Doctor Who

Season 3 Episode 2

The Shakespeare Code

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Apr 07, 2007 on BBC America

Episode Fan Reviews (36)

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  • 'Upon this night, the work is done; A muse to pen 'Love's Labour's Won' (Spoilers)

    If things continue like this, Series 3 will become my favourite series. As if the stellar ‘Smith And Jones’ last week wasn’t treat enough, this week’s offering upped the ante even further. For his ‘thank-you-for-saving-my-life’ trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor has taken Martha back to London in 1599 for an evening at the Globe Theatre and to see William Shakespeare. He announces that his new play- Love’s Labour’s Won- will be premiered the following night. However, when the Master of Revels drowns on dry land and the innkeeper dies of fright, the Doctor and Martha believe something is not right. A witch-like race of aliens called the Carrionites is influencing Shakespeare and has implanted a code in his new play that will bring about the end of the world. The play’s the thing, indeed. Can Martha and the Doctor stop the world from ending in 1599? Silly question, I know. A witty, playful script- impeccably researched and crammed with lots of quotations- coupled with several fabulous performances makes this one of the best episodes since the series began, in my humble opinion.

    Freema goes from strength to strength in this episode, dealing with the flirtatious Shakespeare, standing her ground on the terrible conditions in Bedlam and even saving the Doctor again, she’s proving to be invaluable to the Time Lord. Her hurt when she was lying on the bed with the Doctor and he mentions Rose was nicely played. Similarly, Tennant is impressing even more as he’s taking the role in his stride. Two great guest performances too by Dean Lennox Kelly as Shakespeare and Christina Cole as the lead Carrionite Lilith. Kelly was strong and dignified as Shakespeare, his flirting with Martha was a treat. Similarly, Cole was seductive and quite brilliant as Lilith. The script crackled with quotes from and references to other Shakespeare plays- such as The Tempest, Macbeth, As You Like It, Hamlet and Henry V to name but a few- which were fun to spot on the second or third viewing. The quality of the location filming was excellent too, with some beautiful shots within the Globe Theatre (I went just after it opened and it is just wonderful inside there) and the dinginess and decay of Bedlam. There was a lovely little dig at the questions over Shakespeare’s sexuality with a lovely deadpan ‘fifty-seven academics just punched the air’ when he Bard flirted with the Doctor. Trust Russell T Davies! The CGI used for the final arrival of the Carrionites was pretty darn amazing too.

    There were a few things that could have been tweaked, though. Lilith’s compatriots, Mother Doomfinger and Mother Bloodtide, remained the stereotypical withered old crone whilst Lilith could transform into a beautiful young mother. Why could they not all change? I felt their performance went a little over-the-top on times, despite a genuinely chilling moment when Mother Doomfinger decides to stop the madman Peter Streete from talking. Also there were a few moments with the actors in the company, which got a bit too self-referential with sequels and the like; funny but a little unnecessary. I wasn’t too sure about the- obvious- references and parallels with Harry Potter and JK Rowling, with Shakespeare using a Potter term- ‘expelliarmus’- to finish off the Carrionites. I think that’s more a personal thing and these are only slight niggles which don’t overly detract from the general brilliance of the episode.

    I just hope and pray that the football doesn’t go into extra-time on Saturday. If they postpone Doctor Who because of that, I will not be happy- especially since the episode a) looks great and b) will impart the Face of Boe’s secret message to the Doctor. Can’t wait.