The Shakespeare Code (2007)

The Shakespeare Code is the first adventure for Martha and it sees her going back to encounter William Shakespeare. This is the first time that Shakespeare is the centre of a story. I put it like that because back in 1965, William Shakespeare made a brief appearance but apart from that Shakespeare has been relatively overlooked in Doctor Who. Shakespeare is a figure that we think we know but not much is known about him so that’s why Gareth Roberts is able to get away with turning Shakespeare into a sort of celebrity. This is well portrayed by former Shameless actor David Lennox Kelly. In an edition of SFX Magazine, Phil Collinson says that this episode (at the time) was the most expensive episode ever and it shows.

The story is about the Carrionites a witch-like race who plan to end the world by placing a code in a new play that Shakespeare is writing. It’s a fairly good idea that is kind of buried underneath the visual imagery of the story. They somehow managed to film the scenes of the Globe Theatre in the real Globe Theatre. Not even the Oscar winning film Shakespeare in Love got to film there but Doctor Who did. In your face Hollywood!! Anyway it’s not just in the Globe Theatre that was impressive but everything else.

It’s good that Shakespeare and the Doctor get on well quite quickly, though it’s quite interesting how quickly Shakespeare gets to grip with the madness. This is cemented by the running joke is that all of the famous lines that come from Shakespeare are given to him by the Doctor. The story is a good one because it’s quite an interesting one that uses literature as bedrock of this story.

There is a slight issue that I have with the story and that is this refusal to just drop the Rose romance yet. Martha clearly has feelings for him but its obvious when their both on the bed facing each other that the Doctor isn’t entertaining the idea at this time which clearly miffs Martha. After having Rose loved up for two years I had faint hopes that Martha would be different but alas this is a RTD production so we get a love that isn’t straight forward.

David Lennox Kelly is very good as Shakespeare and having seen him in Shameless I have to say that I was impressed with how he pulled it off. Tennant and Agyeman are on good form and their relationship is better than the Tennant/Piper one despite how popular it seems to have been with the wider audience. Now this is Tennant’s second series as the Doctor it feels like he’s got a handle on it and more importantly the production team have got a handle on it.

The Shakespeare Code is a very good story. Not quite as good as Smith and Jones but its still a damn good story. All the performances are good but it’s the scenery that help sell the story and that is my abiding memory of this story. The Doctor and Martha is a worthy replacement to the Doctor and Rose.

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