Doctor Who 3.02 – The Shakespeare Code

The Doctor takes Martha to see Shakespeare, and refuses to Sonic Screwdriver for the fancy-schmancy seats!

In Ye Olde England (shh, it’s an historical term), a young swain serenades his love, Lilith.  She invites him upstairs; time to get lucky without those pesky baans of marriage, awww forsooooth!  But once he’s upstairs, wouldn’t you know she turns into a sharp-toothed hag with two crones for moms?  The crones set on the poor guy, and icky sounds follow.  The Loathsome Ladies vow to make Earth perish with “woven words” and cackle madly.

The Doctor gestures Martha out for her one trip to a “brave new world.”  Whoopsie, don’t quote The Tempest yet; it hasn’t been written! But it’s time, 1599 precisely, to check out the dude who’s going to set it to parchment with his genius quill.  That’s right, Mister William Shakespeare!

Ugh.  Already we’ve got inaccuracies as Martha and the Doctor take in a night time performance at the Globe, and…  Look, I don’t want to ruin our wacky Elizabethan romp with the Doctor!  So though I possess far too much knowledge about this historical period, I’ll keep the hand-wringing to a minimum so we can have some fun.  Let’s face it: nothing ruins light-hearted Let’s Meet A Noted Historical Figure! eps than a pedantic, “No, no, let me explain how it really was!”  *cracks knuckles and moves on*

After assuring Martha they’ll be a-ok despite the Butterfly Effect and the Grandfather Paradox, the Doctor brushes off her worries about people thinking she’s a slave because she’s black.  “Just walk about like you own the place,” he advises her.  “Works for me.”  Oh, Doctor.  Privileged much?  Anyway, they head to the theatre in their modern clothes and Martha starts off a cry of “Author, Author!”  Wait, do they say that, she asks under her breath.  “They do now,” the Doctor notes as other playgoers pick up the cry.

Shakespeare struts out like a sexy Renaissance rock star, roaring, “Shut your big fat mouths!” at the crowd.  Doctor, it’s silly to look stricken because he doesn’t spout iambic pentameter!  One of the bawdiest playwright’s ever, yo.  The audience loved Love’s Labour’s Lost: they want a sequel!  Thanks to scary Lilith, disguised as an aristocratic woman and hacking at a voodoo doll, Shakespeare promises the conclusion tomorrow!

“No autographs,” Shakespeare objects when the Doctor and Martha interrupt his drinking session with Kempe and Burbage.  Then he gets a look at Martha, and hellooo, new muse!  “No, no, don’t do that,” the Doctor mutters when Martha tries to fit in with a “verily!” and an “egad!”

Shakespeare could care less; he calls Martha a “delicious blackamoor lady.” When Martha side-eyes him, he tries, “An Ethiop girl? A swarth? A Queen of Afric?”  The Doctor interrupts Martha from clocking the Bard of Avon by pretending she’s from Freedonia.  I’m glad, actually, we’re seeing this ep bring up race issues, from Martha’s understandable concerns (and the Doctor’s overly cavalier dismissal of them), and now Shakespeare’s epithets along with Martha’s “Seriously?” eyebrow-raised reaction.

The Master of the Revels interrupts.  Love’s Labour’s Won “will never be played!”  Lilith, disguised as a tavern wench, pretends she’s hot to trot so she can snag the Master’s hair; back with her Loathesome Lady friends, they hex the lock in a pail of water like the crazy Macbeth-style witches they are!  While the Master drowns on the dry street, the Doctor explains it as “a sudden imbalance of the humors” so no one will think it was witchcraft.  “Okay, what was it then?” Martha asks.  “Witchcraft,” the Doctor replies gravely.

Shakespeare’s wary of Martha’s and the Doctor’s stories, of a land “where a woman can do what she likes,” of a young man whose eyes look so old.  “I do a lot of reading,” the Doctor extemporizes.  He proves it when Martha and he have to share a bed; she notes the magic and such is “all a bit Harry Potter,” and he confesses Book 7 (not released when this aired) made him cry. Awww, the Doctor’s such a fanboy!

Cuddle closer, Doctor; it’s hardly the Great Bed of Ware!

“Us two here, same bed. Tongues will wag,” Martha says. The Doctor ignores the innuendo.  There’s something he’s missing, “something staring me in the face.” He and Martha turn to face each other.  Then he yanks the rug out: if only Rose were here, she’d say exactly the right thing!  But “it can’t be helped”: Martha’s only a novice. “I’ll take you back home tomorrow.”  A bit harsh, sheesh; it’s only Martha’s second day!

