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Apr 12, 2007

Shakespeare In Lust

It was only a matter of time before the Doctor and William Shakespeare crossed paths on screen. After all, he has been mentioned on several occasions during the series past, even to the extent of the Doctor writing the final draft of Hamlet, so it was perhaps a surprise that it has taken till the third series before the Bard made an appearance.

In many ways this episode is virtually identical to The Unquiet Dead: both were written by writers who had come up through the Virgin New Adventures; both feature the companions first trip to the past in the TARDIS; both feature a famous historical literary figure as a prominent guest star, and both feature dramatic scenes in a theatre, so they are much more alike than you might first think.

This of course depends on how you view the character of the Doctor in this new series: either he is a thousand year old alien who has no interested in humans on an emotional level, or he is simply pining for his lost love.

Martha continues to impress in this story. It really begins to strike you here how different she is from Rose. She is certainly a much more confident person than Rose, and is really taking all of this in her stride, she is also much more versed in that kind of thing than Rose was, for she has seen Back to the Future and has possibly read Harry Potter.

Pissedoffmartha There is also no doubt now that Martha has a thing for the Doctor. Her face when the Doctor said that there was plenty of room on the bed for both of them, and then her reaction to him talking about Rose and then saying he was taking her back home in the morning speak volumes. She wasn’t a happy bunny, was she?

I don’t think she will be making the same mistake again knowing now that he just isn’t interested in her, but is still hung up on this Rose character. This of course depends on how you view the character of the Doctor in this new series: either he is a thousand year old alien who has no interested in humans on an emotional level, or he is simply pining for his lost love. I will leave it for you to decide which you think is more likely

I love the fact that in this new series the Doctor will name check people from recent and current popular culture and also the fact that he knows something that Martha will be aware of that will explain the situation far better than he can, as he certainly isn’t that interested in explaining stuff all of the time (which he was more than happy to do for Rose, but that’s by the by really). It may well date the series badly for the future, but I don’t mind it at all!

I love the Back to the Future trilogy so it was nice for it to be mentioned in Doctor Who, not that I ever expected that it would be, but it is a nice reference for people of a certain age, and it certainly made me smile.

It would be quite easy say that the women playing the three witches were chewing the scenery with great abandon and playing the parts of evil witches with plenty of cackling and all the other stuff that you associate with such characters, and you wouldn’t be far wrong. However, Christina Cole, as the head witch Lillith, was particularly good in her role.

True when she was in full witch regalia she was hamming it up with the best of them, but when she was trying to blend in with everyone else, she was positively restrained and was a superb adversary for the Doctor and the first female nemesis he has come up against so far in the new series. Cole was well cast in this part and, I for one, would like to see her back to plague the Doctor once again.

Apparently Russell T Davies wanted to have him be like one of the Gallagher brothers, and in the casting of Dean Lennox Kelly he certainly sounds like one.

It is also quite nice to think that Shakespeare based the three witch characters in the Scottish play on those witches he met in this story, and also that the dark lady that it was postulated he wrote his sonnets to (and not for a man as it has also been postulated) was in fact Martha. They even made a joke out of the fact that there are certain people in academia who believe that Shakespeare was bisexual at least, when the Doctor says that there will be plenty of time for flirting later and Shakespeare responds with “is that a promise, Doctor?”

Shakey The Doctor also cannot help himself but quote Shakespearian dialogue at the Bard, and it was quite funny the first few times, when he heard something he quite liked and said “I might use that”, but that joke did begin to wear thin by the end, although when he quoted the ‘all the world’s a stage” line, Shakespeare responded with his ‘I might use that” line, only to realise that it was one he had already written, that raised a chuckle.

