|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Mick Snowden|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by James Tricker|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by John Byatt|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Mark Hain|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Angus Gulliver|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Geoff Wessel|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Will Valentino|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Frank Collins|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Eddy Wolverson|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Adam Leslie|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Simon Fox|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by A.D. Morrison|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Andrew Blair|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Robert F.W. Smith|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Charles Martin|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Paul Clarke|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Paul Hayes|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Joe Ford|
|08 Apr 2007||The Shakespeare Code, by Billy Higgins|
Doctor Who has a track record of incredibly good historicals ? some with sci-fi elements, and others without. Marco Polo, The Time Meddler, Black Orchid ? all classics.
And now the new series has a historical of its own to add to the list. A modern classic, if you will.
A portrayal of Will Shakespeare that was accurate enough to not be a pastiche, and yet comic enough to not bore the youngsters. Dean Lennox Kelly is superb as the bard. The Carrionites show great imagination, although I found the realisation a little to caricatured ? almost like the witches from Pratchett's Discworld.
The Doctor and Martha built there relationship, but I think the Doctor would realise he doesn't need to dumb down explanations for Ms Jones. I mean, using Back to the Future to explain the effects of changes to the timeline!
Again, Freema is superb as Martha. Her adjustment to Elizabethan England, her ability to handle the amorous Bard, and her outrage at the methods of Bedlam, are all played magnificently.
A little too much play on classic Shakespeare lines, but that was only to be expected.
There's not much more I can say, other than what becomes of the arrow that hit the TARDIS at the end? How Silver Nemesis was that?
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How much you enjoy?a story like "the Shakespeare Code" may depend on how cynical you want to be about yet another foray into the past. You could bemoan the ruthless plundering of a rich vein of material simply because it hadn't been done before?we've done Dickens, now let's do Shakespeare with three witches a la Macbeth and?oh yes, throw in some voodoo toboot. Or you could relax and enjoy the ride. I did, and enjoyed a fine, witty and suitably bawdy script, supported mostly by great performances and truly stupendous special effects, continuing the promise of the season's energetic opener, Smith and Jones (though this was far superior).?
Freema Agyeman continues to impress as Martha, though I cannot believe that her attire wouldn't have caused mass panic in the England of 1599, and certainly not calm acceptance as here. On the Doctor's advice, Rose sensibly dressed herself in suitable attire for Victorian London and surely there was even more of a need for Martha to have worn something suitable for the Elizabethan era. The build up of the Doctor/Martha relationship is being handled well so far by which I mean not rushed and I was so relieved to be able to enjoy some good old fashioned emphasis on dialogue at times in this story, most notably the very well played bedroom scene, rather than non-stop tearing about. I get the impression ? and I could be way off the mark here ? that in the same way the relationship between the Doctor and Martha needs to grow, so too the relationship between Tennant and Agyeman. I don't detect any particular warmth between the two ? but what do I know ? whereas Tennant and Billie Piper seemed very close and I gather they have met socially. As for the location work and effects, these just blew me away ? if you thought the Girl In The Fireplace was good, just look at this ? and you could almost smell that human waste as it cascaded down and narrowly missed our main players. When care and effort on this scale is put in to a production, too much criticism seems unjust. (" But that won't stop me", you may reply, picking up on the Doctor's line in the Girl In The Fireplace).?
Dean Lennox Kelly's Shakespeare suffers by comparison with Simon Callow's Dickens but the star of the proceedings in any event was Christina Cole as Lilith, who frankly dominated every scene she appeared in and who was simply quite superb, a lethal concoction of deadly sexiness. The idea of the Carronites changing the physical shape of the world around them by words is fine, and the title itself draws on contemporary obsessions about hidden messages and meanings, all grounded of course in the traditional Who requirement to provide a scientific or rational explanation for the strange goings on rather than one based on witchcraft and magic.
An excellent, thoroughly enjoyable piece which may yet rival the quality of " The Unquiet Dead" in my estimation on repeat viewings. For the moment, 8.5/10.
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Two words! "Absolutely Brilliant!" ?This has got to be the best episode of Doctor Who since its 2005 return, and probably amongst the top ten ever.
Dean Lennox Kelly played a blinder as William Shakespeare, coming across a bit like Liam Gallagher, "Shut yer fat mouths", and also bits of Giacomo Casanova and Billy Connolly. ?I though it was a nice touch to play him as a really "in touch" character, not afraid to speak his mind, and to have him state categorically that he new that the Doctor was a time traveller from another world and that Martha was from the future was a master stroke. Martha telling the Shakespeare joke to the Bard himself, or should that be "barred" was rib tickling.
David Tennant's Doctor seems to have calmed down his act somewhat, yet without diminishing the spontaneous side to his character. Last season, I felt that he and Rose were heading for a fall, as was the case at the end in "Doomsday". ?Donna (Catherine Tate) was a welcome change at Christmas, although I'm glad she did not become a permanent companion, as she got a bit irritating towards the end.
However, Martha Jones is great, and having watched Freema Agyeman's performance as Adeola over and over again to try and gauge what Martha might be like, I was pleasantly surprised by the difference when I watched "Smith and Jones", but did not write anything about it as I was so bowled over by it that I could find no fault at all, except for the obvious plot holes that come with anything science fiction.
"The Shakespeare Code" was fantastic, and yet some bits had me not knowing whether to cringe or laugh out loud. The conversation with the Doctor and Martha, with the refences to the Doctor having cried and cried when reading book 7 of Harry Potter, and the questions as to whether magic was real were really well done, and then in the Globe Theatre we get to discover that "Expelliarmus" actually worked to defeat the witches, and whatever it was they were summoning up by the utterance of those words and numbers they had made Will Shakspeare write down. It was hilarious, and somehow reminiscent of Rose Tyler that Martha should be the one to suggest the words that ultimately saved the day. Expelliarmus, indeed. When the Doctor and Martha lay side by side on the bed however, I began to worry that another snog was on its way, and was glad when it didn't happen.
Queen Elizabeth demanding the Doctor's head, and appearing to know who he was is a bit of a mystery, and I wonder if we shall learn why or how this is so. And it will be interesting to see next week if the Tardis materialises on New Earth with an arrow still stuck in the door... ?10/10.
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Ok, now I'm going to start sounding like a blind fanboy.
I read the reviews last week and a few people said this show was getting worse and worse.? While I could see the point of a few of the reviewers, I still loved last week's episode.? Then we get to a period piece.? While there are obvious exceptions, I personally always liked the aliens and future tech episodes better than the "real history" episodes.? Still, I definately have an open mind when it comes to Doctor Who so I go in with no preconceptions.? I was literally blown away by this episode.
From the minute they step out of the Tardis, the setting is amazing.? The crew must have worked overtime to show us such an amazing glimpse of 1599 England.? The baddies were pretty cool as well.? Witches, of course, but Who always shows that science almost always plays a role.?
Have to throw in something about the Harry Potter references.? If you're not an HP fan, no big deal but if you are...they were brilliant.
Shakespeare was done excellent as well.? I must admit, I know little of the man but after this I would be much more likely to look on his work favorably.? I expected a stuffy Englishman with little sense of humor and theDoctor and Martha simply using him for comic relief.? Nothing could be farther from the truth.? He is played here for the genius he must have been.? Instead of treating him stuffy and full of himself, he is humble.? He makes jokes, goes back and forth with The Doctor a few times, hits on Martha several times, and entertains the masses at The Globe Theatre.? Not only that, but there is an excellent part at the end where he deduces exactly who The Doctor and Martha really are, and even a bit about the witches themselves!? I can't think of any other time this happened, even with the truth smacking people in the face.? Many people finally accepted who the Doctor was or that he didn't belong, but I can;t reme mber anyone simply figuring it out on their own, especially with the style Will brings to the table.
His son was named "Hamnet"! Ha!
Last off, I believe The Doctor and Martha are getting along well.? I'm not one of those die hard fans who think no one is good enough to take "Rose's place" so to speak (how in the world could you be a fan of Doctor Who and get that attached to a companion?? What was she like number 39 or something?).? Still, they are quipping at each other very well, and she does show a strong ability to adapt and contribute something to the team.? I do believe that with some time The Doctor and Martha team will turn into something excellent and I hope she stays long enough for it to happen.
An excellent episode in writing, design and execution.
And next week, I get a alien episode with future tech!? Daleks in Manhattan right after that!!? I don't care what anyone says...this season is cracking up to be the best of the new series yet!
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I have slightly mixed feelings about this one. I enjoyed it more than I expected, I think because I had worried that the title might point to the adventure mimicking "The Da Vinci Code". I needn't have worried about that, the plot concerning the alien Carrionites being set free by words was clever and well written. The problem again is the 45 minute format.
This time we did have plenty of build-up, but the problem was the climax was too quick. This is partly because of the format, and partly due to the expense of the CGI Carrionites - which I thought were excellent. Not only did they look alien and somewhat scary, they blended in with the Globe theatre and their surroundings in a way that CGI characters often do not. Full marks to The Mill.
