It stars Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins, and Vivian Oparah as sixth formers at Coal Hill School, and Katherine Kelly as the teacher Miss Quill. The series is written by Young Adult author Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking, A Monster Calls), serving as his first experience on a television show, directed by Ed Bazalgette (episodes 1-3), Philippa Langdale (episodes 4-5), Wayne Yip (episodes 6-7), and Julian Holmes (episode 8), and executive produced by Patrick Ness, Steven Moffat, and Brian Minchin.
The story revolves around a group of sixth formers at Coal Hill School, as they deal with typical teenager issues: relationships, school life, monsters from space attempting to destroy all of existence...
Also one of them is an alien (Charlie), as is their teacher, Ms Quill.
After the Shadow Kin exterminate the whole Rhodian and Quill races, the Doctor rescues the Rhodian prince and his captured-enemy-turned-slave and sends them to live in secret at Coal Hill Academy as student "Charlie Smith" and teacher Miss Quill, keeping their identities secret from their classmates.
Until the Shadow Kin invade their sixth form prom.
It turns out that the Doctor traveling through time again and again has made the walls of space and time stretch thin around Coal Hill, to the point where they are about to burst. As such, who knows what might take the opportunity to slip through next...
The show set out to become a "British Buffy", albeit with a sci-fi twist on the formula. But alas, things ultimately would not turn out that way. In June 2017, after the completion of the first series, Patrick Ness announced that he was quitting the show, citing disappointment with how the BBC was handling it. And in September the same year, after a prolonged period of radio silence, the BBC would quietly announce what many viewers had already suspected, namely that the show would be cancelled after just one series.
Three tie-in novels were released alongside the first series.
In May 2018, it was announced that Big Finish Productions would be releasing audio dramas based on the series, which currently comprise two three-story boxsets set during the first series released in August of that year. The original cast reprised their roles alongside Sophie Aldred as the Seventh Doctor's companion Ace. Two more boxsets were announced for 2020, this time with two of the regular roles being recast with Joanna McGibbon taking over the role of Tanya and Dervla Kirwan as Miss Quill. It is not yet known whether any of Ness' planned storylines for Series 2 will be adapted for the audio dramas (see the "What Could Have Been" section under "Trivia").
Class provides examples of:
- Academy of Adventure: Coal Hill Academy. Students go missing so often they have a standard fill-in-the-blanks form mailed to the parents, and the administration swaps out very frequently. However, the series realistically deconstructs this very premise. Fighting aliens is all well and good when you're actively trying to find them. Life gets significantly more stressful when they won't stop coming to you.
- Action Girl:
- Quill, definitely. Tanya becomes this after Quill trains her.
- April briefly becomes this during "Brave-ish Heart".
- Adults Are Useless: Lampshaded in Episode 1 when April wonders where all the teachers are during an attack from the Shadow Kin. Turns out they have their hands full with students during the prom.
- Alien Among Us: Charlie and Ms. Quill.
- Alien Invasion: The Shadow Kin invaded Rhodia and killed everyone living there except for Charlie and Ms. Quill.
- Aliens Speaking English: Every alien on the show speaks English.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Matteusz's name, as any Polish speaker will tell you, is incorrectly spelled. The actual form of the name is 'Mateusz', and unlike English, you can't just alter the spelling of a name and pronounce it the same way.
- Backwards-Firing Gun: The displacement gun is an alien weapon that fires both forwards and backwards, thus killing its wielder as well as its target. It was intentionally designed as a suicide weapon, as it's intended exclusively for use against Shadow-Kin: otherworldly entities that exist inside other beings' shadows, hence can only be killed if the opponent whose shadow they are inhabiting is simultaneously annihilated.
- Bigger on the Inside: In the first episode, the Cabinet of Souls.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Like Torchwood and unlike Doctor Who, Class does not utilize a Gory Discretion Shot after a monster attacks.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality:
- The Rhodians (or at least most of them) saw nothing wrong with making people who broke their laws their slaves, with death being the result of disobedience. Ms. Quill argues that this was unfair to her people.
- Ms. Quill is seen as a slave by Tanya, yet the Doctor knowingly leaves the Arn inside her head. (He says this is a punishment for her tricking someone else into dying, in order to save her).
- It is considered normal for Quill children to kill their weaker siblings to ensure that only the strongest survive.
- Charlie seems to consider committing genocide against the Shadow Kin to bring other Rhodians to life.
- Bottle Episode: Episode 6, "Detained", takes place entirely within a single classroom that gets transported to an alternate dimension.
- But Not Too Gay: Averted. Charlie and Matteusz are openly affectionate and the show doesn't shy away from showing the natural progression of their relationship from dating to sex. They get as much attention as the other major couple on the show: April and Ram.
