Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code, Review

Series Three, Episode Two - the Doctor and Martha go to the theatre, and trouble ensues. Spoilers follow.

Since I'm also watching Heroes as broadcast television at the moment on a commercial channel, I'm more and more thankful for the BBC's ad-free programming. You can sit back and watch the episode in one run, rather than needing to get through blocks of tedious and irrelevant ads.

Anyway, the episode. It was good, solid, Who stuff, with a fine dose of cross-references, continuity, and the one thing I've always wanted to see in time travel shows and never really seen before - explicit forward continuity. That is, at the end of the episode, when Queen Elizabeth sees the Doctor, she's furious with him for something that hasn't happened to him yet. I can't find anything else that looks Elizabethan - or even Tudor - in the episodes for the rest of Season Three yet, though.

I note with interest that the psychic paper didn't work on Shakespeare - everyone else that it hasn't worked on has either been a time traveller themselves, or had some training to resist it. Either genius - and it's made clear that the Doctor thinks that he's pretty much the smartest human ever - or something else is enabling him to see what's really there.

There were piles of Shakespeare references, and I'm not sure I got them all. There're also a few pokes in here at the notion of intellectual property, with the Doctor quoting Shakespeare himself, in plays he has and has not yet written, and other writers (including Dylan Thomas) as well. "Once more unto the breach!" is a good example of one he has already written - it's from Henry V.

Martha is working out pretty well, I think. She's asking intelligent questions, making intelligent moves. She has no tendency whatsoever to stand still and panic, and she's quick off the mark with decisions of her own. The exchange on the bed, where the Doctor clearly had no idea what was going on in her head, and she had very little idea of what was going on in his, was excellent.

The effects were fairly solid, although I'd guess that the majority of the budget was on costuming and extras - the crowd scenes were pretty crowded.

I'm interested in the Carrionites, though, and their world view, and wondering if we'll see more of them. As I understood it, they were a race who found power in words in the same way humans - and most other species in the Who universe - find power in numbers. It crosses over to some degree to the notion of secret words and hidden parts of the alphabet in The Invisibles, which I'm also reading at the moment.

The trailer for the next episode offered no clue as to why Martha is still there, so I'm looking forward to finding out why she doesn't get dropped off at home in the 21st Century. TARDIS malfunction, perhaps? It's known to be an ornery beast at the best of times...

Posted by Drew Shiel at April 11, 2007 11:11 AM

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