Martha...well she's settling in nicely. Again we have her thinking quickly, she could be the brightest companion in a long time and that is no bad thing. Her character is beginning to develop, and she's another well thought-out companion - very different to Rose but just as good.
So the plot was more clever than in Smith & Jones, the effects were great, the new companion is looking good...why was I left thinking it's not a great story? Perhaps one too many Shakespeare references. I really enjoyed the cameo with Queen Elizabeth at the end. 7.5/10
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No, I didn't like it. Yes, I rolled my eyes at the cackling ugly "witches" and the oh-so-witty *koff koff* they inserted lines for Shakespeare to copy from when his idea of a good comeback is "Shut your big fat holes." Ha ha, very funny.
The witches were just utter garbage. There was no redeeming value to them as villains whatsoever. Right down to the broomstick, which about made me shut it off due to the sheer stupidity of it all but Miranda thought it was funny so I had to keep going. And once again, I must ask, WILL IT REALLY KILL DOCTOR WHO TO HAVE ONE "SUPERNATURAL" ENEMY THAT ACTUALLY IS SUPERNATURAL AS OPPOSED TO ALIENSESES?
Words are magick. Oh, wow, how revelatory THAT was. I mean, nevermind that Grant Morrison did an entire comic series back in the 90s called The Invisibles that had that as a major theme, but, er, what is it you use to cast spells? Words? MAGICK WORDS, even? Right...
And for words to have power, how absolutely gawdawful CLUNKY was that spell inserted into the play?
Oh, yes, Shakespeare. Yeah, it might've been amusing for the classic embodiment of a wordsmith to be a loudmouthed boor in "reality," but in Reality, there is still some considerable academic debate over the authorship of those plays, and to not even acknowledge it, even with a Tennantish dismissal, was kinda poor. I thought. And what kind of title is that? "The Shakespeare Code"? Were they even TRYING this week??
Yeah yeah, Ten/Martha chemistry, yessir.
I already know I'm in the minority on this episode, but it just seems to be everything I found wrong with "Tooth and Claw" is back in the forefront with this one, only with less vitriol. I failed to see the wit about most of it, indeed it seemed to be one of those "Merrie Englande" stereotype nostalgia episodes that fail utterly with me. And I never thought much of Gareth Roberts anyway. So, meh. Disappointing, if I had had high expectations of it to begin with.
And hmm, next week features something living at the heart of a mass-transit system. Gee, where have I seen THAT before....
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Expectations were very high for this, the second episode of David Tennant's second season in "Doctor Who". THE SHAKESPEARE CODE was designed on every level as a showcase episode. Carte Blanche was given to the BBC to film in the actual Globe Theatre reproduction, giving the episode incredible depth and texture. The scenes shot there are simply some of the best the series has ever had to offer.?? Long time fans have longed to celebrate the visceral meeting of the Doctor and William Shakespeare, a meeting that has been referred to in the classic series several times before and talked about amongst the fan faithful for years. It was a meeting that was long overdue, except for the fact that it had already, supposedly, happened.? The most notable of these references were in PLANET OF EVIL and in CITY OF DEATH where The Doctor claims to have helped Shakespeare pen his famous "Hamlet".? Knowing this, it is most surprising to discover the Doctor meeting Shakespeare with almost teenage zest as if for the first time, when he supposedly has met him at least twice before.? Scriptwriter Gareth Roberts has admitted to an early script version reference to the "City Of Death" meeting but it was edited from the final script versions as being too confusing for casual viewers.
Based singularly on continuity, I personally feel such an obscure reference would have been welcome as each episode of DOCTOR WHO is rife with all sorts of obscure references of sexual innuendo and identity and modern pop culture references that have become the trademark of the new series. CODE offers too very uncomfortable references to HARRY POTTER and BACK TO THE FUTURE and Ray Bradbury's infamous butterfly no less! WHO would have ever thought? Arguably, it can be said these references are not as important to the series, as a reference to established canon, still the reference to CITY OF DEATH has been strangely omitted here and we are at a loss for it. Chalk it up to the Doctor's failing memory after 900 or so years.
In THE SHAKESPEARE CODE, Mr. Roberts has delivered us an episode absolutely brimming with all sorts of Shakespeare minutia to delight fans of the Bard to great ends and it serves as a wonderful tribute to the legacy of William Shakespeare.? The appearance of the Caronnites as witches speaking in rhymes directly references the witches seen in "Mac Beth", and it is unfortunate that play could not have been featured in "Code". Alternatively, the exploration of the possibility of discovering the much debated and discussed" Love's Labor's Won" was effectively substituted to great effect here and its final demise secures it's stature as continuing to be " lost". It is the possibility of it's discovery that first peaks?? the Doctor's interest to stay in 1599 a bit, and it's amusing that Martha wants to try to find a way to record it and return to the 21st century with it in hand to make a fortune on its discovery. The Doctoring quoting Shakespeare's own words was also amusing and well used. The greatest thing about DOCTOR WHO is that through the footsteps of The Doctor and his companions, we are able to vicariously walk through time and set foot in places like the GLOBE theatre in 1599. Witnessing as such Shakespeare's sophomoric taunting of the crowd is our first glimpse of an irreverent but charming portrayal of the Bard of legend as a 16th century cultural icon and rock star.? Historically, Dean Lennox Kelly's portrayal takes massive liberties with the Shakespeare of history, as does Robert's script, however there is not much statistically available on the actual personality and demeanor of England's most favorite Bard. One thing is certain, Shakespeare was a writer who was wildly popular in his own time period and would have probably used that fame to secure all of life's hedonistic pleasures abound. Dean Lennox Kelly's sharply crafted portrayal is one of the most memorable characters in recent years in Doctor Who and he leaves no strings unattached here. . His flirtation with Martha was reassuring, as Shakespeare's sexual polarization has always been in question. In fact, his reference to Martha as " The Dark Lady" lends Martha as being the inspiration to the series of sonnets Shakespeare penned referring to a mysterious dark lady who it was rumored was a lover of middle eastern or even African descent and one of Shakespeare's many muses.? It's amusing to think that Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" could well have been inspired by his boyish attempted tryst with Martha Jones!? His quoting of Sonnet 14 while gazing into her eyes could well have inspired the "Dark Lady" sonnets of yore although it would have been a very witty reference indeed if Shakespeare had quoted directly from those sonnets!
Of special note here is Shakespeare's unique ability to see through the Doctor And Martha as time travelers, a concept he could not possibly comprehend.? . The Doctor's psychic paper fails him, and he observes Martha as being puzzled by the existence of the Doctor?? and the Doctor as having eyes older than he seems. One has to wonder if his remark that he and the Doctor are a lot alike is this episodes 'Saxon'; arc reference in disguise. " Disguise " being an operative word of illusion here. We will know by season's end. If not, than William Shakespeare is seen here as much more than just a man of words.
Of course, lending a poetic waxing to the charms of Martha Jones is certainly not premature here by any means. Her chemistry with David Tennant's Doctor elevates both characters, and her wide eyed child like reactions to traveling with the Doctor have so far proven to be very enjoyable indeed. She is absolutely stunning in appearance and her spirit and personality are gleaming to the point of illuminating. The scene where her and the Doctor awkwardly share a bed goes places where Rose and the Doctor could only dream of, without even going for it. Tennant on the other hand seems far more relaxed and likeable in the role so far this season and both Tennant and Agyeman are absolutely in top form for this episode. The Doctor continues to play hard to get, and certainly still has Rose on his mind. Talking about how Rose would have "known exactly what to say" while lying in bed with Martha, probably would not be par for the course in a Casanova's amorous life!? Martha has her work cut out for her if she's going to get inside the Doctor's cagey heart, or at least one of them.
Production values are once again flawless. Charles Palmer, who has very quietly directed the opening two episodes this season seems well suited to the task and has an understated style that works very well for Doctor Who.? There was a stark believability to the invasion scenes in SMITH AND JONES, and once again we see a similar attention to detail in CODE. More paradoxal however is Gareth Roberts script for this story.?? His dialogue between the Doctor and Martha is crystal magnificence, and his writing of the Doctor's character is very strong and reminiscent of a 1970's DOCTOR WHO adventure.
Yet, the plot serves the Globe theatre as a central character in the episode and is eerily reminiscent of THE UNQUIET DEAD on many levels, especially the opening sequence in the TARDIS, which is almost stolen from that episode. Perhaps the workload of overseeing TORCHWOOD and SARAH JANES ADVENTURES allowed the opening scenes in the TARDIS to slip by the production team unnoticed but the similarities between CODE and the opening TARDIS scenes in UNDEAD never should have been allowed. The episode's end also borrows heavily from UNDEAD, again even in style, tone, and form. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is the saddest letdown of an otherwise enjoyable episode. The episode is a strange mix of successful elements from TOOTH AND CLAW as well. As such, on first viewing the episode is a bit of an uninvolved letdown and a trifle contrived. The basic plot is Sci Fi clich?, although I will admit, witches on flying brooms is something that has been long overdue in DOCTOR WHO, and the element of the "Power of Words' was perfect on the lips of William Shakespeare and his troupe, unknowingly aiding the Caronnites in their quest. The "witchcraft" elements are explained away as the work of this ancient alien race in the same way THE DAEMONS tried to explain away occult happenings as an alien science. And so unfortunately, Robert's script is contrived, and recycled, while being technically well written, and a sparkling showcase for the future of the Doctor and Martha.