All of these mentions of the Doctor helping the bard out are all in line with all the previous meetings that the Doctor had with Shakespeare, in the playwright’s future and the time lords past. It was also a nice change to have a totally different portrayal of Shakespeare than we have previously been accustomed too. Apparently Russell T Davies wanted to have him be like one of the Gallagher brothers, and in the casting of Dean Lennox Kelly he certainly sounds like one. I was sort of under the impression that the character would have been more like the one Joseph Feinnes played in Shakespeare in Love when I first heard about the episode, but I much prefer Kelly’s interpretation, even if the accent is more Mancunian than Black Country. I half expected him to come out with lines like “our kid”!

Shakespeare may have been an educated fellow, but coming from Stratford he would have had some sort of Black Country accent. That is only a minor quibble, which doesn’t really distract from the story or from the characterisation of Shakespeare himself, which is probably how he would have been viewed at the time. In those days he was the star of the shows, not the people performing them.

There was some excellent direction seen in this story from Charles Palmer and the CGI work was pretty good as well. I would never have guessed that the majority of the crowd in the scenes set in the Globe theatre were digitally painted in afterwards, if I hadn’t seen the Confidential afterwards. The Carrionites themselves were fairly well realised as they did have that archetypal witch shape but also looked very alien all at the same time. In the scenes at the start of the story where the Doctor and Martha were walking through the streets of Elizabethan London, you really believed that they were actually there and I think that doing some location filming in Warwick really did help them to create a realistic rendering of 16th century London.

Queenbess The final scene after the Doctor presented Shakespeare with a ruff, to use as a neck brace, and Queen Elizabeth 1st arrived and proclaimed the Doctor to be her mortal enemy and ordered that his head be removed post haste was quite a funny way to end the episode but did seem rather tacked on, especially if they never do anything to explain what he had done to provoke such a strong reaction from the Virgin Queen.

The Shakespeare Code left me a little cold after my first viewing but after watching it for a second time I found plenty in it enjoy. I have always enjoyed Gareth Roberts work before (his episodes of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) were among the most enjoyable, as were his fourth Doctor and Romana Missing Adventures), and felt that he would do a good job with his first full-length television episode of Doctor Who, and now, I feel that the boy did well again

Comments

Adam:

I understand why the Back to the Future reference might raise a smile, but as I said in another comment on the site, in my opinion the Back to the Future reference was the only real moment of disappointment to me.

In the Unquiet Dead, Ninth responded to Rose's similar question with:

"Time's in flux. It's changing every second. Your cozy little world could be rewritten like that,"
[snaps fingers]
"Nothing is safe. Remember that. Nothing."

Very dramatic!

It just seems wrong to drag Back to the Future in to explain things.

Did the Fourth Doctor really think - "How to demonstrate to Sarah Jane the magnitude of peril faced by the Earth because of Sutekh? I could show her the blasted heath of 1980 with the Tardis then return to 1911...or will I mention Marty McFly?"

Of course, Sarah Jane was from 1980, so the films weren't released then.

:)

Well, it certainly worked for Martha, probably would have worked for Rose, but I take your point that they would never have done that in the original series.

It made me laugh, but I can understand why others wouldn't have liked it.

And, the explaination the doctor gave Martha is wrong. The doctor has never explained that you would fade away like McFly. Your future and world would change but you would always remain, remembering things like they were. THAT is explaination he gave to Sarah-Jane. If anything, the tenth doctor was being lazy and didn't really want to explain it to her.

And, the explaination the doctor gave Martha is wrong. The doctor has never explained that you would fade away like McFly. Your future and world would change but you would always remain, remembering things like they were. THAT is explaination he gave to Sarah-Jane. If anything, the tenth doctor was being lazy and didn't really want to explain it to her.

And, the explaination the doctor gave Martha is wrong. The doctor has never explained that you would fade away like McFly. Your future and world would change but you would always remain, remembering things like they were. THAT is explaination he gave to Sarah-Jane. If anything, the tenth doctor was being lazy and didn't really want to explain it to her.

"I don’t think she will be making the same mistake again knowing now that he just isn’t interested in her"

Are male fans really this blind?