Lilith sneaks into Shakespeare’s chamber, blowing green smoke on him to turn him into a mirror of the marionette she holds.  He writes automatically at her whim, flopping down finished when the puppet does.  The poor hostess dies of fright, and Martha watches in shock as Lilith flies away on her broom.  Peter Streete, the Globe’s builder, spoke of witches, Shakespeare mentions.  To the Globe!

The Doctor gets all up in the Tetradecagon shape, asking what’s up with fourteen sides.  Martha comments there are fourteen lines in a sonnet, and later, when the Doctor talks about how a theater is magic, mentions it’s like the TARDIS:  “Small wooden box with all that power inside.”  “Oh!  Oh, Martha Jones, I like you,” he says gleefully (remember that the next time you, “you’re not like Rose!” her, okay, Doctor?).

Off to Bedlam to see Streete has to say, though first Shakespeare makes eyes at Martha.  She knows he’s got a wife in the country, but this is Town, baby!  “We can all have a good flirt later,” the Doctor says irritably. “Is that a promise, Doctor?” Shakespeare murmurs.  “Fifty-seven academics just punched the air,” the Doctor says at evidence of Shakespeare’s bisexuality.  Come on, Captain Jack really should be here for this.

Shakespeare comments how his grief over his son dying made him mad; fear of a place like Bedlam set him right again.  Streete’s catatonic; the Doctor has to mind-meld with him to get him talking about his “Winter’s Tale.”  Turns out he “built the Globe to their [the Witches’] design;” after which, they “snapped his wits.”  Anxious at this development, Lilith sends Dewfinger in to kill Streete with a single touch.

As Martha yells for help, and Shakespeare boggles at the sight of a real witch, the Doctor puts together the pieces: fourteen signifies the fourteen stars of the Rexel planetary configuration.  “Creature, I name you Carrionite! ” he yells at Dewfinger, who shrieks and disappears.  Carrionites use words as a kind of magic, or very old science; he named her, gaining power over her.

Dewfinger’s just like E.T.! Only she’ll turn off your heart-light.

The Doctor knows what the “witches” want:  “A world of bones and blood and witchcraft.” The Carrionites will use Shakespeare’s play as a weapon:  “The right combination of words, spoken at the right place, with the shape of the Globe as an energy converter! The play’s the thing!” “And yes, you can have that,” he adds, for he’s been quoting Shakespeare all day (with Shakespeare eager to filch his own lines).

Shakespeare rushes to the Globe, where the two crones hold a crystal ball full of more Carrionites, yelling, “This performance must end immediately!”  “Oh, everyone’s a critic,” Burbage grumbles.  When the Carrionites use their voodoo to make Shakespeare drop unconscious, he’s dismissed as a drunkard, and the play continues.  The Doctor gives Martha the Back to the Future explanation of why this 1599 bid to end the world is so important; if they don’t stop the witches, she and the future will cease to exist.

Martha tries to name Lilith, but the power of a name only works once.  Luckily Lilith’s deploying of “Martha Jones,” doesn’t work entirely; instead of killing her, it only sends her unconscious because she’s “out of time.”  And the Doctor has no name, Lilith realizes, but she tries to wield “Rose” against him.  Big mistake, “because that name makes me keep on fighting,” he snaps at her.

The Eternals, as it turned out, banished the Carrionites with “the right word,” but new words, born of Shakespeare’s mad grief for his son, gained the three of them entrance to Earth.  Now, using Shakespeare’s play, the Carrionites will restore the rest.  They’ll have to get through the Doctor first.  Lilith tries a little seduction, but “that’s one form of magic that’s definitely not going to work on me,” the Doctor is quick to tell her.

Aha, she just leaned in to get some hair! That’s cheating, the Doctor accuses when she flies out the window, calling her voodoo doll “a DNA replication module!”  She stabs the doll, making the Doctor shout out.  Thank goodness for that extra Time Lord heart!  Only one of his hearts stops working; Martha whacks him all over until it gets going again.

While the Doctor and Martha rush to the Globe, the actors perform the ending of LLW, including the apocryphal last lines the Witches inserted.  A storm begins to brew above the Globe; the doors out slam shut and the audience panics.  “Now begins the millennium of blood,” Lilith exults.

