Why We're Worried About The 'Doctor Who' Spinoff

The BBC's hit sci-fi series Doctor Who is one of the longest-running programs in history (though there was a pretty good break in there, admittedly) — but its latest spinoff series has us a bit worried.

The studio is gearing up to debut the new series Class, which follows a group of students who battle evil aliens and other baddies attempting to break through into our world. The series is set at Coal Hill School, which has been a staple of the Who-verse ever since the original series launched all the way back in 1963. (It's also where recent companion Clara taught before setting off with The Doctor full-time.)

We're obviously excited for more Who, and Peter Capaldi's Doctor will be showing up in the pilot of Class, but we have a few concerns.

We still don't know anything about it

The network has released a few synopses up to this point, sure, but we still don't really know a lot about the series itself. Considering it debuts in just a few weeks (October 22) on the BBC, that's a little troubling. We know it'll focus on four students and their teacher as they try to make sense of their teenage lives, all while dealing with extraterrestrial threats. Outside of that? The studio has released pretty much nothing. There have only been a handful of short featurettes, and minimal media coverage and interviews going on behind the scenes.

Where's the trailer?

This is easily the biggest worry. Networks and studios typically drop trailers months (and sometimes even years!) before a movie or TV show hits the screen. But Class? All we have are a handful of photos showing the cast, and a screen grab or two from the early episodes. The network obviously has footage in the bag, considering its been shooting for a while, so why haven't we seen a trailer yet? With the British premiere set for October 22 on BBC Three (it'll air in 2017 in the United States), time is running out for the network to build some buzz for this spinoff project.

It doesn't have a Sarah Jane to lead it

Spinoffs can be tricky, and the Doctor Who universe is one of the trickiest. It's set in a huge, interesting world — but it all pretty much still revolves around The Doctor. Take him out of the equation, and it gets a lot tougher to sustain. One recent spinoff series with a somewhat similar premise was The Sarah Jane Adventures, which followed former companion Sarah Jane and a few kids as they investigated mysteries (sounds a bit familiar, right?). What made it so great? The late Elisabeth Sladen was extremely compelling as Sarah Jane Smith, and she was playing a character fans already knew and adored. Without that type of personality at the heart of it, it could be tough to get Who fans roped in.

The cast is largely made up of unknowns

Casting unknowns obviously isn't necessarily a bad thing, but this cast is almost entirely comprised of fresh faces, which can certainly be a risky move. The students are played by young actors and actresses Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah. The only known commodity is the extremely talented Katherine Kelly (Happy Valley, The Night Manager, Mr. Selfridge) who will be playing the kids' teacher at Coal Hill.

The synopsis sounds like 'Gossip Girl' meets 'Doctor Who'

It's not uncommon for synopses to play into tropes, since they essentially exist to tell you as much about a series in as few words as possible, but Class is digging pretty deep. Here's an excerpt from the official series description: "These four Coal Hill School students have hidden secrets and desires. They are facing their own worst fears, navigating a life of friends, parents, school work, sex, sorrow — and possibly the end of existence."

Torchwood proved you could certainly tell some dark and adult stories within the Doctor Who universe, but this just sounds like pure melodrama drenched in a soap opera (that just happens to be set in the Doctor Who universe).

'Doctor Who' is built on adventure, and 'Class' is set in one place

From everything we've heard about Class, it sounds like most of the action will apparently be confined to the campus of Coal Hill School. Having an established setting where most of the action takes place isn't entirely uncommon for a television series, but it is a change for Doctor Who. The crux of Doctor Who is the ability to travel around all of space and time, and you're always seeing something new and fresh. It's an adventure series. Sure, Coal Hill is cool, but is the locale interesting enough to host an entire season?

They're aiming for 'Buffy' meets 'Hunger Games,' and it's gonna be tough

The BBC likens the project to young adult fiction in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hunger Games, and those are some big shoes to fill. A lot of movies compare themselves to The Hunger Games, but most fall short. Remember, a lot of shows have tried to capture the magic Joss Whedon bottled in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and most were found lacking.

Talking about the vibe they're trying to channel, producer Steven Moffat said this: "There's nothing more exciting than meeting stars that nobody's heard of yet. We had the read through of the first few episodes last week, and there was a whole row of them. Coal Hill School has been part of Doctor Who since the very first shoot in 1963, but this new show is anything but history. Class is dark and sexy and right now. I've always wondered if there could be a British Buffy — it's taken the brilliant Patrick Ness to figure out how to make it happen."

Those are some great narratives to use as a model, but actually pulling it off is easier said than done.

Creator Patrick Ness is a great writer, but untested on TV

One of the most interesting things about Class is the fact that it was largely conceived and is being produced by author Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking trilogy, A Monster Calls), which is great. Ness is extremely talented and will certainly bring an interesting direction and eye to the series. But he doesn't have a lot of experience when it comes to television, and it's obviously a very different medium and workflow when compared to writing a novel. That's not to say he can't pull it off, and having Steven Moffat attached behind the scenes will certainly help, but it's still a risk.

The tone comes off a bit muddled

Looking at Class, it feels like the BBC is trying to mix the youth of The Sarah Jane Adventures with the edginess of Torchwood. That's a weird balance to strike. The network describes the series as "dark and sexy," but it's still being pitched as a teen-focused story set in the Doctor Who universe. Torchwood worked because it focused on adults, and Sarah Jane Adventures was acclaimed because it appealed to kids. Trying to do both of those things at once could get a whole lot ickier when you're apparently trying to tell those "dark and sexy" stories in a high school setting.

It's not a bad idea, but it doesn't really feel like 'Doctor Who'

Telling a story about teens fighting monsters and aliens in high school is a good idea at its heart, and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer proved you can tackle hard stories through that lens. But the more you dig into what the BBC is pitching with Class, the less it feels like a Doctor Who show. Yes, Peter Capaldi's Doctor will be showing up in the pilot episode to help kick off the series. But after that it seemingly has to stand on its own, and nothing we've heard about this show screams that it should fit in the Doctor Who universe. It might could work as something else, but it seems like a strange direction for this franchise.

We're hoping 'Class' works

Doctor Who is great, and considering how few and far between the seasons are these days, we'd love to see more adventures set in that world. When it comes to Class, we hope it'll be fantastic. We'd love it to be fantastic. But it doesn't change the fact that the premise and pitch looks like a hard sell on the surface. Here's hoping we're proven completely wrong.