- Call-Back: Coal Hill is full of Artron energy thanks to The Doctor showing up a bunch of times. He used to be the caretaker.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Downplayed in both instances:
- Technically, after the death of his parents Charlie (whose human form is 17) should become a king. He is still styled as prince, though.
- In Episode 5, April (who is also 17) becomes a king, though she doesn't get to lead them a lot.
- Color Motif: Everyone seems to wear a lot of blue.
- Continuity Nod:
- There's a wall dedicated to the missing staff and students of Coal Hill. Although Clara's and Danny's are the only ones focused on, you can find references to former companions and characters. See more in the Freeze-Frame Bonus below. The Doctor reacts to seeing Clara's name, a reference to the ending of Series 9.
- In the second episode, Miss Quill and Mr. Armitage walk in front of a poster advertising the "Barbara Wright Building".
- An extremely obscure one: in the 2004 short story "Every Day", the First Doctor calls the TARDIS a "metaphysical engine".
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The titular dragons from "The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo" brutally flay their victims alive, and we see the mutilated corpses in graphic detail.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: "The Metaphysical Engine; or, What Quill Did" focuses on themes of religious faith, through the lens of alien cultures. Using the titular machine, Ms. Quill, Ballon and Ames explore the realms of consciousness. It turns out the Arn, the rodent creatures used as a restraining bolt for criminals like Quill, have their own ideal of heaven despite being genetically engineered for one purpose. Ballon's people, the Lorr, have their own Hell where sinners are kept as frozen statues, unable to shapeshift. The Quill race have their own goddess and creation myth.
- Darker and Edgier: Zigzagged. More so than Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, somewhat less so than Torchwood. The overall tone of Class is significantly bleaker than the former two, with even the theme song lamenting wasted youth. Whereas even Torchwood had an adventurous atmosphere in its earlier seasons, Class deals with a group of disaffected students who are reluctant to fight alien invaders but are forced to do so because their school is a magnet for them. However, nothing in this show got as dark as the places the later seasons of Torchwood visited.
- Deconstructed Trope: The Doctor basically left the kids and Quill to their own devices on how to handle the aliens that invade their school. Cut to the next episode, where they are all at a complete loss on what to do exactly. Even when they finally band together to face the latest threat, they still don't know what to do (Ram eventually solves the problem). This persists right up to the finale.
- Ram ends up with PTSD after the events of the first episode, where he lost his girlfriend.
- Aliens like Quill and Charlie that are new arrivals to Earth have no idea about the pop culture and social norms there and have to ask a lot of questions. Charlie eventually finds this frustrating. Meanwhile, the teens are the ones who have to answer those questions, and Tanya later reveals that she is fed up of doing this.
- April meets up with her father who almost killed her and paralyzed her mother in an aborted suicide attempt. She ends up not forgiving him, even after he went to a dangerous planet to bring her back.
- Matteusz got kicked out by his homophobic parents for dating Charlie.
- Being the only one in your group who is the same age and race can cause isolation and resentment. As a result, Tanya slowly grows apart from the rest of the gang, leading to some major blow-ups.
- While Quill is dangerous and Charlie's people made her prisoner for her crimes on their planet, her punishment can be seen as inhumane and cruel to humans. Tanya calls him out on this.
- Quill's usual attitude and behavior towards people gets her in trouble with her boss when she blows up at the inspector in the middle of her class. Also, her lack of regard for innocent lives would rub others the wrong way, like the Doctor. That may be why he left the Arn in her head.
- Turns out that April abandoning the Shadow Kin after becoming their King and just trusting them to keep Corakinus prisoner wasn't the best idea, as he escapes with little effort and takes over the power vacuum by the series finale.
- It turns out that a group of sixth-formers and an alien terrorist/freedom-fighter are a lot less tolerant of Joker Immunity than the Doctor is. After the Shadow Kin have been exiled to their planet (twice) and come back (twice), the second time killing the parents of two of the sixth-formers, the team ultimately decides to wipe out the entire race and implode their planet.
- Descriptively-Named Species: The Shadow Kin.
- Dysfunction Junction: All the characters have fairly traumatic pasts:
- Charlie and Quill are former enemies who are now the only two survivors of their planet.
- April's father is an alcoholic who tried to kill her and her mother along with himself, as a result of which her mother ended up in a wheelchair and he got sent to jail.
- Tanya's father died prematurely from a stroke.
- Ram's mother is notably missing in Ram's family, but the books confirm that she is both alive and on good terms with Ram and his father, and she was eventually mentioned in "Co-owner of a Lonely Heart".
- Matteusz has deeply religious homophobic parents with whom he probably lived all his life until they kicked him out in Episode 3 for dating Charlie.
- Exotic Equipment: Episode 4 has Tanya casually inquiring this about Charlie to his boyfriend. In Episode 6, Matteusz confirms that Charlie seems entirely human, and Ram suggests Matteusz has a fetish regarding Charlie.
