TV Review: Doctor Who Episode 3.02 “The Shakespeare Code”

Episode 3.02 “The Shakespeare Code”
Written By: Gareth Roberts
Originally Aired: 7 April 2007

Synopsis: “The Doctor takes Martha back in time to Elizabethan England where they meet William Shakespeare and try to solve what sent the architect of the Globe Theatre to the madhouse.” (Wikipedia)

A fun, beautiful-looking episode, very similar to Episode 1.03 “The Unquiet Dead,” with its darkly lush historical setting (see the header image), and its topics of great English literature and creative inspiration. I love how the Doctor is such a huge fan of Earth’s artistic traditions. He loves Charles Dickens, he quotes Shakespeare with glee, and he even reads Harry Potter! (“Wait till you read Book 7. Oh, I cried.”) (In the next season you will discover that he also enjoys Agatha Christie’s Poirot.)

I question the Doctor’s assertion that Shakespeare was the greatest genius of all humanity, but it is neat that the Bard’s brilliance, quick-wit, and intuition render the Doctor’s psychic paper ineffectual on him. Normally the Doctor can just flash his wallet of psychic paper—which is actually blank—and people will see whatever he wants them to see on it (a special ID, tickets to a concert, etcetera). But Shakespeare not only sees the blank page, but he quickly deduces its nature and the fact that the Doctor is from the future. Quite a shocker that should be, but it only delights the Doctor. A true fanboy!As may be expected, there is much comedy gained from the running gag of the Doctor “accidentally” feeding Shakespeare many of his own famous lines (“The play’s the thing. And yes, you can use that.”), as well as a few that aren’t Shakespeare’s (The Doctor: “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light…” Shakespeare: “I might use that.” The Doctor: “You can’t, it’s someone else’s.”).  And it turns out that the Bard is almost as big a flirt as Captain Jack, though considerably more eloquent. Never one to be politically correct, but always one to be romantic, Shakespeare is inspired by Martha’s beauty to write about his mysterious “dark lady.”

All in all, a strong, very entertaining episode, with no huge weaknesses that I remember.

[after landing with the TARDIS]
Martha Jones: But are we safe? I mean, can we move around and stuff?
The Doctor: Of course we can. Why not?
Martha Jones: It’s like in those films: if you step on a butterfly, you change the future of the human race.
The Doctor: Then, don’t step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to you?


  1. mjschneider says:

    Glad to see that you finally got around to punching out the new Who reviews! “Shakespeare Code” is one of my favorite episodes. It’s a pithy piffle, but it’s loads of fun. I like it a bit more than “Blink,” but not more than the “Family of Blood” two-parter, which is, for me, perhaps the highlight of the Tennant run.

    1. David says:

      “Blink” is brilliant but it has so little of the Doctor. Interestingly, the same can be said of “The Family of Blood” two-parter.

      Yeah, the all-in-one-post format was just taking too long to produce. This way I can roll right on from Series 3 to Series 4 without a break.

  2. emilykazakh says:

    I enjoyed this one, too. I did think the villains were a bit weak, but the story itself was just so fun and witty that I didn’t care.
    Interestingly enough, I think Steven Moffat borrowed a bit from this episode in season 5. “Vincent and the Doctor” has a similar camaraderie between Doctor, Companion, and Historical Figure.

    1. David says:

      The concept behind the witch-creatures was interesting, but overall they were a tad weak, I agree. But good enough for a slick adventure.

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