Well, only a little belated.
The Shakespeare Code
My computer has been out of action for the last week, so I'm in the library trying to get this done. In the meantime, I've taken to listening my way through the Eighth Doctor audios, and my god they're good! Lobotomies, brothels, eye stealing creatures, you wouldn't get this at 7 on BBC1 on a Saturday (more's the pity, really). Time of The Daleks involves a dastardly plan to remove Shakespeare from history, so that includes its fair share of puns and stolen quotes. Anyway, once more unto the... never mind.
Well it all starts out a little panto, doesn't it? 3 over the top witches in a Buffy title sequence. This put me off to begin with, but after the title sequence we get fabulous banter between the Doctor and Martha, and the talking about the Butterfly effect (or whatever it's called) and the Grandfather paradox is so wonderfully constructed that it completely conveys the Doctor's attitude towards time travel: don't do anything on purpose and time can sort out the rest.
Let's see... Shakespeare... well, what can you say? A definite rock star here, his whole attitude is extremely entertaining (if unlike any other interpretation). The way he treats everyone is irritating, but I suppose that that is part of the point. He is someone who is unhealthily charming, like the kid in the playground who everyone likes because he can insult you more cleverly, until that day when you just snap, you try to fight back, but you miss and everyone laughs at you even more... Sorry, not sure where that came from. Well, he grates on me a little, but Dean Lennox Kelly does quite well (I didn't know what to expect, having only known his voice-over work on The Real Hustle to judge by).
Martha Jones... in this her second outing, everyone on this here blog seems to be loving her incessantly, but me... Well, she is nowhere near as irritating as Rose, but she still has yet to particularly impress me. She is good enough most of the time, although some of her "Oh, my god! It's time travel!" or "Oh my god, they're witches!" are a bit GCSE acting. I still have faith, though, that she will shine. And of course she has that lovely scene in the bedroom with the Doctor, where she thinks she might be onto something, but he just thinks of taking her back.
My personal favourite character is Peter Streete. Perhaps it's a morbidity of mine that I find insanity the most interesting characteristic. Show me a crying, shaking madman, and I'll love the scene he's in. The witches come across very well, despite being rather panto.
There are some great scenes in this here episode. The drowning man, the Doctor's heart stopping, and the aforementioned Peter Streete scene are wonderfully choreographed to be everything they need to be. The Rose thing is now starting to grate incredibly. Imagine trying to watch this episode in the future by itself, it'll mean that for a few minutes in each episode, you'll be completely lost. You hear that Mr Davies? This is BAD CONTINUITY.
Charles Palmer provides some lovely direction. Nothing particularly over the top, but he takes a lot of effort in the subtler stuff, making it seemless direction. The final scene between Martha and The Doctor could have been lacklustre, but a gentle sweep around makes it interesting without being distracting. Gareth Roberts writes with a fabulous knack for one-liners and gags, he has almost as good a grip on the character of the Doctor as RTD does.
How does the name magic work? Is it just because of the witches, or would it work anywhere? If so, why doesn't the Doctor use it on more occasions? "I name thee Dalek!" would have made Rob Shearman's episode a lot shorter. Since Aliens of London pushed the time forward a year, Martha is in fact from 2008, so Harry Potter 7 would be out by then, so why does the Doctor talk about it like she wouldn't have read it? How come all the people fled from the theatre, and yet they are all still in there to applaud at the end?
The final scene is quite wonderful, with the Queen turning up, angry at her sworn enemy. Many of you have said you want him to meet up with the Queen later, but I personally would like to leave it as a nice joke at the end of the episode. A good end to a good episode.
7/10. Enjoyable, but not staggeringly good. Here's hoping Gareth Roberts gets some more episodes, as his Attack of the Graske and now this have had some wonderful stuff in.
PS. Now here is where I wonder about episode 9 this year, The Family of Blood. We have in this episode talks of The Tide of Blood, and The Millenium of Blood. Could they be related?
The Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts has this to say about The Shakespeare Code: This episode was originally going to contain a subtle reference to City of Death: Scaroth was going to be the villain. Instead they moved him to the cliffhanger of Daleks in Manhattan.