- Explosive Breeder: The so-called "killer petals" that serve as the true antagonists of the mid-season story arc appear to be ordinary pink cherry blossoms, but they are actually carnivorous beings that can replicate themselves infinitely. They seem to hail from another dimension entirely and do not obey natural laws, and after initially feasting on birds and rodents, they quickly multiply to the point where they become a massive threat.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Features a lot more blood and gore than its parent show. Ram's injury in the first episode is one of the most severe seen in an episode in which the Doctor appears himself.
- Faux Fluency: In Episode 1, Matteusz is speaking Polish, but the actor is pronouncing the words wrong, so it doesn't sound like Polish to a Polish person. He says "Ide, i mnie nie powstrzymasz", which means "I'm going and you're not going to stop me". The actor stressed the beginning of words, whereas in Polish normally the stress comes towards the end. He typically does better when he only has to say one word, like in Episode 5 when he says "kochany" to his boyfriend, which means (literally) "loved one", or in Episode 6, when he says "babcia" meaning grandmother.
- Final Solution: It's stressed quite often by Miss Quill that this is the only way of stopping the Shadow Kin, by using the Cabinet of Souls. She ends up being right when the Shadow Kin attack Earth in search of April, and both Ram and Tanya agree after having loved ones murdered in front of them (Ram later changes his mind, but Tanya teams up with Quill). And having read Corakinus's mind, April realizes that they will kill everyone on Earth no matter what anyone does, so there really is no other choice. This results in Charlie shooting her to kill Corakinus, taking over briefly as the new leader of the Shadow Kin and using the Cabinet. The Cabinet blows up their home planet and kills the entire Shadow Kin race, except for April in Corakinus's body.
- Foil: Ram and Tanya both have falling outs with the group after the events of episode 6, and they both avoid contact with everyone else. However, they do react differently to the deaths of their parents (Ram's father and Tanya's mother). Ram, who briefly returns to the fold, wants to use the Cabinet of Souls but is talked out of it by April, so he decides to leave town instead (he doesn't, but still.) Tanya, on the other hand, heads straight to Miss Quill instead of her friends, and they team up to force Charlie to use the Cabinet of Souls.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The board listing the names of the fallen, which includes "Molesworth, N.", "Foreman, S." "Parson, H.", "Pink, R. D.", "Oswald, C.", "Dunlop, A.", and "Oakhurst, A.", "Gibson, J." and "Hatcher, D." (from Kim Newman's First Doctor novella Time and Relative.)
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Played with and somewhat inverted. In Episode 6, Tanya reveals that she doesn't believe that she is actually friends with anyone in the group due to her age. April and Ram, who are the closest to her, deny this, as do Charlie and Matteusz. However, she later makes some nasty comments to both Charlie and April that seem to reveal some hidden resentment, and flies off the handle when April states that she'll understand her situation with Ram better when she gets a boyfriend (Tanya is the only single one in the group). After the events of the episode, she spends most of the time avoiding everyone who tries to contact her and even tells her mom that they are not her friends (though she did try to call Ram once). After her mom dies, Tanya chooses to meet up with Quill instead of the others, and tries to force Charlie to use the Cabinet, saying that she won't speak to anyone else until it is done. She also says that she would rather lose her friends than her family, knowing that there are others who will end up feeling the same pain she is currently feeling. This is less a case being the friend nobody likes and more a case of being the friend that likes nobody.
- The intro shot of the opening shows April, then a heart, presumably hers, then Ram running inside it. It's a hint as to their future relationship (they start dating in episode 3), as well as the overall plot with her sharing the heart of the Big Bad.
- The opening credits contain a lot of foreshadowing, including the silhouette of a Rhodian in their native form, the dragon tattoo, Corakinus, the tendrils of the Lan Kin, ending with a shot of the cast walking out of the cabinet of souls followed by a quick shot of the souls themselves. Most of this is only recognisable in retrospect. There's also a knight chess piece in there, perhaps referring to the Governors (or the chess motif prevalent through the first couple of episodes).
- Godzilla Threshold: The deadly, multiplying cherry blossoms from another dimension unexpectedly prove to be such a threat that April has to summon the Shadow Kin to destroy them.
- Hotter and Sexier: Considerably more sexual than its parent show, it doesn't flinch away from showing actual sex scenes due to the obligations of being a streaming series.
- Idiot Ball:
- Appears to be possessed by UNIT and other authorities given that, despite staff and students being killed in mysterious and violent circumstances, the school is allowed to continue operating, never mind not having investigators all over the place. Even the school inspector doesn't bring it up. Although events later in Series 1 could suggest interference, early on it makes no sense for UNIT not to be all over the school.