The episode however will probably survive its failings as a fan favorite although, arguably falls short of "classic" status. The final scene, however with Queen Elizabeth's surprise appearance that has the Doctor running for his life, literally, is a treasure of an episode ending and further punctuates the complexity and sheer magic of the Doctor's travels. I would love to see that "future" episode with Queen Elizabeth, knowing that there are now two queens of England that now want the Doctor's hide. Sir Doctor would do best to watch his footsteps in merry old England! BottaBoomba!
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I knew we were in for a treat. That Gareth Roberts! It's a marvellous tongue in cheek love letter to Elizabethan England shot through with a meditation on female sexuality, fairy tales and the power of words. Fairly unique for 7.00pm on a Saturday night.
?From the opening gags on recycling, the 'water cooler moment' and global warming (one Roberts even dares to pick back up on right towards the end just to see if we're paying attention) through to the spit and cough Queen Elizabeth epilogue homage from 'Shakespeare In Love', the script is packed with one-liners, sight gags and physical comedy (the gurning witches - thanks Amanda and Linda - and the 'we're going the wrong way' bit).
David and Freema are really beginning to work very well here. Tennant in particular is fast becoming a riveting leading man, commanding the majority of the scenes he's in. The standout scenes must be the Doctor's bedroom tete a tete with Martha, the interrogation of Peter Streete (a lovely, twitchy performance from Matt King) and the joust with Lilith (the spectrally beautiful Christina Cole) where he uses Rose's name to give him the strength to fight back.
Freema is a revelation in her scenes with Tennant in the bedroom. For me, this is now the benchmark for the character of Martha and her feelings towards the Doctor. The crushing disappointment when he finds her lacking compared to Rose is sublimely played. He's so very cruel in that moment and it's written all over Freema's face. A lovely scene and one that I assume will now give the audience a better perception of the Martha/Doctor dynamic as the series progresses. And she's constantly seen asking the right kind of questions and thinking about the situation she finds herself in which is consistent character development.
Dean Lennox Kelly puts in a sparky performance and with the help of Roberts well researched and witty script manages to subvert our expectations of the Bard. The whole perception of him is a delicious conceit - the greatest English writer is nothing more than a clever Bernard Manning. He even starts channelling that erstwhile comedian's penchant for race relations in trying to chat up Martha.
References pile upon references - ?from the lines of his plays being dropped into conversations and showing him up for the magpie writer he might have been, to the cultural nods to Back To The Future (explaining temporal paradoxes), Harry Potter (magic isn't just for children) to the more obscure shot across the bows of academia during the 'flirting' scene. '57 academics just punched the air' indeed! The visual references echo everything from 'Shakespeare In Love' to the 'The Wizard Of Oz'.
It's a dizzying brew with assured direction from Charles Palmer. It may not be as flashy as Euros Lyn's work on 'Tooth And Claw' but it is still dynamic and colourful. The matte work and CGI by The Mill add a richness of tone to the proceedings and the work done to populate the Globe theatre was quite magnificent. The production team were pushing out the stops on this and it does show. It's a very handsome looking episode.
Woven through all of this fantastic wordsmithery is an interesting look at female sexuality, particularly in relation to its opposing/complimentary male counterpart. The three witches could clearly be seen as the the 'maiden, mother, whore' symbolic trinity using their wiles to re-fertilise a womb (male utterances to reactivate the crystal and open the portal).
This blind force of nature wedded to techno-magic is set in opposition to two men who lack or have lost an element of their feminine nature. Shakespeare is suffering from the death of a child, a symbolic loss of feminine/masculine creation and the Doctor has lost Rose, a woman he clearly loved and an essential part of his humanisation over the last two series. Both men must convert this destructive female power in order to retain their own humanity and creativity. It's again odd that Queen Liz marches in at the end and claims the Doctor as her sworn enemy - ?what is it with the Doctor and female monarchy?
There's also a thread running through this, often reflecting this battle of the sexes as it were, to do with the fine line between madness and genius. Shakespeare was nearly driven mad by the loss of his child but overcomes this through the act of writing, the Doctor can tip too far into darkness without the balancing aspect of Rose, Donna or, one would hope, Martha. And an architect is driven mad by witches demanding he builds a theatre to their specific dimensions. It's a fine line indeed.
The power of words and their meaning and double meanings, names as weapons and emblems of salvation are also symbolic of making the unconscious conscious and brought under rational control - ?hence the banishing of the Carrionite and the 'spell' to close the portal are interventions in dampening rampant female power. And let's not forget the power of names wherein Lilith is known symbolically as the primitive feminine principle, one that was rejected and repressed. She's often personified as the enemy of family life and children.
All this is subtly shadowing the riot of activity in the story and gives meaning to what might appear to be on the surface as a bit of jolly period flippancy and provides the driving force of the story. Clever man, Roberts!
Smashing. You can have a laugh, check off the cliches and still find enough substance to think about.
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It is hard to believe that in twenty-eight years of time-travelling television the Doctor and the Bard have never once crossed paths. Okay, so we saw a brief clip of Hugh Walters' Shakespeare way back in the 1965 six-parter "The Chase", but even then he didn't actually meet the Doctor. Other than that one fleeting glimpse, Shakespeare's appearances in Doctor Who have been strictly limited to the non-televised adventures.
"Shut yer big fat mouths!"
Gareth Roberts' script has revitalised Shakespeare for the twenty-first century. Whilst little is known about the man himself, most people have a pretty definite picture in their heads of a bald and austere Elizabethan playwright. Gareth Roberts' script and Dean Lennox Kelly's performance combine to create Shakespeare the celebrity. Shakespeare the rock star. Cool Shakespeare.
His attitude towards the Doctor and Martha is fascinating. I love the mutual respect that the Doctor and Bard seem to share, and I love the idea that the Doctor supplied him with half of his best quotes! What I found the most impressive though, was how Shakespeare almost instantly gets the measure of the Doctor and Martha. He can see that he is an alien and that she is from the future. He can see through the psychic paper. He is, as they say, a genius.
"57 academics just punched the air!"
It's also nice that Shakespeare doesn't automatically gravitate towards Martha. Obviously he's attracted to this "Queen of Afric", but he's equally enchanted with the Doctor. Lovely little lines like the one above demonstrate that, like with all good historical episodes, the writer has really done his homework and squeezed in a little bit of historical truth / scandal / rumour which, along with the pungent smell described by Martha, only adds to the sense of historical realism. Similarly, the loss of Shakespeare's son has the same effect, as well as offering an explanation for the playwright's past (and possible future?) madness.
And of course, it's always brilliant to see the Doctor messing about with our own history. Feeding Shakespeare lines. Giving him his trademark neck brace. Even giving him the idea for the name of a character in The Tempest. The Doctor even wipes a tear from his eye as Shakespeare recites his "Sonnet 18" for Martha.
"Upon this night the work is done, a muse to pen Love's Labour's Won."
The legend of "Love's Labour's Won" was definitely the perfect place to start for a Shakespeare episode. At first, I thought the episode's title "The Shakespeare Code" was purely homage to Dan Brown's blockbuster novel, but it turns out that it does actually fit the story like a glove. This episode is about a "different sort of science" ? a science founded on wordplay, names and codes.
But every Doctor Who story needs a villain and ? again quite incredibly ? in twenty-eight years of television the Doctor has never met a good ol' fashioned Witch. And here we are treated to just that ? broomstick; warts; and magic spells. Doomfinger. Bloodtide. Lilith. The fa?ade of beauty. It's all textbook stuff, executed magnificently by Gareth Roberts with his customary wit and poise.
"Ooh? I hate starting from scratch."
Above all else though, "The Shakespeare Code" is about Martha's first voyage in the TARDIS. The questions that she asks; the way that she reacts; it's all very different to how Rose reacted to being transported back in time in "The Unquiet Dead". Martha's first thoughts aren't about how beautiful the past is ? they're about the Grandfather Paradox. About slavery.
I'm also glad that Roberts didn't go overboard on the exposition. Whilst a certain amount of explaining had to be done for the sake of realism, as an audience now even the newest fans are au fait with all the ins and outs of everything from the psychic paper to the sonic screwdriver. However, each and every explanation that is given is handled masterfully by Roberts ? I have never heard the whole 'time is in flux' lecture explained as succinctly as it is here. Back To The Future indeed?
"Now that's one form of magic that is definitely not going to work on me."
And as for the 'soapy stuff' as my Dad calls it ? once again, full marks have to be given to all involved. Writer. Actors. Directors. The lot.
