Episode Reviews (36)
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The Shakespeare Code
The Shakespeare Code was a perfect and very entertaining episode of Doctor Who. I really enjoyed watching because it was fun to see Martha Jones on her first Time Travel Trip. There was some good humor and the writing was generally brilliant. I liked the idea of Shakespeare being manipulated by witches who are actually aliens. There were some great character moments, awesome special effects, and every thing played out perfectly well. It was great how Martha inspired Shakespeare. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
"What fools these mortals be."
Puck said that to the audience, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." And, evidently, that's how the Carrionites saw us. As fools who would help them re-emerge into this universe, and reconquer it. But, the Doctor is nobody's fool! A fact he proved once again, with the immeasurable help of Martha Jones. I must confess, I was initially stymied when he kept muttering about "fourteen" sounding so familiar. At first, i thought it was just the fact that it represents both one more than thirteen (an unlucky number) and the doubling of seven (the polar opposite). Then, I thought: "What if these witches represent scarred survivors of Logopolis?" That is; the mathematical race introduced during the last days of the 4th Doctor era. But, the writers fooled me! They have introduced another race from "the dark days of the early universe." The spider-like Racnoss being the first. Makes me wonder how many war-like races existed following the Big Bang. And, just what percentage of those were personally fought and vanquished by the Time Lords? Probably a lot more than two (i.e., the Racnoss and the Giant Vampires)! In any event, I enjoyed the quaint and creepy mystery of this episode. Immensely and shamelessly. It was like an Elizabethan version of a "Scooby Doo" cartoon! Only, without the talking Great Dane.moreless
Any time the new shows have real historical figures they seem to suck more than the regular shows. I don't remember too many of the real Dr Who episodes having real characters, other than Doc Holiday in a First Doctor episode. But this one, and the Dickens episode, seemed even worse than the run-of-the-mill updated Dr Who.
With Martha's first trip, she and the Doctor meet the man himself, William Shakesphere just aliens known as the Carrionites try to bring their whole species out of the deep darkness they were banished to by planning to use William as their puppet.
With this episode, we see a pattern appearing with the trips the doctor takes his companions on. only with martha and later donna, it's reversed; rose got to go to the future with both his ninth and current incanations, while martha got 1599 and Donna, Volcano Day in Pompeii. The writers seemed to have based the carrionites off the three witches from William's play, but are named Bloodtide, Doomfinger, and Lilith. To those pondering why Lilith can take true human apperance at times, while her 'mothers' can't, maybe she's only half carrionte; their speices devour thier male mates, so its a posiblity.
If anyone else didn;t notice this, but what's up with the 'witches' always speaking in rhyme? i know its how the sceince works along with the shape of the globe, but it gets annoying after awhile. According to the Doctor at the end of the episode when he gie Will his signature 'neckbrace' he's given him 10% of his material, while he seems to have royal ticked Liz 1 off in his personal future since she ordered his beheading after just seeing him. The Doctor one again says 'What? What!? WHAT!?"moreless
This could have been one of the all-time great Doctor Who stories, but two specific elements were allowed to ruin the illusion, making it merely "very entertaining" (and yes, I know most TV barely even aspires to THAT level!).
Let us start with the praise: the cinematography and stuntwork in particular is spectacular. I mean even given how good the last two seasons have been, this story just looks GORGEOUS. Sure, it helps when you get to use the actual Globe Theatre, but I'm referring to everything seen on-screen. Even the matte shots are just stunningly good. If the rest of the season can keep up this visual level, my eyes my explode from sheer delight.
I thought David Tennant really nailed the part right on the head in this one. He was by turns funny and dramatic, serious and whimsical, callous and empathetic, fanboy and hitman, human and alien. Whereas he got a little silly in bits of Smith and Jones, he was just spot-on here.
Freema was a nice change and handled many of her scenes very well, and I look forward to more from her -- but it's still too soon to judge exactly how she's going to work out. Very promising, and RTD wasn't lying when he said she wouldn't be "Rose Lite," but you know I'm almost ready for another male companion on board ... how about someone significantly older?
I should mention that I met Gareth Roberts through the Manopticon crew many years ago and we hit it off very well back then, though we haven't kept in touch -- so feel free to take my review of his script with a grain of salt if you like, but I mostly loved it, particularly the dialogue. There was perhaps a bit more expository dialogue than most of these stories get, but there was more back-continuity to refer to. This could be worrisome -- the new series of Doctor Who has spent more of its time looking forward than back, and I want that to continue because it seems to help the mass appeal -- but if they're only going to be so referential only once in a while I certainly won't mind.
The two things I do take exception with were the stylised performances of the Witches/Carrionites, and the Master of the Revels. Having been unimpressed with director Charles Palmer's direction of Smith & Jones, I'm inclined to blame him more than anyone else for the simply dreadful campiness of the witches. I'll come back to the Master (no not THAT Master) later.
I understand what they were trying to do -- make the witches very much like the stereotypes we all know from childhood of what witches were like -- but it was laid on as thick as Tammy Faye Bakker's makeup, allowing no room for further exaggeration in history. Even small children would find their cackling, rhyming, Monty-Python- Pepperpots voices grating and unbelievable and completely over the top. Was the second unit directory Mary Whitehouse herself? I ask because nobody else could take the menace out of those creatures and render them comically ineffective quite like that harpy do-gooder. The scene in which Doomfinger hysterically confronts the Doctor and company when they visit Peter Street is one of the biggest mismatches of acting since Ralph Richardson had to act alongside Andie MacDowell. "Fan quality" doesn't even begin to describe how bad the Carrionites were on screen. "Porn acting" might just cover it.
