Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Shakespeare Code"


Historical epics make some of the best Whovian adventures and the BBC does period pieces like nobody’s business. Combine those two facts and you have one of the best episodes of the revived series. You also have the most expensive regular episode ever filmed. Fortunately, it was worthwhile. The show was filled with all sorts of literary references (Not to mention a Marx Brothers shout out to Fredonia.) and social commentary, which was refreshing. The Doctor commented here on the treatment of the mentally ill. One thing that has always bugged me is that he seems to abandon his sense of social justice when he visits the past with its different social mores. Nice to see that is not a hard and fast rule. I am really getting into Martha Jones as the new companion even if she has not officially taken the title yet. She is a sharp, tough character. Much less overwhelmed by situations as the doe eyed Rose.

The plot is deceptively simple. While in a sanitarium mourning the loss of his son, Hamlet, Shakespeare is influenced by three aliens who appear to be witches. They manipulate him into tossing lines into his plays-- an incantation that will allow the rest of their race to come to Earth. The three also influence the creation of the Globe Theater as a way to magnify Shakespeare’s words. It is those words that eventually banish th witches back to their exile. Along the way, there are literary references flying fast and furious. Apparently the Doctor is responsible for quite a few of the Bard’s most famous lines. Shakespeare also develops a crush on Martha and flirts with the Doctor , too. We also dicover Queen Elizabeth I has it out for the Doctor as much as Queen Victoria does. Foreshadowing or just something cutesy thrown in to end the episode?

A couple of Rose references were tossed in at highly emotional moments. She is being treated almost as though she is the Doctor’s ex. One was a moment in which the Doctor and Martha are forced to share a bed. The other is when a witch uses Rose’s name in an attempt to paralyze the Doctor. Both felt awkward at this point. I never thought I would say this, but Martha has made me forget Rose. She is a much stronger character. It seems silly to pine for Rose when Martha is hea and shoulders above her. I suppose there are still fans out there attached to Rose more than I. Presumably such references mean more to them, but I think they are slowing the show down. Hopefully the Doctor will have some sense of closure about his lost companion soon. I do not recall a Saxon reference, either, but given it is 1599, that is forgivable. Great episode otherwise.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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