The bedroom scene is a thing of beauty. It sums up the Doctor so very well; it even sums up Martha's unrequited feelings and growing sense of rejection. "We'll manage, c'mon. You gonna stand there all night?" says the Doctor, lying in bed. When she joins eventually him, he then rolls onto his side to look her straight in the eye. He says out loud that he can't see what's staring him straight in the face. But he doesn't mean the obvious. He isn't even in the room with her. He's off on a beach in a parallel universe.
He calls her a 'novice' and tells her that she's going home. And I'm glad. As much as I like Martha, for the Doctor to suddenly turn up in Series Three and fall head over heels for 'the new girl' would have not only been insulting to Rose, but it would have negated the entire new series to date. The Doctor loved Rose, blatantly. But he doesn't feel so strongly about all his companions, and that is part of the reason why the whole Rose saga was so moving. She was the exception, not the rule. And that's what Martha is beginning to learn in this series.
The finale is absolute spectacular. The C.G.I. of not only the Carrionites but of the Globe and of the city is absolutely outstanding. I'm sure that nearly every kid watching loved the whole "Expelliamus!" bit too; the culmination of an episode's worth of (quite appropriate) Harry Potter references. I also enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek ending featuring Elizabeth I ? it's wonderful when the show incorporates the odd time paradox like that. It's not done enough in my opinion.
In all, "The Shakespeare Code" is another triumph. I'm getting sick of praising the new series so much, but it is becoming increasingly hard to pick fault with. David Tennant in the role he was born to play. Freema Agyeman with another flawless performance. Dean Lennox Kelly as the definitive Shakespeare.
This time last year, I was thinking "the second series won't be as good as the first". And, although I probably won't be able to say so objectively for another ten years or so, I reckon that it was just as good, if not better. And a couple of weeks ago I was thinking "the third series won't be as good as the second," but here I am, two weeks in, lauding it as the greatest series yet. On balance, it's certainly had the strongest start of the three seasons.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Even in 1599, Londoners enjoyed nothing more than running and screaming; and back then it wasn't an unusual sight to see a major landmark light up like a Christmas tree and start spurting pyrotechnics either.? Nice to know nothing ever really changes.
It's almost a clich? now that the BBC do historical better than futuristic, and The Shakespeare Code was living proof of that.? Perhaps the most visually impressive (and flawless) Who to date, this low budget TV drama easily out-gunned major Hollywood blockbusters of the 80s and early 90s in the spectacle stakes.? Compare this with the equally spectacular ? but markedly less convincing ? New New York of the 'next time' trailer.
Despite my reservations about the pattern of the series following an almost identical path to last year, this still must rank as one of the best ever Doctor Who stories ? certainly one of the best two or three of the new series.
All right, let's start with the bad things.? I didn't like the Harry Potter references, they felt like a bit of a sop.? Shakespeare seemed to have a Liverpool accent for some odd reason; it would have felt more authentic if the character had spoken with his actual West Midlands accent.? And the witches were a bit silly, though this was forgivable as the episode was showing us the original of the archetype ? the witch blueprint that we know and love turns out to be based on an alien race.
The writer was clearly having a ball with the Shakespeare timeline, and especially giving us glimpses of the legendary lost play, 'Love's Labours Found'.? I don't know much about Shakey, but I think it must have been a similar feeling for Gareth Roberts as it would be for me to be given the chance to write an episode in which we see The Beatles recording their great lost album (now there's an idea for next year's inevitable Story 2 historical!).? Mr Roberts clearly relished putting words into the great man's mouth and staging the fictitious play.
As with Smith And Jones, the writers have laid off the heart-strings tugging of last year, so while it perhaps didn't have the emotional climax of some recent episodes, it did generally seem more fun and light-hearted ? instead we see that Elizabeth I is the Doctor's deadly enemy from a future adventure (he obviously makes a habit of annoying queens - he's not going to be getting any Christmas cards from Victoria any time soon either), a gag which I don't believe has ever cropped up in Doctor Who before, and Tennant's delighted reaction was a treat.
Rose was a nice enough lass, but I fail to see quite why her memory has such a hold over the Doctor ? I'm undecided as yet how interesting or enjoyable that particular thread is, but we shall see.
All in all, this is much better than I had expected it to be, and combined with Smith And Jones means that Season 3 is shaping up to be the strongest of the new series yet.
And no sonic screwdriver!!!!
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
It says something for a series when the not best of episodes are still bloody good telly. The kids will have loved the Witches, but old fans will hate it.
As the Doctor takes Martha Jones on a trip in the TARDIS to say thank you for helping him expose the Plasmavore in last week's opening episode of Series Three, they land in London 1599, where the eponymous Shakespeare is revered for his plays - and portrayed here as something approaching a rock star. This is a man who would have never have had to resort to appearing on Celebrity Big Brother had he been around nowadays.
Of course, not alot is known of the Bard as a person, so far as his personality goes, artistic license is given free reign. Here, the production team have opted to relieve a generation of school kids from English GCSE boredom and given him a new twist - he's a flirt, a genius, sexy, a celebrity and bloody likeable too. Dean Lennox Kelly plays him so convincingly that I don't think I could think of Shakespeare in any other way again. I loved the hints to his supposed bisexuality too.
In New Who, there's something for everyone - for the kids, the monsters and the scary bits, for the adults, the allusions to sex that will pass over their offsprings heads. The Shakespeare Code has plenty of both, from the surprisingly frank pre-credit opener to the Master of the Revels drowning on dry land. And - for adults at least - ?therein lies the problem with this weeks episode. It's New Series by numbers with none of the flair of the best of the bunch over the past two and a little bit years. The writing for the Doctor - apart from the scene in the bed - seemed almost flat, which is a cardinal sin, and despite Martha's wonderful glee at being in the past, and despite the brilliant set pieces of the streets and the Globe, it all seemed rather... ho-hum.
The Carrionites - witches by any other name - are a sure fire way of scaring kids. They're a staple of modern fiction and it's about time they were used. To me, though, their prosthetics looked a little too latex and their conviction a little too cardboard. I found I didn't really care about their evil plan and that the use of marrionettes could have been played upon a hell of a lot more effectively than it was.
What the Shakespeare Code lacks is spookiness to draw in the adults and keep them entertained as well as the younger generation. It's pure comic book Doctor Who, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it irritated me with all the missed opportunities and the too often repeated joke of giving Shakey good lines for his plays. Maybe I'd built myself up for Gareth Roberts' debut a little too much.
So, not the best of episodes then. The old fans will hate it, but the kids will love it. And that's ultimately what counts. Bloody good telly, but must try harder.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Mmmm. Not totally sure what to say about this episode. I'll tackle the good points first: a fairly convincing recreation of Elizabethan London, quite reminiscent of the slightly later setting?of The Visitation, though by no means any more impressive (in fact, I'd say, the latter story's depiction of Restoration London still has the edge in atmosphere); the concept of an alien race who use words like a science (ie, 'magic') is quite unusual, albeit rather absurd; the scene with the deranged architect in Bedlam was nicely disturbing; the necessarily un-pc but authentic references to Martha's incongruous skin colour (forgot to say last review that I am very pleased that we finally have a black companion) was well done;?the leader of the?Carrionites (I thought it was Carrier Knights)?played it well; the period-spiced incidental music; the Doctor was refreshingly alien and detached in the bed scene.
The bad/less good points: the bed scene being there in the first place - utterly inappropriate and irrelevant; the frankly rather silly, hackneyed interpretations of cackling, hook-nosed witches and?their rather jarring and badly composed rhyming speech; the hit-and-miss, rather prattish?depiction of Shakespeare, not as bad as I anticipated, but very much from the post-modern 'laddish' school of historical?interpretation currently in vogue in modern drama (cue Ray Winston's ludicrous cockney portrayal of Henry VIII a few years back); the vapid flirtations between Shakespeare and Martha; the constant and rather clumsy allusions to various famous Shakespearian lines put oh-so-unsubtly into his mouth by the Doctor; the absolutely fatuous allusions to Harry Potter throughout ('Good old JK'), and as always, uttered even more painfully from the Timelord's own mouth rather than from that of his companion (this is simply sloppy and ill-thought-out scripting); token but growingly typical sexual innuendos; the 2,000 mph cosmic explanations hurtled out by the Doctor in one of his typical fits of sudden illumination; the continual references to Shakespeare's 'genius'; and, well, the entire plot... which was frankly utter bunkum from start to finish.
Apart from the odd interesting idea here and there, The Shakespeare Code is still a disappointing mish-mash of 'almost good'?and 'Doctor Who for idiots'. Sadly, chiefly the latter in my view. To have to keep throwing in continual contemporary mainstream cultural allusions - particularly to the tiresome banality of Harry Potter - in order to 'draw in the audience' is a) patronising to most of us watching and b) a sign of scriptural insecurity, in that obviously the writer doesn't have enough confidence in the strength of his own piece of work to let it just stand alone and tell its own story. Stylistically this episode is so blatantly similar to the staid triteness of the Potter films that there is no need at all to bring this similarity into the script itself. That's almost like saying 'Look we know we're just shamelessly ripping your stuff off Miss Rowling, but at least we're flagging it up!'
