Doctor Who Re-watch: The Shakespeare Code

Boy do I enjoy these historical throw-back episodes. I didn’t remember how this one panned out to be honest, though I remembered it dealt with the colour of Martha’s skin early on in and was pretty funny. Ben and I had a blast watching this one!

The Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: Some witches! First rate cackling after a rather violent death! A witch who reminds me vaguely of The Master’s wife, Lucy Saxon, and it turns out, was in Casino Royale for a couple of seconds. What’s not to enjoy?

Ben: This whole sequence was giving me strong BBC Merlin vibes, to be honest. It’s very supernatural entity of the week, and it culminated in a good evil laugh, which I appreciate. The question is, how will they make it sci-fi …

The shakespeare code

The Companion

Ben: Martha continues to be so inquisitive! The Doctor may not appreciate her curiosity at how everything works, but I love her and her keen scientific mind. She does have a point about the causality of time and the butterfly effect … And she continues to have witty comebacks for every occasion! Her joke about getting sectioned for telling people she’d met Shakespeare, for one.

Maureen: I’m pleasantly surprised by how funny Martha is. It’s not something I’d remembered about her run at all. I also lol’d at the sectioning comment. I like her innate toughness too. She’s completely unfazed by sewerage everywhere, citing her experiences in A and E as good training for the situation she’s found herself in, for example. I also laughed at Martha’s enteprising nature when she finds herself able to get her hands on an original Shakespeare play.

Martha: We can sell it when we get home and make a mint!

Then there’s the odd Shakespeare/Martha shipping in-show, because this episode is having a ball and wants you to have one too!

Ben: Yeah, wow when Shakespeare calls Martha … well a lot of words that I’m impressed the BBC let the scriptwriter include.

Maureen: I thought it was pretty funny later when Martha said she couldn’t bring herself to kiss Shakespeare because of his bad breath. This chick takes no shit and gives no fucks. I forgot just how likeable Martha is.

Ben: The scene with Martha and The Doctor in bed was painful to watch, with poor Martha getting her crush squished in one blow. Ahh well, better to get it out of your system early so you can enjoy your adventures through space and time.

Maureen: I really wish the Rose spectre had been laid to rest around this point. Alas, it haunts all of the RTD era. My comment was, ‘no moon-eyes Martha. Bed-sharing is lame.’ And The Doctor claiming Rose would know exactly what to do and how to comfort can fuck right off.

Ben: Now, Martha doesn’t do a great deal in the last half or so of the episode except sit back and enjoy the ride, but she does get to contribute at critical moments (again with the CPR, expelliarmus, etc etc) and generally have a good time. And! She get’s compared to a summer’s day. Now that’s a story worth getting sectioned over.

Maureen: I loved the Harry Potter episode. It dates the episode, but in a fun way for this millennial who grew up waiting for each new book to come out.

Martha: It’s a bit Harry Potter!
Ten: Aw, you wait till Book Seven. I cried all night.

Final thing I want to say: Martha’s tats are damn hot. Bite me.

The Doctor

Ben: I did quite enjoy how much the Doctor was having the time of his life showing off for Martha, giving her the Doctor Who special and all that. Although it wouldn’t be a Doctor Who special without everything going wrong in the first 10 minutes. It’s just as Martha said, you shouldn’t meet your idols, and there’s no reason why Shakespeare would be exempt from that rule given his swarmy racism.

Maureen: Yes, though I liked that the scriptwriter (I think this one was Gareth Edwards?) was brave enough to mess with the Shakespeare deification. It’s a risk, but I think it pays off. Shakespeare doesn’t feel overly liberated and a-historical here.

