With the Doctor Who spin-off Class, penned by Patrick Ness, set to come to BBC Three later this year, and with Peter Capaldi rumoured to be in negotiations to appear as the Doctor, an intriguing and possibly radical change in structure from its parent show could be about to be realised in the corridors of Coal Hill School.
Could we be about to see something first put forward by Mark Gatiss in a rival pitch to that of Russell T Davies to revive Doctor Who back in 2005 on screen with Class? For when he proposed his own vision for the return of the Doctor, Gatiss had intended for the TARDIS' thief to become the audience surrogate character - that is to say the viewers' eyes on proceedings - instead of his companion/companions as had previously been the case ever since Ian & Barbara first entered the police box in 1963. You'll remember from their entrance that they in fact posed many of the questions probably still formulating in the minds of those watching them.....
IAN: Just let me get this straight. A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junk-yard, it can move anywhere in time and space?They'd soon learn that its not quite as ridiculous as it first seems, though the Doctor would be ridiculed by Chesterton for a perceived lack of ability to pilot "the ship" as the young-looking old man would dub it.
DOCTOR: Quite so.
IAN: But that's ridiculous.
Of course, before being whisked away in time and space Ian & Barbara were both teachers at Coal Hill School, where the Doctor's granddaughter Susan was in attendance. The Time Lord would subsequently make return visits to the school in both his Seventh & Twelfth incarnations, his most recent stopover saw him take on the role of caretaker.
If Class is set before or even during the events which saw him take on the job in Gareth Roberts' most recent attempt to introduce him to the enemy of many of those in the viewing audience - the nine to five shift - then it's not too hard to imagine him going about his duties taking on sinister puddles while observing the teaching staff & pupils battling threats to Shoreditch's finest, intervening only when absolutely necessary or even taking a similarly standoffish approach to getting involved as his First incarnation had.
See The Aztecs for just one example of what life was like for him before he decided to go gung- ho & adopt a more cavalier attitude to such matters!
Of course, Kill The Moon showed us what nearly happens should he decide not to muck in and get on with the whole business of saving the Earth.
But perhaps a spell as a comparative passenger with the added distraction of a real job to get on with - after all the corridors won't magically clean themselves, plus there's a cover story to maintain - would offer someone else the chance to save the day as well as possibly acting as a backdoor method of trialing a new way of doing things for Doctor Who. And with a new showrunner soon to arrive in the shape of Chris Chibnall, writer of 42 & the reintroduction of the Silurians in the two parter The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood, what better time to try out a new broom in warming to the caretakerish theme?
Constraints of budget, though, could prove an ideal excuse to hark back to the past, just as Chibnall had with The Hungry Earth, in revisiting elements first established in Doctor Who & The Silurians during Jon Pertwee's time in the TARDIS. For what sticks in the memory about the Third Doctor's first series if not the inventive use of Earthly settings? And with the BBC forcing BBC Three, on which Class will première, exclusively online, the budget is clearly not set to be on a par with what's thrown at the Doctor during his regular slot as universal saviour. Leaving the way clear for some good old fashioned ingenuity, perhaps? With events revolving around the school, the template will need some freshening, but......
Speaking to the Radio Times, Ness has revealed that,
"The main character is someone brand-new. Because that’s what I want to see. I want to see somebody come up with something new. Lots and lots of brand new. The way I write books, is…. I know the last line of the book, and I already know the last line in the first season of Class.Predictably he wouldn't disclose whether Peter Capaldi will actually be appearing in the series, but a ringing endorsement of Ness' credentials and his ability to write for the good Doctor came from executive producer Steven Moffatt.
And I know there are things on the way that I’ve already written, or I can’t wait to write. So I’ve got all the episodes plotted out. I’ve got many many things written – and it’s really exciting!"
“No one has documented the dark and exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we are bringing his brilliant storytelling into Doctor Who.”His writing has already graced the pages of the 12 Doctors, 12 Stories anthology in the shape of the Fifth Doctor story Tip Of The Tongue.
Tip Of The Tongue casts the elder of the two Peter Doctors as more of a supporting character in much the same way as Class may well do with his latest successor in the role of the Time Lord. Whose menial job may prove a radical and indeed humorous distraction from the whole "alien invasion" thing!
DOCTOR: It's assembly. You'd better get going. Go and worship something.
CLARA: Are there aliens in this school?
DOCTOR: Listen, it's lovely talking to you, but I've really got to get on. I'm a caretaker now. Look, I've got a brush.
Could he even start out with a desire to make a go of things under deep cover before being drawn back into what he does best?
DOCTOR: Can't you read?A bystander with a difference, then.
COURTNEY: Course I can read. Read what?
DOCTOR: The door. It says, Keep Out.
COURTNEY: No, it says, Go Away Humans.
DOCTOR: Oh, so it does. Never lose your temper in the middle of a door sign.
Oh, and one with a trusty caretaker's box. The must-have tool for every committed cleaner...