Then of course there is the title and its obvious pun on the equally tiresome legacy of the Da Vinci Code. Who bets RTD said to Gareth Roberts: write whatever you want as long as it includes Shakespeare, Harry Potter references, Cackling Witches, a zeitgeist-oriented title and a pointless appearance from Elizabeth I at the end!? Not much left for Roberts to do then. Except just shove a shock-haired Doctor and thoroughly bland companion in.
Martha then? Haven't much to say on her at all really. I find her completely bland and uninteresting, and frankly almost exactly the same as Rose, except with a stethescope to her name. What's new? Hardly Liz Shaw is she?
As for the complete arrogance of attempting to invent a lost Shakespeare play, Love's Labour's Won, well... I suppose it's better than Hamlet II or?Macbeth - The Return (and?this time?he means business).
One more thing: I think we've all forgotten that this isn't even the first appearance of Shakespeare in the series. Remember The Chase? Mmmm. Dean Lennox-Kelly hardly resembles that previous depiction of the Bard does he? Bit of a cock up there then.
This episode is certainly a big leap forward from the quite appallingly banal season opener, but is still far far away from not only the majority of the classic series, but also from many previous peak episodes of the last two years (such as Unquiet Dead, Dalek and Impossible Planet).
Next week looks like an equal waste of video tape but I remain stubbornly optimistic as some later episodes, particularly the tantalising Human Nature and its scarecrows running amok, look and sound much more like the kind of thing we should expect from paying such an exorbitant licence fee.
Here's hoping. 4/10
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Poor Gareth Roberts. He had a lot to live up to for his first full 'proper telly' Doctor Who. But then again it's entirely his fault for writing such wonderful novels in the first place. The silly man.
Roberts' enthusiasm for his material shines through. The dialogue in this story is a healthy mix of Douglas Adams and the Bard himself. Literary references abound, and such is the verve with which they're employed you find yourself wanting to fire up Google (or a reference book if you're old fashioned) for the ones you didn't get, before firing it up again to look for pictures of Christina Cole in Hex.
However it just didn't...flow as well as you'd have hoped. The dialogue flowed freely, the actual plot did not. Your enjoyment was either spoiled or enhanced by this. In my case I felt the plot was a bit too lightweight to sustain all the action that was taking place. There is also the argument that it is scientific gibberish. Here however I will defend Roberts to the hilt (wherever that may be, I hope it's a pub in Cardiff) here, as his idea is a wonderful one. The story is about wordplay, the power they can have, all tied in with the fact that it's bloody Shakespeare prancing about over there, and the man's a genius (Romeo and Juliet notwithstanding), so the idea of a system of words being used in the same way as numbers in the field of science ? it's up there with the Bistromathic Drive as a bonkers yet brilliant idea. It just seems right, and anyone who is in love with ideas will find much to enjoy in this episode. Similarly, a knowledge of Shakespeare is helpful, but the script sticks to his most famous quotations in a running gag that unfortunately runs out of steam halfway through the story (even with variations on the theme it feels tired around about the half hour mark). The contemporary (well, in Back to the Future's case contemporary-ish) references seemed to grate for some people, but the 'Expelliarmus!' moment was, besides being very funny, a nice way to give Martha some involvement towards the end.
Fortunately Roberts has more than enough one liners to spread around the cast, but donates most of them to David Tennant, as if he needed them. Craziness reigned in there is almost nothing to dislike about his Doctor, give or take a few lines about Rose which will make you sigh ? whether this is a good thing or nor depends on your opinion of Rose. Personally I found the scene where the Doctor and Martha were in bed together to be the kind of Rose reference which grates, as it seems at the expense of Martha, whereas the idea that the thought of Rose gives the Doctor a reason to do what he does is not at the expense of anyone and seems more in character. But then again maybe fandom would like to see Martha's Mum slap the Doctor as well? Let up a magenta flare at midnight on Wednesday if you agree. If anyone asks, just scream 'Gay agenda' at them til they go away.
Meanwhile, Martha does not get too much too do in this episode. She seems sidelined to an almost Jo Grant-esque role of saying the right thing at the right time and prodding the Doctor in the right direction. Freema does well with what she's given and reinforces the convictions most fans found in Smith and Jones but the episode really belongs to Tennant, who just barnstorms through everything with a mix of all the qualities people have enjoyed in the most recent Doctors.
Dean Lennox Kelly did alright. Just sort of...alright. He didn't really do anything for me as he seemed slightly too laid back for most of the episode. To be honest any hint at Shakespeare's genius was given through the script rather than his performance. He didn't do badly, he just didn't seem to raise his game as we'd like him to until the finale, which again only sort of worked. The idea may be good, but good ideas are notoriously hard to realise. Anyone who accuses the show of dumbing down and hiding behind flashy visuals (oh by the way, someone give Charles Palmer something nice out of the Argos catalogue. Anything he wants really, I'll chip in a fiver) should stop and consider the fact that the resolution, instead of simply being a fancy CG explosion, consisted of the man regarded as the greatest playwright that Britain has ever produced ?using his skills in that field to ward off an alien invasion. It's the most complex bit of an otherwise utterly simple plot.
Once you've got your head round the ideas you then might think that Roberts has either been extremely clever or extremely lucky in coming up with such a concept (who's betting on the former?). It's a resolution that's been used in Doctor Who before, notably in The Daemons when the Doctor wards off Bok. Speaking of weird looking superstitious creatures, weren't the witches a bit scary for the kids? Christina Cole, mad cackling aside, was a damn fine villain. In a longer story or a novel her character could've been fleshed out further, but she did well with a role that could've fallen into clich?, although that almost seemed the intention. The other two witches, while played well enough for the mad ol' crone role, did have slightly static faces that looked like half finished Muppet masks from The Muppet Christmas Carol. And the cackling got on people's tits, quite frankly.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Well, I was wrong...
? after that horrendous Dickensian howler in The Unquiet Dead, I would've bet money on Shakespeare saying "What the Chaucer?" upon seeing the ghosties in this episode!
Mind you, that was about the only thing which they didn't do, this being a production team which absolutely does not do things by halves! Not only does the Doctor give Shakespeare some of his best lines, he gives him one of Dylan Thomas' as well, and unwittingly provides him with the 'Dark Lady' (literally ? oo-er!) who would inspire so many sonnets! All in 45 minutes of comedy-drama! I'm amazed they had time to fit in a coven of witches (three, as in Macbeth, did you notice? Doomfinger! Bloodtide! And, um, Lilith, sexily played by Christina Cole.)
There was a fair bit riding on this, in a way. Just as The End of the World was the make-or-break episode for Series One, The Shakespeare Code would decide for us whether Series Three maintained its very strong start or came crashing back down to earth. I wouldn't really like to say whether it was better or worse than Smith and Jones ? suffice to say that it was very different, and good. The dialogue had all the lurid richness that you would expect from a writer trying to cram the Elizabethan era into 45 minutes (oh, what a shame the episodes aren't longer), and although in the past I've accused the special effects of gaudy unrealism, this time round they were fine, with some super shots of 16th century London. One especially nice one had the tiny figures of the Doctor and Martha running through it in one corner, and it, like so much else these days, was too easy to miss. TV Doctor Who is still telling stories that are visually 'too broad and deep for the small screen', but this time actually with appropriate SFX. We ought to be watching this in cinemas.
Writer Gareth Roberts was, of course, the author of two astonishing 4th Doctor novels in the 1990s, The Romance of Crime and The English Way of Death, both of which are easily up there with the soon-to-be-televised Human Nature as contenders for 'best Dr Who novel', and it may be just for this reason that I felt that some (not all) of his scripted lines recalled Tom Baker's Doctor. "Night-night, Shakespeare" in particular was a line that would have suited Tom to a tee, and it was immediately noticeable that DT seemed a bit uncomfortable with it ? it must've been hard to deliver while at the same time maintaining an appropriate air of dark, mysterious, Time Lord-y gravitas!
In fact, the whole script felt at odds with the Tenth Doctor's character as established so far in the series; it requires him to be enthusiastic and enchanted practically all of the time in a way to which this anguished, fiery incarnation is not very well suited, but which Tom Baker would have got on with like a house on fire. David Tennant's performance carried it through with flying colours though, and in fact the Doctor's obvious happiness was extremely charming, and served to make the Rose references still more jarring. I really wish they would forget about her, at least for a while. I know the idea is that she made such an enormous impact on him that he's still mourning her loss, but it's getting a bit repetitive and maudlin now. Poor Martha. (more of her later ? much more!)
To return to the point, a scene that deserves special praise is the fabulous ending! Queen Elizabeth enters with the immortal line "Doctor! My sworn enemy!" and the Doctor and Martha are forced to make a comedic flying exit for reasons they don't even know. Tennant plays it with an infectious smile on his face, and the whole thing is so marvellously uplifting and somehow typical of Doctor Who, from the Doctor's looking forward to having that adventure in future to the point when arrows begin thudding into the TARDIS, that I was quite delighted! There, I thought to myself, is the Gareth Roberts I know!