The other problem with this story has to do with the dramatically shorter 45-minute format. Important characters, such as The Master of the Revels, are reduced to "pop on and die." This is not the first time this has happened, but it's the most obvious -- I was left scratching my head as to how Martha knew the Master's name was Mr Lynley (answer, after reviewing the episode again -- oops! continuity error ahoy!). Furthermore, what purpose does Mr Lynley serve (other than "expendable extra")? Why is he so set against Shakespeare? What's up with the permits -- and script approval?? These are just some of the things neither Roberts nor Davies bother to answer because there's simply NO TIME to delve into the character, but what they forget is that this also means there's no time for us to CARE about him or his death. He's a prop used almost solely to show off the "death by drowning on dry land" trick. It's unfair to the performer and in service to the story that he gets such short shrift.
I can live with the Doctor's rather feeble explanation of "magic." I can stand discovering that Jor-El's "Phantom Zone" is full of big- nosed old biddies who use words for physics (hey, I bought into "bloc transfer computation," didn't I?). I can even deal with a bisexual Shakespeare and gratuitous -- and I do mean GRATUITOUS -- Harry Potter references. It's just a shame that I have to.
When you've got such a marvelous story, such wonderful actors, such beautiful dialogue, such gorgeous location and model work and so rich a backdrop, you should linger just a bit more over it. Think of how much better The Shakespeare Code would have been as a two-parter: we could have fleshed out Lillith, her suitor, Lynley, the King's Men actors, even Queen Elisabeth! And before you complain that I must be one of those old-school fuddy-duddies who thinks everything should be a six-parter at least, I should point out that this is only the second time in this new series that I've wished for a one-part story to be a two-parter (the other was "Rose," which desperately needed more "there" there).
Overall, The Shakespeare Code is solid entertainment with only minor annoyances to those of us who take it seriously, and I'm sure it will do well in the season poll for its looks, cast and style. To me, sadly, it's tantilizingly close to perfect, but just ruined by ham and cheese -- oddly enough, not on the stage!moreless
Good episode, but not my favorite.
This is Martha's first trip in the TARDIS. Martha and the Doctor go to London, in 1599. They visit the newly-opened Globe Theatre and see the Shakespeare's play "Love's Labour's Lost" and meet Shakespeare. He gets impressed with Martha.
Shakespeare is writing the play "Love's Labour's Won" (the lost play). Meanwhile, three Carrionites witches want to interfere on the final lines of the play by placing a code to open the portal for the Carrionites who want to destroy Earth.
By the end of the episode, Shakespeare reveals he knows the Doctor isn't from Earth and Martha is from the future.
It's visible the Doctor still misses Rose.moreless
This season of Doctor Who feels like the first season all over again. That's a good thing.
This season of Doctor Who feels like the first season all over again. That's a good thing. It has the adrenaline rush, adventure feel to it again. The second season was really moody and depressing. It was almost a chore to watch.
Shakespeare Code is one of those episodes that people will talk about for sometime. It was just so damned good. From the story, to the in-jokes, to the dialog, to the CGI and everything else... this has to be my favorite this season. That's hard to say especially since I loved everything that I've seen this season.
I think Martha Jones is going to be an excellent companion.moreless
The Doctor and Martha meet Shakespeare but are interupted by what seems to be... witchcraft.
I think i prefer this method of learning about Shakespeare to what we did in High School. This was a lot more fun. Especially with him flirting with Martha. Who knew he was a flirt?
I loved the witches. The were completely like the old tales at that time. Scary, ugly, warty and casting spells. Who knew that magic was actually science in disguise? The special effects weren't so bad either, particually at the end.
One thing that i didn't understand, why did the Doctor let Martha roam around in jeans? With everyother companion in that era, he's had the dress to that style. He didn't this time though...
Anyway, the episode rocked!!! Good to see the Doctor back.moreless
The Doctor and Rose arrive in Elizabethan Britain, and meet the main man himself, William Shakespeare!
First off, i thought 'Oh great, Shakespeare', not the most exciting man in the world... right? WRONG! I absolutely adored this episode, from start to finish, especially when the man himself came on. Who knew shakespeare was so good looking? Lol. Favourite parts have to be whenever the Doctor was quoting his future plays, or someone elses. I sat there and just laughed (my mum had to point out which play they were from, but i managed to get a few). All over, it was all rather dramatic this episode ;)
Carriernites...one of RTD's slightly tamer villians, but i must admit, i still found them entralling. Using not only voodoo, but the power of the spoken word to cast fear into the hearts of man and release their pals from the dark realms. Especially liked the man drowning on dry land, lovely touch, hehe. Paniced slightly when the Doctor collapsed, was okay though when i realised he had two hearts XD Bit slow there. Anyway, also liked the end scene when shakespeare is defeating the carriernites, i chuckled so much, have to love that bit :D 'Expelliarmus!' (God love J.k. ^^ Heard multiple references throughout that episode. 'Read book seven, made me cry' awwww, bless the Doctor)moreless
A bit worrying
Alternately amusing, exciting, and embarrasing. The effects are pretty impressive, and David Tennant and Freema are both great, although the Doctor's character is beginning to get a bit samey and predictable. And the humour, and the Doctor-Martha bed scene are very good. However, the witches are nothing short of embarrasing, and they are most unconvincing as dangerous villains. Christina Cole, who was brilliant in Hex does a good job with her poor dialogue.
But I can't help thinking this could've been a lot better.moreless