Doctor Who spin-off Class was originally supposed to star Frank Skinner

Series creator Patrick Ness decided the focus had to be on the teenage characters.

Frank Skinner Class Exclusive

Comedian Frank Skinner was originally suggested to play the lead role in Doctor Who spin-off Class, before series creator Patrick Ness steered the show into a different direction.

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The short-lived BBC Three drama followed students at Coal Hill Academy, a recurring location in the Doctor Who franchise, as they took on the responsibility of protecting Earth from extraterrestrial threats – while also juggling complex personal lives.

However, the show looked rather different when writer Patrick Ness was first approached to develop it, with the BBC looking for an adult lead character to unite the teens in a similar manner to The Sarah Jane Adventures.

“They had been inspired by The Caretaker [series eight, episode six], where The Doctor was undercover at Coal Hill. Their first idea was to have another caretaker type character,” Ness told RadioTimes.com.

As for who the Beeb had been considering to lead the show, it was none other than stand-up comedian and Room 101 host Frank Skinner, who had previously appeared as engineer Perkins in Doctor Who series eight’s Mummy on the Orient Express.

Ness continued: “I remember they’d mentioned Frank Skinner as a possible idea, but I said – with the greatest respect to Frank Skinner – if you do that in a show for teens, what you’ve got is a bunch of teens waiting around for an adult to take action.”

It’s unclear whether the execs intended for Skinner to reprise the role of Perkins, who became a friend to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and was offered a place in the TARDIS, or if they wanted to re-introduce him as a different character altogether.

Ultimately, Ness pushed back against the idea of putting an adult actor in a leadership position on the show, feeling that it would make the premise less appealing to young people.

“I argued that you’d have to get it away from what Sarah Jane Adventures did so beautifully and make it for older teens, who are all about having their own agency and making their own choices,” said Ness. “In other words, they’re the centre of the show, not the authority character.”

He added: “They liked that idea, and my pitch for the show came together really fast. It’s how I knew it was working, ideas came fast and furious – which they don’t always.”

To find out more about the origins of Class, check out our five-year anniversary feature on how the spin-off was made, featuring interviews with the cast and creators. 

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