Roberts had a lot to live up to, as well, having written several highly perceptive articles about how to write Doctor Who stories and how to use the TARDIS in 'Doctor Who Magazine' ? back in the days when I still read it, before the new series sycophancy became too sickly to endure ? even going so far as to lay down ground rules about it, which I was looking through shortly before the episode. Well, he wasn't obviously following those rules. But it was fine, because what he produced was good anyway. Although a past master of the printed word, and an unparalleled imitator of the Fourth Doctor's era in the spacious confines of the novel, he had no previous form on television that I had seen, so I was quite wary going into this, too. In a way, though, I think this could become one of the most enduring episodes of the new series so far.
As for the plot, I'm not quite sure, looking back, what the pre-credits sequence had to do with anything, and while the resolution to the story was a fabulous concept requiring the genius of Shakespeare, aided by the genius of the Doctor and the more questionable geniuses of Martha and J.K. Rowling, his key speech was rather lost in a welter of special effects and noise. I'll have to go back and watch it again. The little details were where the really winning stuff was ? Martha's own tiny imprint on history, in influencing the behaviour of theatre crowds; the inclusion of Mr Kempe as a speaking part in Shakespeare's company (which I didn't even notice till the ending credits); and of course Martha Jones ending up as the Dark Lady.
It begs the question ? why couldn't we have one more little detail for those in the know: a brief reference to all those times in the past that the Doctor has referred to being well acquainted with the Bard? Take 'City of Death', for instance, where we learn that the Doctor actually wrote the first draft of Hamlet ? taking dictation, obviously. For an ultra-fan like me the story almost seemed to lack something, a certain natural outgrowth, for not acknowledging the Doctor's past meetings with Shakespeare (though this was quite clearly their first meeting chronologically). Roberts also thankfully omitted any reference to his previous Shakespearian romp, the Ninth Doctor comic strip, A Groatsworth of Wit, although the monsters were very similar.
That strip treated Shakespeare rather differently to how he came across here, and rather less well than The Shakespeare Code ? so that was one worry I initially had scotched. Although in both Shakespeare was something of a randy opportunist where love was at stake, and in both the Doctor's companion became the object of his affections, Dean Lennox Kelly, as Shakespeare, conveyed a certain likeability that a drawing could not! Which may sound like a rather backhanded compliment to give an actor, but I assure you it was meant nicely! And in contrast to the Ninth Doctor disrespectfully throwing Mr S. aside like a rag doll once things got heavy in the strip, David Tennant's Tenth Doctor treats him with near-constant hero-worship, only losing his cool briefly when the play goes ahead after he explicitly commanded otherwise. DT shouldn't have played the Doctor's lines during that bit with such vitriol, for my money. In the context of the episode I feel it might've worked better as a bit more wry and fatalistic ? less of the Idiot's Lantern-esque "I'm not listening!" treatment, which is his one deficiency as an actor. He then instantly reverted to enthusiastic appreciation, so the effect is unsatisfying.
Martha. She ought to get the trip of a lifetime here, but from the word go nearly gets a bucket of something unmentionable thrown over her, and then has to put up with the Doctor's almost wilful insensitivity in bringing up Rose again as they lie squashed intimately together on a bed. (We're back to the acceptable face of a 'sexual Doctor' here, by the way ? he's a sex symbol and shares a bed with Martha, but there's no flirting going on and he tells Lilith that sensuality is one way she could never snare him.) The Doctor being totally oblivious to normal human feeling is nothing new of course, but I mean to say ? poor girl! She recovered from it very well, I thought, and it was nice to see her enjoying herself for a while on a trip through time, which is something companions get surprisingly little time to do quite often.
I like Martha more and more, despite her rough edges ? namely, giving Shakespeare inexplicably short shrift over his un-PC epithets at their first meeting. She's in Elizabethan England ('the past is a foreign country ? they do things differently there') so you'd have thought she could've let it go. And all that stuff about how much better the 'land' that she comes from is than the one she finds herself in, where women can't do what they want, is just very slightly preachy.
The Doctor, happily, doesn't really seem to care about what Shakespeare says to her. I never forgave the Ninth Doctor for his cheap crack about the Deep South in The End of the World, and it's nice to see that the Tenth Doctor can sometimes be a little more tolerant of people's human and cultural failings, as seen from his lonely pinnacle. He gets all outraged with the warden at Bedlam, but that's a far more black-and-white situation: although there's no explicit confirmation that the warden enjoys whipping his poor charges, and to be fair to him somebody presumably has to do that job, there's no real compassion on show and the Doctor perhaps perceives something truly nasty about the guy ? he's better at seeing into the soul of a person than most.
Quite a long and rather more ruminative review than usual, but you'd be pretty damn disappointed if a script with William Shakespeare as principal guest wasn't thought-provoking, wouldn't you? I would. But my parents were soliloquising like crazy from the Shakespearian canon soon after the credits rolled, so Mr Gareth Roberts can't be said to have failed on that score!
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
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!
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
A pseudo-historical comedy featuring William Shakespeare? No, it isn't Nev Fountain's Big Finish audio 'The Kingmaker', it's Gareth Roberts' first television script for Doctor Who, and in terms of what to expect it holds no surprises for anyone familiar with his previous work. Which means that it doesn't break new ground, but that it is witty, affectionate, and hugely entertaining.
Shakespeare has now, but my reckoning, met the Doctor on at least four occasions in various different media, so from my point of view including the Bard is old hat. The period setting also feels like Doctor Who-by-numbers, and magic as a different kind of science has been done on numerous occasions in the novels, especially the Virgin New Adventures. So in many ways, 'The Shakespeare Code' has a cosily familiar, almost formulaic feel in the much the same way that Mark Gatiss' 'The Unquiet Dead' did, but like 'The Unquiet Dead' it's no less entertaining for that fact. It is also more overtly a "comedy" episode than anything we've seen thus far in the series since it returned, and it's worth noting that although all the Shakespeare quotes batted around between the Doctor and Will are an obvious route to take, such moments are nevertheless genuinely amusing and don't rely on flatulence and knob gags. And 'The Shakespeare Code' did amuse me greatly: compared to the odd shoe scene in the otherwise very good 'Smith and Jones', the heart-restarting scene here feels far less intrusive given the tone of the piece and made me chortle, as did the "we're going the wrong way" moment. The plot is pure Harry Potter, an obvious way to appeal to the kids, but Doctor Who has always borrowed heavily from other sources and as in the past, as here, rarely bothers to pretend otherwise, so here we get Martha contributing the words that banish the Carrionites with a spell from J. K. Rowling. I also find it easier to cope with pop culture references in a story that also plays spot the Shakespeare quote and throws in some Dylan Thomas, than I have done in previous episodes when presented with Britney bloody Spears.?
Shakespeare himself works rather well, Roberts doing what he did in 'The Plotters' and making a well-known historical figure down-to-Earth and likeable and providing comic relief. On the one hand he's an egotistical flirt, but he's also genuinely intelligent, deducing of the Doctor, "You're from another world like the Carrionites and Martha is from the future. It's not hard to work out." He's also genuinely delighted that the Doctor is clearly more knowledgeable than him, creating the refreshing and unusual impression that in Robert's hands he's not egotistical per se; he's just not falsely modest. ?
Having previously written for the Tenth Doctor in 'I Am a Dalek', Roberts again brings out the best in the character, without making him the pompous ultimatum-deliverer of certain Davies scripts. It also helps that Tennant continues to exercise restraint, and the combination is a Doctor who feels more "Doctorish" than in numerous episodes from the previous season, especially when he bitingly tells the Bedlam warden "I think it helps if you don't whip them. Now get out!", a moment of contemptuous anger delivered in passing that isn't overemphasised by script or performance. And he positively bristles with excitement and curiosity during the bizarre ending, as an enraged Queen Elizabeth sets her guards on him in punishment for something he hasn't yet done and he and Martha leg it back to the TARDIS. The only moment that disappoints is when the Carrionite uses the name Rose, and Tennant snarls out the line, "That name keeps me fighting", which is deeply irritating and has probably been inserted by Davies, who really needs to move on: the Doctor is more important than the companion whatever he might like to think.?
Speaking of which, Martha continues to prove likeable, asking intelligent questions about time travel. In a series that has been overly cluttered with pop culture references, the Doctor neatly explaining to Martha what would happen if her history changed by referring her to Back to the Future is perfectly sensible, and an ingenious narrative shortcut for Roberts. Perhaps inevitably, she ends up flirting with the Doctor (who happily seems utterly oblivious) when they end up sharing a bed, but she also deals smoothly with Shakespeare's advances. It is worth noting though that she is out of her depth: she seems to have the average sort of knowledge about Shakespeare's works that the well educated tend to pick up even if they've never read any of his stuff outside of the classroom, and this and the fact that she's confronted by witchcraft mean that she's less useful than in 'Smith and Jones', forced to defer to the Doctor's superior knowledge at every single turn. This needs watching: after a promising start, I'd hate for her to degenerate into a screaming accessory. Interestingly, Roberts also takes the sensible option of addressing the issue of her race rather than glossing over it, but not making an issue of it here, with Shakespeare simply taken with what he obviously sees as her "exotic beauty". It will be interesting to see however if the writers dare to take Martha to periods in history where it will be an issue, and how they'll handle the subject.?