- The Doctor carries the ball, bigtime, in episode 1, to the point where he could technically be blamed for every single death in the series because he just leaves the kids and Miss Quill to take care of the school.
- The Internet Is for Cats: Miss Quill spends much of her time on the Internet looking at cat pictures.
- Killed Off for Real: He was only ever a minor supporting character in Doctor Who, but the headmaster Mr. Armitage gets gorily killed off in an early episode trying to protect his pupils from one of Coach Dawson's tattoo dragons.
- Locked in a Room: Episode 6.
- Love Confession: Episode 6 features quite a few of those. The ones between Charlie and Matteusz aren't particularly shocking, since they've admitted this to each other in Episode 3 already, but Ram's was surprising. Turns out he's Not Good with Rejection.
- Negative Space Wedgie: The premise of the show, like Torchwood before it, is that someone needs to deal with the consequences of alien (in particular, The Doctor's) activity on Earth, including dangerous creatures coming though tears in the fabric of space and time.
- No Biochemical Barriers: All of the aliens that appeared on the show so far seem to have no problem with surviving on Earth.
- Non-Human Humanoid Hybrid: Quill conceives a child after sleeping with Ballon, who is a Lorr.
- Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: April's mum enters her room to find April and Ram in bed. Naked. Which leads to her having a sex talk with April and Ram.
- Prom Is for Straight Kids: Subverted. April asks Charlie to go to prom with her, but he refuses and later asks Matteusz to be his date.
- Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: The Doctor is convinced that a bunch of teenagers can guard a rift in time - one of them is an alien and has an ex-terrorist bonded to him, but that might not help very much. This is eventually deconstructed when the kids struggle greatly with this over the course of the series and end up dealing with PTSD and infighting.
- Religion of Evil: The Shadow Kin have a very messed-up set of religious beliefs. To wit, they believe that they were a mistake by the Universe and condemned to the Underneath because of it. Because of this, they believe it is their duty to get back at the Universe by destroying all life.
- Rewatch Bonus: If the first and the second episode are watched again, seeds of later storylines and plots are planted. During the dance, April is watching Ram and Rachel with an envious look, and Ram is the one who saves her from Corakinus. Thus, it's no real surprise that they end up together later on. Meanwhile, Tanya was already making snide remarks about her "white" friends not having the same types of problems as she and Ram both behind their backs and to their faces. So, the later conflict in "Detained" did not come out of nowhere after all.
- Royally Screwed Up: Charlie's family, though only implied.
- Ruling Family Massacre: Charlie's family is killed during the Shadow Kin attack. He only escapes the same fate because Ms. Quill saves him.
- Sadist Teacher:
- Miss Quill breaks students' personal property and belittles them in front of the class. She also has no qualms about putting them in danger to save herself.
- Coach Dawson comes across as this, although Ram thinks of him as a Stern Teacher ("the right kind of scary"). And then we learn he's controlling a dragon and letting it eat people to power his aura of authority.
- School Is Murder: The academy is a Weirdness Magnet which attracts Big Bads that think nothing of harming children.
- Shirtless Scene: The lead male characters take off their shirts almost Once per Episode.
- The elsewhere-mentioned shout-outs to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time and The Vampire Diaries.
- Tanya has three Sailor Moon posters behind her bed.
- Episode Two's title is a reference to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Tanya says she downloaded a program to hack into UNIT systems off of Reddit.
- Episode Six has Matteusz explaining human friendship to Charlie using Susan Pevensie of Narnia.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: When one of the kids reacts incredulously to the idea of a ""tear in space and time", the others start referencing examples of shows where something similar happened.
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Since he lacks social skills, Charlie neglects to say this to April when she asks him out to the prom and he briskly declines, making it look like he's just being snooty. She figures it out later when he tells her he'll ask out Matteusz.
- Take That!:The Doctor: Oh come on, it's not that hard! It's no harder than all these exams you have to take these days... Except for Media Studies. It's gonna be harder than that.
- Talking Is a Free Action: In 'Brave-ish Heart' April and Ram have a lengthy conversation while an army of Shadow Kin inexplicably don't attack them.
- Wham Shot: At the end of Episode 8, the Governors decide that Dorothea has outlived her usefulness and sentence her to death. The camera turns round to reveal a WEEPING ANGEL standing behind her.
- Also, the scene of Corakinus apparently rising from the dead, except that April's voice (who is also deceased) comes out of his mouth and asks what's going on.
- What Measure Is a Humanoid?: Charlie and Matteusz. Charlie might look humanoid but he is still an alien. And it is still unknown if he is actually humanoid or it is only a disguise.
- World of Snark: Although not as cynical as Torchwood was, there is a lot of sarcasm and sass thrown around.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Episode 1:Our teacher here was the Quill's leading terrorist.
Quill: Freedom fighter.