How Coal Hill School Is Important To Doctor Who And How The Spin-off Class Came To Be
Class will be starting this fall and not just for school kids everywhere; it is also the title of the newest spin-off of the Doctor Who franchise. The story of how it came to be is rather serendipitous. It involves a young adult novelist, an episode of Doctor Who (or rather not an episode in this case), and some perfect timing. Before the show begins let's explore the story of both Coal Hill School in Doctor Who and how Patrick Ness became the head writer and executive producer of this new spin-off.Class will have young adult author Patrick Ness as its show runner. He is known for writing both the young adult book Monsters of Men and the children’s book A Monster Calls, which is about to be released as a movie starring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson. He was called on to pen a Doctor Who episode but instead of jumping at the chance like most writers, he declined as he wanted to stop writing for others and start his own projects. This opened up an opportunity for all of the parties involved. Those who make such decisions about the show said that they were looking to make a brand new spin-off of the show, one that would take place at a school. They decided he would be the perfect person to helm the show and he was more than happy to take them up on the offer; he is a young adult writer after all. According to Ness he has six weeks of filming to go and he is extremely happy that he turned down the chance to write an episode of Doctor Who and that the cast is fantastic. Despite how little they have left to film there is still not much known about the show.The show will center around Coal Hill School, which has been the sight of many strange things over the years. The Doctor explained in a season eight episode of Doctor Who titled The Caretaker that due to all of his activities in and around the school it opened up a way for aliens to come to Earth. Coal Hill School was in the very first episode of Doctor Who ever. The episode was called An Unearthly Child. The Doctor's granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carol Ann Ford) attended it in the guise of a full human teenager. It was also in this original episode that companions were born. Two teachers, Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell) found their student Susan quite strange and followed her home one day. There they found the T.A.R.D.I.S in a junkyard, along with the Doctor (William Hartnell). Thus began the adventures in time and space not only for those two teachers but for us as well.A second Coal Hill School visit occurred twenty-five years after the school's first appearance in the episode Remembrance of the Daleks. The episode was in celebration of the 25th anniversary, in 1988. It was a four part episode (back then the episodes only lasted 25 minutes) with the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. It was assumed by some fans that the episode took place before An Unearthly Child but that presents some continuity issues. The Doctor went back to Coal Hill in 2008 during season two of "New Who" for the episode School Reunion, where he found his former companion Sarah Jane Smith (the late Elisabeth Sladen) investigating weird happenings at the school. Rose was there too and somewhat jealous of the easy banter between the Doctor (David Tennant’s tenth Doctor this time) and Sarah Jane. They bonded over the annoying things the Doctor did by the end of the episode. We got to see K-9 too. This visit was a full twenty years after the episode Remembrance of the Daleks.
In season eight the twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) again returned to the infamous school where his current companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) was teaching. As mentioned previously the episode was called The Caretaker. The Doctor had to clean up a mess he made by his comings and goings at the school. A Skovox Blitzer had entered Earth via the opening the Doctor had created. The alien packed enough fire power to destroy the world. Though he was unable to completely stop the creature, he sent it a billion years in the future when the school would no longer be there.There were other, shorter or even just verbal references about the school over the years. In the 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor it was shown that Clara Oswald, the current companion of the eleventh Doctor at the time (Matt Smith) was working as a teacher at Coal Hill. The school became a recurring entity in season eight, the first season of Peter Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor. In the first episode of that season, Deep Breath, a flashback of Clara’s first day as a teacher at the school is shown. In the episode Into the Dalek Clara is seen meeting former soldier and current math teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) who she begins a relationship with. The episode Time Heist showed Clara and Danny at the school. This was just a short appearance. The episode Kill the Moon began and ended at Coal Hill School. In the episode The Forest of the Night an entire class was transported to another time in Earth’s history with the Doctor, Clara, and Danny accidentally. The eighth level class was also shown during the season finale’s second part Death in Heaven via Missy’s cell phone screen. In the premiere episode of season nine, The Magician's Apprentice, Clara noticed from the window of her classroom that the planes had been stopped in midair. She took that as the symbol it was and traced it, with U.N.I.T.S. help, to Missy. Missy needed Clara because she had received evidence that the Doctor was in trouble.
It only makes sense to have this spin-off. With The Sarah Jane Adventures having to end so abruptly with the tragic loss of Elisabeth Sladen, a hole was left. That hole will certainly never be filled but I really want to see how this plays out. Even though it did not appear much until season eight it has been an integral part since day one. Peter Capaldi wants his Doctor to show up for at least one episode and I am sure he will. I can’t wait to see what they do with this show.
What do you think of the upcoming spin-off?