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Syracuse University professor to launch 'Doctor Who' class next semester

Originally published by Syracuse Post-Standard / Written by Geoff Herbert.

Put down your pencils and grab your sonic screwdrivers. The Doctor is in.

Syracuse University Professor Anthony Rotolo is launching a class on "Doctor Who" next semester. The course will explore the history and cultural impact of the BBC series, which first premiered in 1963 and is still on the air today with its Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.

Rotolo describes the spring 2015 offering as a "Doctor Who (Un)Class" because it's not an official college course. As a result, SU students -- and any member of the Central New York community -- can take it free of charge and expect zero homework.

Students can, however, register the course as an independent study to receive academic credit if approved by their advisors and departments.

"I do hope to make this an official course for SU credit in the future," Rotolo tells

He says he was given a green light to teach #WhoClass, as he calls it on Twitter, last year but "a variety of administrative issues and red tape" have delayed its addition to the official curriculum. Rotolo, who also teaches an official course on "Star Trek," was overwhelmed by students who still wished to sign up, "and the un-class was born."

"...As the 'Star Trek' course got more popular, I started to receive regular requests from students to create a similar course on 'Doctor Who,'" he explains. "So, a few years ago, I started my research and work toward that goal. I obtained the entire, 50-year library of 'Doctor Who' content, from classic and rare episodes and restorations to the latest seasons of the series (of which I was mostly familiar)..."

"I was inspired to put this course together because it is my belief that learning can and should be fun, and while not all courses can be about television series, some can! My 'Star Trek' course has been a tremendous success, and I am proud to say that it has inspired countless students to find their path in media and even science and technology fields. As a teacher, there is nothing more important than that, and nothing more rewarding than hearing from a student that your course has had an impact in his or her life."

According to Rotolo's website, lectures will cover both classic and recent episodes of "Doctor Who," with discussions taking place over social media and in the classroom much like his #TrekClass. Sessions will include showings of rare clips, food ("Would you like a Jelly Baby?") and analysis of how the science-fiction drama has offered social commentary over the years and evolved with modern technology.

"#WhoClass is a whole new way to learn about and experience 'Doctor Who,' whether you are a longtime 'Whovian' or a total newbie looking for a crash course on The Doctor and his travels in time," the course description explains.

Of course, die-hard fans of the show might have an advantage in periodic Trivia Challenges for prizes, including "Doctor Who" toys, books and other collectibles.

"Doctor Who," which currently airs Saturdays in the U.S. at 9 p.m. on BBC America, follows the titular Time Lord who can take on a new body and personality after death. Besides a dozen Doctors, the show has also featured a variety of traveling companions in his T.A.R.D.I.S. space ship and villains like Daleks and Cybermen.

For more information, including registration, visit Classes begin in January on the SU campus, but space is limited -- Rotolo says 50 students have already signed up since he announced it Sunday night.

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