Kevin: And then of course there's the danger of becoming caught in an infinite loop of recursive events... :)

Kevin's chronic hysteresis is acting up again. Someone throw him out of phase, or we'll be stuck here forever.

Kevin:

It was not so much that I think Back to the Future physics are "wrong" in the Doctor Who universe, it is just that previously when a companion asked about the perils of time travel at a pivotal dramatic moment, these moments were used to reinforce the mystery and wonder of the show - not an excuse for a cheap joke.

Earlier when Martha namechecked not just the "Grandfather Paradox" and "Butterfly Effect" the Doctor's flippant replies were amusing, while also showing that Martha is a bit of a sci-fi geek! But that was at the start of episode, not at the heart of the action.

Also, I don't really want the show Doctor Who to define clearly and exactly how time travel actually functions, it is best left ambiguous as it has been in the past.

So, two reasons really why I didn't like the Back to the Future reference:
Cheap joke that lessened the drama of the episode.
A reference that lessened the cosmic mystery of the Doctor's travels in time in general.

That Back to Future time physics are "wrong" as such was not a reason.

(Having said that I do NOT want to see Martha staring at a photograph that starts fading at any point soon!)

the first female nemesis he has come up against so far in the new series

Erm, can someone explain to me the definition of "nemesis" that includes Lilith the witch but excludes all of Cassandra, Margaret Slitheen, the catnuns, Yvonne Hartman, the Empress of the Racnoss and Mrs Finnegan the Plasmavore?

I'd also make borderline arguments for the Gelth and the Wire as aliens portrayed in a female way (both from Mark Gatiss episodes, make of that what you will), Chloe from Fear Her (though she's just messed up, not a deliberate enemy) and Harriet Jones, Queen Victoria and on the evidence of this last episode Queen Elizabeth as at least "adversaries" if not "nemeses".

Lurky, you in Americaland?

Over there, Kev would have said "so far in the new SEASON." Series in this instance refers to just the 2007-aired episodes.

As for the others, the only one I'd not qualify as a female nemesis would be the Gelth. That one was a bit more androgynous, but was from the 2005 SERIES, at any rate.

And if you're going to include the Gelth and the bloody Wire, why not Margaret Slitheen??

a) Nope, I am in Britain. I personally use "the new series" as a shortcut phrase for the 2005-and-onwards revival, and I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one.

b) However, since I wasn't sure whether Adam meant that definition of "new series" or the one you're talking about, hence my being careful to include the Plasmavore lady from the first episode of this series and the Empress (Runaway Bride will be in the same DVD box set, after all) who are both definitely female.

c) Er, I did include Margaret Slitheen.

Sorry i forget Margaret Slitheen. Can i say this series instead to hide my blushes :$

Hrm. I stand corrected, Lurky. You did indeed mention Margaret Slitheen. And my first instinct with the series/season gaff was that you were american, as I'm constantly getting confused looks when I talk to television viewers in this country(I use the word series myself..).

As for the Plasmavore and the Empress, personally I don't count them for a few reasons. The Plasmavore, while being the proper baddie of that episode, was highly overshadows by the *ahem* Massive Space Rhino Mercenary Police Squad in Leather Gladiator Skirts with Magic Markers. Also, the Racnoss Empress did little more than scutter and shout, before the Doctor managed to nearly simultaneously get her set on fire, drowned, and blown up. Imagine if Soldeed and the Nimon had been the same baddie, and you'd have the Empress. Also, being in a Christmas Special detracts for me, as (while I do count them as in-continuity) they tend to be more bookends to the series proper.

Lillith (can I say enough about Christina Cole) managed to avoid being overly-camp, while presenting a clear and present danger, delegating to flunkies, getting in some good lines, AND mounting a (momentarily) successful offensive against the Doctor, without losing her focus as main baddie. I'd say she qualifies as the first proper female villain of 2007 in this instance.

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