There's nothing groundbreaking in 'The Shakespeare Code', but it is enormous fun. Actor Dean Lennox Kelly is very good as Shakespeare, which was by no means clear from the trailer at the end of 'Smith and Jones', and the period is evoked with the same sort of bawdy colour that characterises Shakespeare in Love, with buxom wenches and lewd comments aplenty. The witchcraft is by no means novel, but for all the Doctor's technobabble about magic being another type of science, it nevertheless gives the episode a pleasingly distinctive feel. Overall, for me at least, it's just a really enjoyable episode, and that is not a thing to be underrated. That's two good episodes in a row: it'll never last?
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
It's hard to pinpoint why The Shakespeare Code never really came alive for me. It had so many of the ingredients that go into making a great episode ? an excellent cast, an interesting story set-up, superb special effects and ambitious location shooting. It was an episode I had been especially looking forward to as I have enjoyed much of Gareth Roberts's previous work as well as the previous 'celebrity historical' episodes of the new series. But unfortunately I just found the spark to be missing this week. I kept waiting for the episode to really come to life, and it never did.
Which is a shame, because as I said, there was much here to like. Freema Agyeman continues to impress, although she had a great deal less to do this week, which perhaps might have something to do with the episode's lack of dynamism. David Tennant continues to grow wonderfully into the role of the Doctor, conveying more authority than he did in series two and doing a good job of getting across some of the wonder and mystery of the character here. And Dean Lennox Kelly, an intriguing choice as Shakespeare for those of us more familiar with his laddish role as Kev in Shameless, was excellent as the Bard. There was good support as well from the two actors playing Shakespeare's colleagues, and the performance standards as a whole cannot be faulted.?
Hmmmm, it feels as if I'm searching around for things I didn't like, and in a way I am as it is a genuine puzzle to me as to why I felt this episode simply didn't get going. The pre-titles sequence, I will admit, I found to be a little on the over-camp side, with its cackling witches ? and was it ever established just why exactly they needed to rip that chap to pieces in the first place? A poor pre-titles sequence doesn't necessarily sink a story, though. This time last year I found the kung-fu monks in Tooth and Claw a bit of an embarrassment, but after the opening titles that episode was a cracker from end to end.?
Which this wasn't. Perhaps it was the little things that got on my nerves and stopped me from simply sitting back and enjoying the story. For example, I got a bit ticked off at the constant flow of Shakespearean lines from the Doctor, followed by Shakespeare's replies of "I'll have that!" Once or twice, yes, but so many instances and it seemed like over-egging the pudding a little. Perhaps it's because Roberts is such a fan of Shakespeare and couldn't resist it ? certainly his appreciation of the famous playwright serves him well elsewhere in the episode, though. Shakespeare standing up against the Carrionites and using his lyrical talents to reverse their science works well, and it was also nice to find someone perceptive enough to be able to see through the psychic paper for a change. His realisation of just where exactly the Doctor and Martha were from was also good, and his observations did add more of an air of mystery to the Doctor, which is always welcome. Why indeed this constant performance? The Carrionites noticed it too, seeing no has no name in the same way Reinette did last year. I love those sorts of moments.?
Speaking of the Carrionites, perhaps it was them that I didn't take to? I could certainly have done without the two cackling old crones, but I imagine that they probably went down well with the children at home. Christina Cole's turn as their leader, Lilith, was a good performance though, walking just the right line between seductive villainess and your more bog standard evil alien adversary trapped on Earth. I was relieved that the witchcraft element turned out to have an alien explanation, as Doctor Who always works well ? like Quatermass and the Pit before it, the grandfather of this sort of thing ? when supplying a scientific, if not necessarily earthly, explanation for seemingly supernatural events.?
"Your effect is special indeed," is, as Martha Jones herself points out, one of the weaker lines that Roberts gives Shakespeare in the episode, but it is fitting when discussing the work of the special effects teams on Doctor Who and the effort that must have gone into The Shakespeare Code. The overhead shots of the streets of London as the Globe Theatre is enveloped by demons are stunning, as are the less obvious but still impressive crowd shots in the theatre early on, built up piece-by-piece from little clumps of fifty extras. It's amazing what moving from place to place on a green screen and swapping hats and cloaks can achieve! The practical effects seen during the episode were also of a high standard ? I particularly liked the death by drowning, a gruesomely unpleasant scene that will doubtless have caused a few nightmares and had a few concerned parents ringing in to complain about the irresponsibility of the BBC. Lovely stuff!?
Charles Palmer also deserves praise for his direction ? a second top-notch episode in a row from him in directorial terms, and I am pleased that we will be seeing more of his work later in the season. Co-ordinating all of the effects, costume and design efforts that must go into a period episode can be no easy task, and having to de-camp to London to shoot scenes at the actual Globe Theatre reconstruction must have been a huge effort too, but it was all worth it as Palmer manages to get a real gloss on screen. Perhaps it's due to him too that we have had such a strong start to the series from Tennant and a great debut couple of performances from Agyeman ? I hope the standard is maintained next week, with another director new to the series at the helm.?
So far, so good. All of it good. There are nitpicks and scenes I didn't like and lines that I found irritating rather than amusing, but none of this explains why at the end of the episode I felt underwhelmed by what I had just seen. Perhaps it's due to expectations ? last week I wasn't expecting quite so much after the slightly disappointing New Earth last year, but I really enjoyed Smith and Jones. With this episode, I had high expectations of a celebrity historical and a Gareth Roberts script, and I suppose I just set those expectations a little too high and thought we might be in the for the best episode ever. It's not, but it's also a long way away from being poor.?
It also had, it must be said, one of the best little gags there's been in the new series yet, when Queen Elizabeth arrives and recognises her mortal enemy, the Doctor. It's rare for the series to present us with such timeline-crossing moments, which is a shame really when you consider the potential there is in that sort of thing, but I suppose it might be a tad confusing for a general audience on a Saturday evening. Still, it worked brilliantly as a joke to close the episode on, and doubtless one of these decades Big Finish will be providing us with a story explaining exactly how the Tenth Doctor comes (or came, depending on how you look at it!) to incur the wrath of the famous monarch.?
When it comes down to it, I suppose I have to regard The Shakespeare Code as something of a personal lesson to myself ? namely, not to allow my expectations of an episode I am particularly looking forward to to go over the top, otherwise I'll end up being far less impressed by it than I otherwise might be. This was, on the whole, a generally entertaining instalment in what looks like shaping up to be a very good third series.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
Season three continues apace with this witty and stylish historical adventure. For some reason I am getting the impression that this is going to be the best season yet, there really isn't one episode that I am not looking forward to and if this is the standard of the filler episodes I think we are on very good form.
It is such an irresistible idea I am surprised it has taken the Doctor over fourty years to come face to face with Shakespeare. Speaking as a man who adores the mans work it thrilled me to see him portrayed with such intelligence and charisma, walking on stage to the same roaring applause Justin Timberlake would get now. Because we are in the uber-capable hands of Gareth Roberts there are a great number of witty line drops, which are fired off with such ferocity and speed they make you chuckle rather than cringe. Dean Lennox Kelly is unrecognisable as Kev from Shameless and plays the Bard with a stillness and confidence that is hard not to be attracted to. Lets face facts when David Tennant is on screen I am usually spellbound by his performance but in The Shakespeare Code Kelly forces you to divide your attention, such is the strength of his presentation of one of Britain's greatest talents. The comparison between the popularity (I refuse to say genius because there is absolutely no comparison between the writer of Harry Potter and Hamlet) JK Rowling and Shakespeare is a great point and with the magic element it makes the contrast even more intriguing.
When I heard that they would be doing a Shakespeare adventure I thought it would be done on the cheap. All you need is a couple of sets and possibly a stage but instead we are treated to what is easily one of the most sumptuous and vivid productions of the entire series. The efforts that have gone in to creating Elizabethan London are astonishing and add another dimension to this historical. The glorious dressed sets, the delicious location filming, the CG shots of London, it all looks amazing. You can expect this amount of detail in a feature film but on a TV budget it is astonishing. Doctor Who really is the best looking show on television at the moment and certainly the most imaginative in terms of style and production, I cannot imagine any other show pulling off a historical with this much verve. The Shakespeare Code looks more authentic than Shakespeare in Love, that's how good this looks.