Ben: Yeah, and he does quickly redeem himself, seeing through The Doctor’s psychic paper for one. Then, with a drowning on dry land the mystery is properly afoot, and The Doctor is in his element. Investigating ensures, to the detriment of Martha’s romantic overtures. But! Shakespeare got enough flirting in for everyone. The Doctor’s confrontations with the Carrionites were very Merlin, with the naming and the rhyming and all that jazz. And that brings us to the final confrontation! It was all very over the top, with a tornado of evil witches and their laughter, with a dramatic final sonnet to undo what was done, and to top it all off, a JK Rowling reference. End scene, cue applause, off with his head and all that. Maureen has informed me that the bit with Queen Liz was only properly explained quite recently in an episode I haven’t yet seen, I am quite curious to see what he could have done to deserve such a warm welcome.

Maureen: How the fuck did you not see the 50th anniversary, Ben? HOW? Anyway, I feel like The Doctor and Martha didn’t actually do a lot this episode to solve the alien of the week problem. The focus was more on light froth fun (which I was down with) and then revelations thick and fast towards the end. In addition to the J.K references, I kind of liked the trip to Bethlam. It reminded me of Sweeney Todd, and anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I love that musical.

In other news, I liked The Doctor being a bad TARDIS driver reference too.

Martha: Isn’t there a driver’s test?
Ten: Yeah. I failed it.

Oh, River Song. I can’t wait for your later zingers.

Ten got to be quite funny again this episode with his introduction as ‘Sir Doctor of TARDIS’ and Martha of ‘Freedonia’ where black skin and tight clothes aren’t blinked at (we can dream). Also, in a repeat of Eccleston in his period piece episode with Dickens, the many times Ten ‘inspires’ Shakespeare with his own lines.

The Alien of the Week

Maureen: These Carronites were pretty nasty critters. I counted the body count at three about ten minutes into the episode!

Ben: It’s an uncommon episode where the aliens are so heavily featured in the pre-title sequence, that’s for sure! Right from the get-go you know they’re Bad News and that they also have Unknown Powers they can bring to bear at the blink of an eye (although this is really just making me nostalgic for BBC Merlin again). The death of the head play person was well done, honestly, I found it pretty horrific. Drowning on dry land, what a way to go. Anywho, they continue to speak in rhyme and cast magic with abandon to further the plot while the Doctor does his investigating. Turns out they’ve been planning this for quite some time! Putting little ideas in the architect’s head while he was sleeping. And then, with their name comes their history, a species older than time, locked away by the Immortals, using the power of words to break once again into this reality. It’s a great fantasy storyline, that’s for sure. And they got a great fantasy ending too! With their spell cut off by Shakespeare they all ended up trapped in their crystal ball for all eternity.

Maureen: Sometimes The Doctor can be unbearably cruel, but this time, I think the Carronites, despite their lonely last of our kind attempt to win The Doctor over, deserved his ire. To be trapped screaming in the TARDIS for all eternity though? So harsh. It is a great fantasy storyline, Ben, but unfortunately, this is where the episode falls apart a bit for me. It went too far into fantasy for believability to hold. I didn’t really buy those witches as aliens. They looked and acted like, well, witches.

Final Thoughts

Ben: This episode can most accurately be described as a fun romp of an adventure. The aliens this week were very much magical and non-sciencey. I know The Doctor uses that quote about any sufficiently advanced technology looking like magic, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. The lead witch lady even refers to it as magic herself! Still, the three wicked witches were really fun to watch. On top of the witches, just having Shakespeare around as a character was good fun, and all the jokes referencing his works or the theatre were well done. In the end, I really enjoyed this episode, but it loses points for being an episode of the wrong show (and also some clunky acting at moments). I’m going to give it a 7/10.

Maureen: I’m the same as Ben. I really enjoyed the episode’s ride and the light-hearted laughter-filled romp the scriptwriter achieved, but it isn’t as good to my mind as Gatiss’ The Unquiet Dead in terms of moving character and drama forward. I also feel like the plot went for frothiness over substance so that Martha and Ten didn’t always feel that necessary to the story. I did enjoy this more than last week’s episode however, so I’m going with a solid 8/10 inky stars.

About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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