, had some bizarre dream version of him that contributed little to the special.
I do like the kind of junky, over-designed look of the superhero on hand; that’s pretty consistent with the show’s style overall. I do wonder if the show will address the previous time the Doctor encountered the superhero, in the 2nd Doctor adventure ‘The Mind Robber.’ In that episode, the Doctor was transported to the land of imagination where imaginary creations came to life, and he encountered a future comic strip strongman superhero named the Karkus.
It’d be pretty interesting if the superhero on hand now was some rebooted and repackaged version of that character, perhaps as a sly commentary on the current superhero fad. It’s hard to say if this will be the case as classic series revivals have been sporadic under Moffat; his last major one was to bring back the ill-remembered 2nd Doctor antagonist the Great Intelligence, so he clearly has an affinity for the era.
Doctor Who – The Return of Doctor Mysterio will premiere December 25th, 2016
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