The Doctor and Martha discover Shakespeare backstage.  Only he can stop this: “The shape of the Globe gives words power, but you’re the wordsmith, the one true genius!”  Shakespeare improvises onstage, adding numbers the Doctor calls, finishing with Martha’s suggestion, “Expelliarmus!” J.K. Rowling’s spell finishes the witches; the entrapped Carrionites, along with the pages of Love’s Labour’s Won, vanish in the storm.

The audience applauds, thinking the ending brilliant stage work.  Martha and Shakespeare take bows while the Doctor grabs the crystal ball that now imprisons Lilith and her crone mothers. A nice addition to the TARDIS’s no doubt dusty and vast attic!

“The Doctor may never kiss you,” Shakespeare sweet-talks Martha. “Why not entertain a man who will?”  If only he didn’t have such stinky breath!  The Doctor offers a lace ruff to act as neck brace for Shakespeare, and offers him one more gimme: a prop reminds the Doctor of the Sycorax, a name Shakespeare muses he’ll use (and does, in The Tempest).

Now, back to Freedonia, the Doctor claims.  Yeah, Shakespeare totes knows you’re time travelers, Doctor.  You just can’t fool a genius!  Shakespeare bids farewell to Martha with a sonnet for “my Dark Lady,” (though of course he recites #18, one directed at the young man in his sequence).

“She’s turned up,” Burbage and Kempe say excitedly; Queen Elizabeth’s heard about the LLW brouhaha and is here to visit.  “Doc-tor, my sworn enemy!” she cries as soon as she spots the Doctor.  He and Martha leg it for the TARDIS, though he has no idea why QEI’s angry at him.  After all he hasn’t met her yet.  “That’s time travel for you,” he says with a rueful grin, just closing the TARDIS in time to keep from being shot with an arrow.

Ooohweee ahwooo awhoo! Yeah, Martha’s not leaving after her “one trip,” even if she doesn’t act the way the Doctor’s grown to expect from Rose.  Sheesh, she’s plenty clever and talented; didn’t anyone ever tell the Doctor comparisons are odious?  We’ll see how things shape up with them as things continue.  Tune in tomorrow with me for “Gridlock”!

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  • Paula

    Actually, it’s The Tempest that Sycorax appears in… She’s Caliban’s mother. /nitpick

  • Ellie

    Hm. With one exception (which we have yet to reach :P) the go-back-in-time-and-meet-someone-famous just aren’t my favourites. And in this one, trying to mix sci-fi and science with witchcraft and history just doesn’t quite gel for me.

    HOWEVER, every episode has some amazing moments, and this one is no exception. I, being an obsessed HP fan, obviously love all those references. All the many references to Shakespeare’s books and lines are impressive, the ‘fake’ lines at the end of the play are hilarious and, most of all, I do like the overarching moral that words have power :D

    • I completely agree with you — and now I’m excited to discover that one exception! For me it’s partly that there’s always so much focus on the historical figure and wacky adventures with same that there’s not really enough development or spark in the sci-fi element. For all their evil cackling, aside from their very first appearance I found the witches rather dull.

  • Fabrisse

    I treated this like Shakespeare crack-fic (which it totally is) and love it to pieces as such. I also think that Martha’s red leather jacket fits in well here.

    Am I right that you don’t know the Martha episodes at all? Because the race stuff gets dealt with both subtly and unsubtly throughout the season. And good on Russell Davies for doing so.

    • Shakespeare crack fic, an excellent approach! Good point on the outfit: her jacket looks a bit like the doublet side of the hose-and-doublet equation. It would have been fun to have a cross-dressing joke or two; perfect fit for the period with all the Roaring Girl pamphlets and crossdressing-for-disguise characters.

      You are right! There are other seasons in which I’ve seen eps and storylines, but all the Martha episodes are totally new to me. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the issue’s handled.

  • Athol F. Streete

    The Shakespeare is a so called parody of the De vinci code that makes claims of the existence of the blood line of a man named Jesus Christ, in truth his true name is Emanuel Jesus also spelled Hesus, Iesus and Eses. Emanuel Eses is also
    known as the foundation stone, the stone that the builders rejected in now become the chief corner stone.
    there fore he, Emanuel Eses is called Cipheus,Petra, or Peter.
    William is the same as Emanuel and Shake-speare is ES-ES or tree-tree or Streete Streete. The bible and the works of William Shakespeare has the clues.