Doctor Who spinoff Class faces an uncertain (and unlikely) future


Doctor Who spinoff Class recently wrapped its first season on BBC America. Unfortunately, however, it looks like it probably won’t get a second.

The first season of Doctor Who spinoff Class recently came to a close on BBC America. And if we’re honest, it seems like we’re probably not going to get another one.

To be fair: There is no decision on the series’ future yet, officially. But all signs certainly point to an impending cancellation. (Or, possibly worse, a quiet fade into obscurity. And then a confirmation that the show won’t be returning months from now, when casual viewers have long forgotten it.)

The drama, which followed the adventures of a group of students at Coal Hill Academy, tried to be a lot of things in its first year. It was part alien adventure and part angsty teen drama, with a frequently breakneck pace and a darker storytelling tone. It was the BBC’s first attempt at a new entry into the Doctor Who universe in several years, following spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. And the show leaned into this connection fairly frequently, featuring multiple references to Who lore, and even an appearance from the Twelfth Doctor himself.

But despite this strong pedigree, Class struggled to find an audience almost from the start. Due to some extremely weird scheduling decisions, the series premiered in the UK on online-only outlet BBC Three, and then aired in late night slots on primary terrestrial channel BBC One. As a result, its ratings were consistently weak. And even though the spinoff series was part of a mega-popular worldwide brand in Doctor Who, there seemed to be little coordination surrounding its rollout on various platforms and the series had difficulty building sustained buzz.

Almost as soon as Class’ first season concluded in England, rumors swirled that the show would not be renewed. Despite these reports, Who showrunner Steven Moffat still insisted no decision had yet been made, and that more Class could still happen. Translation: Everyone was pretty much waiting to see how the show performed in America. And this makes a certain amount of sense. After all, it was Who finally catching fire in the US that propelled it to such international mainstream success.

But, as it turns out, Class didn’t exactly light the world on fire, ratings-wise, in the States. According to Cult Box, the series managed about half of what an episode of Doctor Who averages on a weekly basis. Not exactly a stunning performance. And, worst of all, the drama suffered a 57% drop in viewership following its first episode, which indicates that some Who fans likely did try out the new series’ pilot, only to reject it afterward.

And in even more bad news, creator/showrunner Patrick Ness took to Twitter over the weekend to announce he no longer plans to return to Class, even if the show should land a second season. His tweetstorm on his reasons for quitting is alternately resigned and sad. And his frustration with the entire process is obvious.

Here’s a transcript of his long string of tweets on the subject. In them, Ness catalogued a range of reasons for his dissatisfaction with the show’s treatment. And he shared his genuine appreciation for the fans who loved it.

"I decided awhile back that, with unbelievable regret, I won’t be writing any more Class, even if a season 2 moves ahead.It has been the MOST amazing experience. I loved it, and I am so proud of the show and what we made. My heart just bursts with happy.But we should be filming right now. With the new cycles of Who, we’d pretty much need to be to be on the air before even 2019. But we’re not.And that’s just TV and how it goes! Not even the littlest bit bitter. What an amazing experience.Huge thank yous to BBC Three and BBC America for their love and enthusiasm for Class. BBC America in particular absolutely LOVES the show.I remain baffled by the scheduling decisions of BBC1, which were odd for a critically-acclaimed show. But again, I’m so grateful for the chance!If I’m honest, a season 2 has been a faint hope, but it’s a fact that BBC America LOVES the show, so who know? If so, I wish them wings!I’m super-super sad and I fought hard to be making it right now, trust me! I’m a feisty little mofo.But what a lucky man I’ve been to have been able to make a show I’m so proud of and work with wonderful people. Never even dreamed it.So thank you to everyone who watched and loved it and argued about it and watched it again. You made my heart swell.(And if I HAD got a 2nd season: weeping angel civil war & PLANET, Quill has a dangerous son, Charlie & Matteusz shirtless wood chopping…)"

Well…that’s kind of a lot to take in, yeah?

Ness clearly holds out some form of hope that BBC America might still save Class. But his optimism is somewhat tempered by the fact that he himself is already walking away from the series, before any official decision is announced.

It’s just…really not a good look, is all I’m saying. And generally not a cause for optimism.

Next: It looks like Doctor Who could be sticking around a while

Of course, stranger things have certainly happened. Class could pull out a miracle, and snag a second season renewal. But fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up about it.