The Shakespeare Code – 7th April
By Gareth Roberts
Review and Commentary by Andrew Panero
There have been so many references and appearances by Shakespeare in Doctor Who (in its various different forms) over the years that it is perhaps not surprising that the new series would have a go sooner or later. The nearest that the new series has got to Shakespeare so far has been the Ninth Doctor story ‘A Groatsworth of Wit’, which not only shares the same writer as ‘The Shakespeare Code’ but seems to share the same palette as well.
At the end of ‘Smith and Jones’ we had the Doctor promising Martha a trip in his TARDIS as a reward for helping him out on the moon. So before you know it we are in 1599 walking along straw covered streets with the Doctor and the wide-eyed Ms Jones who is very concerned with the grandfather paradox as well being familiar with the plot of Ray Bradbury’s short story ‘A Sound of Thunder’. Interestingly, as the Doctor’s first full time black assistant (we can’t count Mickey as he only went along on a couple of journeys nor can we count the one off appearance by Sophie Okonedo in ‘Scream of the Shalka’ as that was an alternate universe Doctor anyway) she is also concerned about her status as a black woman in a time when slavery was still in existence. Not to worry, says the Doctor, and off they go to the Globe Theatre to watch a performance of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’.
William Shakespeare (Dean Lennox Kelly) is a kind of rock star of his age and is there in person to announce that he is in the process of writing a sequel to Love’s Labours Lost called Love’s Labours Won. For once the scriptwriter is not making it up, as there have been obscure references to this so-called ‘lost’ play of Shakespeare’s in various ancient documents.
So we have here a familiar plot device in Doctor Who and other time-travel stories; an historical mystery that is solved by the time-travelling protagonists, and what better story to choose to do it in than a pseudo-historical such as this. I understand that the ‘pseudo’ is added to distinguish this kind of story from the more straightforward historicals such as ‘The Romans’ and ‘Marco Polo’.
Which is all very well, if you like that kind of thing. Personally, it doesn’t do much for me and the best thing that can be said about this episode is that it is unlikely to be followed up by a sequel. Not that it’ll stop them writing about Shakespeare.