Doctor Who and magic are usually mutually exclusive if I am honest so to see witchcraft and magic being used so blatantly was something of a shock until Robert's genius idea of words being used as a science dismisses the whole idea. It's a brilliant concept, one of those fabulously imaginative ideas that Doctor Who thrives on. Slowly the Doctor is providing (or uncovering) a scientific explanation for everything in the universe, every myth and rumour, idea and superstition. How long is it before we discover God was some alien up to no good? What is especially good is that using words as power allows this script to ground its plot so effortlessly in Shakespeare's genius and centre the climax around his ability to create 'magic' with words. This is how to impress the kids with the strength of Shakespeare's ability, leave them reeling with the power of his ability to create thrills with words. And the missing Shakespeare play allows Gareth Roberts to explain again one of histories mysteries (see also the amazing Missing Adventure The Plotters).
The details are important. The casual sexuality, the effluence being chucked from the window, the whip being brandished in Bedlam, the chilling doll magic, the tiny people fleeing from the Globe as the world comes to an end, the Doctor's heart stopping, the flight from the window, Shakespeare's blatant racism?there are lots of special details that make this that bit more convincing and special.
The witches are not as over the top as you might think. The first scene could have been diabolical but with a director of Charles Palmers' ability it is creepy, especially the witch that swoops down from the ceiling and starts feasting. Yes they cackle and have warts and fly on broomsticks but remember the details that help make this more intoxicating: the lovely music when the doll mimics Shakespeare writing, the explosive reaction to hearing their own name mentioned, the mention of the Eternals banishing them, stabbing the Doctor, the shot of them trapped in the crystal ball. This is the closest Doctor Who has come to fantasy since it has come back, it is a hugely romantic story (with its glorious visuals and stunning imagery) and the creativeness of witches up to no good in Elizabethan England is to die for.?
Martha continues to impress and give the show-renewed energy and vigour. You would think with a historical so near to her introduction this would feel like The Unquiet Dead but the atmosphere is so different, exuberance rather than scares that it does not feel like a repeat experience. Martha's smiles as she explores this supernatural world is fantastic and helps to sell the magic of the experience. Freema Agyeman is very good at portraying Martha's joy at this whole new universe of possibilities opening around her helps you to fall for her character and her portrayal of the line "Hey Nonny! I know for a fact you have a wife!" is genius! The quiet scene between the Doctor and Martha on the bed is vital because it proves the Doctor is still not over Rose and shows the first hint of anger from Martha about that (justifiably, the thoughtless bastard).
Other points of interest:
"I began questioning my own existence. 'To be or not to be' ? ooh I like that" Inspired!
The exterior CGI shots are amazing and really help to sell the scale of the story. Thumbs up.
The final climatic scenes of the Carrionites swarming around the Globe are about epic as Doctor Who has dared since returning. I want to see how they are going top this!
I haven't mentioned David Tennant. That's because he is so good now it's a clich?.
"Author! Author! Don't people say that?" ? I laughed!
The one word that sums up The Shakespeare Code is indulgence. It is not a necessary adventure but it is a superb example of everything the new series does well. Production wise it is dazzling, the script is witty and feel good, the performances are powerful, the musical score is atmospheric?what's to criticise? I asked my friend Debbie to watch this episode, having never seen Doctor Who before and she texted me afterwards and wrote:? That was really good! I think you might have converted me! And I can't think of higher praise than that.
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
I can decipher The Shakespeare Code in three letters. F, U and N. In that order . . .
Of course, I won't leave it at that - not when I can ramble on for paragraph after paragraph without anyone editing me . . . and, after all, words were at the heart of this episode.
The second story of Series 3 featured new companion (although she has yet to be afforded that moniker by The Doctor) Martha Jones' debut trip in the TARDIS. And what beginners' luck - back to 1599 and an audience with William Shakespeare.
Naturally, it wasn't as simple as that, with (yet another) ancient race, this one named as Carrionites (in the form of evil witches) lurking in the area, looking for a way to bring their sisters trapped in another dimension/void/whatever back to this universe. That "way" was using the newly-created Globe Theatre as an energy conductor, with the trigger (or spell) being the closing lines of Shakespeare's "lost" play, Love's Labours Won. The denouement involved Shakespeare breaking the spell with wise words of his own - prompted by The Doctor and Martha occasionally.
Not a bad little story - nothing terribly original in terms of script, and I don't think it would make a very long Target novel (decent Quick Read maybe) but this is the way with most of those 45-minute, self-contained adventures, and it is worth reiterating because it has to be taken into account when offering a critique. It's just not long enough. Especially for such a lavish production such as this one.
However, though The Shakespeare Code won't go down as one of the most-innovative storylines in DW history, although there was plenty of excellent dialogue, it'll certainly linger long in the memory as one of the easiest on the eye. It was a simply-glorious production - considering this show is created on a TV budget, to make it look like a film is no mean achievement. The DW team manage this regularly, but really excelled themselves here in all technical departments - direction, by the impressive Charles Palmer, following up a great start with Smith & Jones; costume, which is pretty much a given for a BBC production, although it's still worth a nod; prosthetics and CGI (more amazing work from The Mill here yet again); and music (love Murray Gold's work, and this was another fine example).
Although there was some strong support (which isn't always the case), the performances of the four main cast members was also terrific. David Tennant and Freema Agyeman built on the strong start to their partnership last week. Freema has settled in amazingly quickly. It's not a question of Billie Who? but I haven't missed Billie Piper as much as I thought I would, and that's a tribute to her replacement's excellence. Helps that Martha is a likeable character, too, although it's early days, and, even at this stage, the viewer might have found themselves empathising with her at some rather-thoughtless treatment from our eponymous hero.
As with Rose, showrunner Russell T Davies has decided the newbie's first two journeys should be to the past and to the far future (changing the order from The End Of The World and The Unquiet Dead with The Shakespeare Code and next week's Gridlock). However, whereas The Doctor had no doubts he wanted Rose as a travelling companion from the outset, he appears yet to be convinced about Martha staying around, reiterating several times that he saw this as a quick trip.
There is already clear evidence that the dynamic between Doctor and Martha is going to be very different to that of The Doctor and Rose, which was actually a love affair (although probably the only platonic one in TV history). Here, Martha is clearly drawn to this good-looking alien who has whisked her away in time and space. Whereas The Doctor does not see it at all - hence the "staring me in the face" line - even when looking into Martha's amazing big eyes as she lay in a bed beside him. Mentioning how he missed Rose at that moment, and how his lost love "would have said the right thing" was actually quite (deliberately on the writer's part) crass for this Doctor, and this was where the viewer must have sided with the obviously-crushed Martha.
It's likely the relationship will continue along those lines - interestingly, in one of RTD's previous TV successes, Queer As Folk, the relationship between the Doctor Who-loving Vince and the promiscuous Stuart was not dissimilar. Vince's unrequited love for best friend Stuart was a recurring theme throughout the series. And the theme of unrequited love is one which clearly interests RTD, as he feels this will strike a chord with a large section of the viewership who might not fancy the monsters and the time and space travelling. It's all about bums on seats. Shakespeare can have that one, too . . .
Talk of Shakespeare brings me to Dean Lennox Kelly, who was excellent in the role. I wasn't sure what to expect, but playing the character as a kind of 16th-century rock star, and a slightly-camp one in places (surely a bit of RTD mischief in there, with a couple of lines!) certainly worked. Also good was Christina Cole as the lead witch, Lilian. She was just edging towards taking the "bad witch" into pantomime mode, but her obvious relish at tackling such a role leans me towards giving her the benefit of any doubt. And I think the kids would have liked the witches - generic, for sure, but good masks, and not too hammy, so it all worked well enough.
Good to see the return of the pre-credits sequence after its absence last week, too. One of the things I miss from the proliferation of single episodes is the cliffhanger, but there is scope for one of sorts in those first few scenes before the theme tune, and this I welcome.
A decent TV Who writing debut from Gareth Roberts. Of course, we don't know exactly how much input Davies has to these scripts - the basic story is his idea, and he writes a final draft to most of them, as well as making changes throughout the process. Possibly enough to warrant a co-writer credit, I would suggest. I suspect Roberts, Helen Raynor and Chris Chibnall, although capable writers, were chosen for this series because are totally au fait with what RTD wants in terms of script - in the family, as it were, and there's nothing wrong with that. I would always find it amusing if anyone said they liked this episode because RTD hadn't written it, though . . . his influence, as always, is significant. It will be interesting to observe the writing differences in The Lazarus Experiment and Blink, the only two scripts RTD has said he didn't feel the need to "polish" this season.
However, regardless of who wrote each individual line, there were plenty of crackers in The Shakespeare Code, well delivered by Tennant, Agyeman, Kelly and Cole. The idea that The Doctor was responsible for some Shakesperean lines was good fun, and this worked much better than the rather-forced "We are not amused" gag from Tooth And Claw. Also amusing that Martha would reject Shakespeare's advances because of his bad breath!
All in all, a strong seven out of 10 for The Shakespeare Code, although I would have liked to have seen it at an hour's length to really justify the outlay if nothing else - must have blown a big hole in the budget. Might also have made a good Christmas special - bit of mysticism already there, apply some fake snow, and bingo. Would have to give the killer Santas a miss, though . . .
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor