The latest addition to the Doctor Who universe is on its way, and it’s in a class of its own.
Class, the newest Doctor Who spinoff from YA author Patrick Ness, will feature elements fans will surely recognize—including a guest spot from current Doctor Peter Capaldi. The story follows four students at Coal Hill Academy (Coal Hill School in other iterations) as the very fabric of their reality is threatened. While it’s tied into the Doctor Who universe, Class will be a much different show. When it was announced, executive producer Steven Moffat had compared it to a “British Buffy.”
The four students at the center of Class—Charlie (Greg Austin), Tanya (Vivian Oparah), Ram (Fady Elsayed), and April (Sophie Hopkins)—have to keep the creatures lurking behind the thinning wall of time and space at bay while dealing with the complexities that come with being a teenager in sixth form (equivalent of senior year of high school in the U.K.). The characters put loads of pressure on themselves, and they’re facing a threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen.
While Ness is aware of Doctor Who’s legacy of tackling larger issues during its run (and Class includes a major LGBTQ character), it’s not a place he starts when he begins writing.
“It’s all about responding to what kind of story I want to tell,” Ness told reporters at NYCC. “There’s a paradox in that if I’m really responding to the story that I care about, it’s going to have all the things that I care about in it, and it’ll come out in story form rather than being tracked, so yeah absolutely. That’s what I do in my books, but if you look truthfully, all the stuff that I cared about as a teen, all the stuff teens care about now, will come up.”
In the show, Ness explained to the audience at the Class panel, he wants to explore what happens to the people the Doctor leaves behind. Coal Hill has a decades-long legacy—it was the school where original Doctor Who companions Ian and Barbara taught and most recently was where Clara Oswald taught between adventures—and given its many visits from the Doctor, it may end up being a very vulnerable location where creatures or things that aren’t supposed to be in our world can slip in.
Ness told the audience that while there will be references to the original series, they shouldn’t expect too many callbacks or cameos in Class. Ian and Barbara in particular are said not to have aged since they returned to Earth in 1965, according to The Sarah Jane Adventures.
“I think cameo appearances are like penises,” Ness said. “If you put it in a scene, it’s all anything anyone is going to look at.”
What he’d prefer us to look at is the new cast. Austin, Oparah, Elsayed, and Hopkins were at NYCC to reveal footage and preview the newest characters to the Whoniverse. Elsayed’s Ram is sometimes cocky but also a “sweet young boy with a heart” while Hopkins’s April is “a good girl with the ability to do bad.”
“She just wants to make friends, but she gets defensive and she’s got a wall built up,” Oparah said of Tanya, who is younger than the other characters but was moved ahead to sixth form. “Once that wall comes down, she’ll love you.”
“[Charlie]’s a bit of a weird one, a bit socially inept,” Austin explained. “He doesn’t have many friends, but what he has to go through really brings them together. There’s a lot to him, that’s all I’m going to say.”
Class debuts on BBC 3 on Oct. 22 and will air on BBC America in 2017.