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Free 'Doctor Who' class moves to Westcott Theater, opens to public all month

Syracuse Post-Standard culture reporter, Katrina Tulloch, continues her coverage of Who Class with key takeaways from the first public offering of the course in the spring of 2015.

Tulloch writes:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Every "Doctor Who" fan chooses a favorite Doctor for personal reasons. It could be the Doctor they grew up watching, the Doctor who first hooked them onto the series or the actor with whom the viewer best identifies.

Last week's Doctor Who in the Digital Age class covered the regeneration of Christopher Eccleston into David Tennant. Based on the whoops and whistles in class, Tennant may be the favorite among Syracuse University students.

"All of the swoons," said Professor Anthony Rotolo, noting Tennant's popularity. "There's going to be a lot of catcalling this week."

But first, some good news for Whovians:

#WhoClass at Westcott

For the rest of April, "Doctor Who" Class moves to the Westcott Theater for its final four sessions with free admission for fans, whether they're enrolled in the class or not. The Westcott will have concessions and a cash bar serving all night. There will even be a signature #WhoClass cocktail to try each week.

Where: The Westcott Theater at 524 Westcott St. When: Mondays, April 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 6-9 p.m. How much: Free and open to the public.

David Tennant

David Tennant was cast as the Tenth Doctor because he had previously worked with "Who" executive producer Russell T Davies on BBC's "Casanova."

British audiences knew Tennant as a rising star, with a recent high profile role in the "Harry Potter" franchise as Barty Crouch Jr.

And while Eccleston played a haunted, disturbed Doctor with glimpses of pure joy and humor, Tennant mixed the styles of former Doctors Tom Baker and Peter Davison. He has moments of vulnerability but real awe and wonder for the universe.

"Tennant ushers in a period where Russell T Davies transcends old and new and weaves them together," Rotolo said.

Tennant's style also catered favorably to geek culture, a vocal subset of the Whovian fan base. With his pinstripe suits and brainy specs, Tennant's Doctor embodied the people who were the main audience. He was excitable, likable and intelligent but not presumptuous. He became a quick hit and the franchise continued its ascent.

Almost as proof of the show's success, the BBC announced there would be a Christmas special between Eccleston and Tennant's seasons, so people wouldn't think it was a one-time series.

Christmas specials were a big deal for "Doctor Who" because they're generally done in the U.K. for shows with the biggest audiences, like "Downton Abbey."

"Everyone watches 'Downton Abbey' whether they admit to it or not," Rotolo said. "It's an honor to have a Christmas special, but it costs a lot of money to do this."

Billie Piper starred with Tennant in a 7-minute Children in Need charity telethon on November 18, 2005, then again in "The Christmas Invasion," a 60-minute special episode on December 25. It was a turning point for the series. It showed everyone "Doctor Who" was officially in the big leagues.

Romance vs. charm

Tennant didn't play the Doctor as overtly romantic as Paul McGann, but perhaps that worked in his favor.

The Doctor as a romantic lead wasn't a popular concept with older fans, Rotolo said, but Tennant walked the delicate line between being romantic and charming. He grew on people, and was allowed a kiss here and there on the show.

His attractive qualities allowed other characters on the show to act believably jealous and possessive of the Doctor, as Rose does in "The Girl in the Fireplace."

We watched this episode in class, as it's considered a "NuWho" fan favorite. Note the chemistry between Tennant and Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles). The actors dated in real life after Myles appeared on the show.

Doctor Who in the Digital Age covers both classic and recent episodes of "Doctor Who," with discussions and analysis of the history, evolution and cultural impact of the long-running British science fiction series.

Two hundred people (about half SU students, half non-students) enrolled in the live, free class at Syracuse University, but thousands of online students from all around the world follow along and participate in the class discussions via Twitterand Google+.

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