The Shakespeare Code: Wikis


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180 – "The Shakespeare Code"
Doctor Who episode
The Shakespeare Code.jpg
The Carrionite witches look on as William Shakespeare, Martha, and the Doctor stand on stage at the Globe Theatre.[1]
Guest stars
Writer Gareth Roberts
Director Charles Palmer
Script editor Simon Winstone
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Production code 3.2
Series Series 3
Length 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 7 April 2007
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Smith and Jones" "Gridlock"
IMDb profile

"The Shakespeare Code" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 7 April 2007,[2] and is the second episode of Series 3 of the revived Doctor Who series. According to the BARB figures this episode was seen by 7.23 million viewers and was the fifth most popular broadcast on British television in that week. Originally titled "Love's Labour's Won",[3] the episode was re-titled as a reference to The Da Vinci Code.



The Tenth Doctor takes Martha Jones on her first trip in the TARDIS. Arriving in Elizabethan England, they meet William Shakespeare, who is writing his play Love's Labour's Won. However, evil, witch-like Carrionites plot to end the world by placing a code in the new play's closing dialogue. Shakespeare will have to give the performance of his life in order to save the Earth.


The episode begins with a young man romantically serenading a young woman, who watches from her balcony. Invited inside, the young man discovers that the woman, Lilith, is in fact a wrinkled hag; she introduces her two "mothers", Doomfinger and Bloodtide, who lunge, cackling, at the screaming youth, apparently devouring him.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS lands in Elizabethan London in 1599. The Doctor, who had promised to take Martha on one time-travelling trip, takes her to a performance of Love's Labours Lost at the Globe Theatre. At the end of the play, William Shakespeare announces a forthcoming sequel entitled Love's Labour's Won. Lilith, using a poppet, influences Shakespeare to declare that the new play will premiere the following evening. Martha asks why she has never heard of Love's Labour's Won. The Doctor, knowing of the lost play, decides to find out more about why it was never published, extending Martha's "one trip".

The two go to The Elephant, the inn at which Shakespeare is staying. They chat with the playwright, who plans to finish writing the final scene of Love Labour's Won that night. Shakespeare finds Martha's dark complexion attractive; the Doctor explains her strange clothing and modern attitudes by saying she comes from a foreign land, "Freedonia".

Lynley, Master of the Revels, demands to see the script before he allows the play to proceed. When Shakespeare offers to show him the finished script in the morning, the official leaves proclaiming that he will ensure the play will never be performed. The trio of "witches" view the scene remotely by looking into a cauldron. Lilith, who works at the inn, secretly takes some of Lynley's hair and makes another poppet, which she plunges into a bucket of water. The Doctor, Martha, and Shakespeare hear a commotion in the street and run out, where they witness Lynley vomiting water. Lilith stabs the doll in the chest, and Lynley collapses, dead. The Doctor calmly announces that Lynley has died of an imbalance of the humours, privately telling Martha that any other explanation would lead to panic about witchcraft. But when Martha asks what did kill Lynley, the Doctor responds, "Witchcraft."

Martha and the Doctor stay overnight at the inn. Meanwhile, Lilith entrances Shakespeare and, using a marionette, compels him to write a strange concluding paragraph to Love's Labour's Won. She is discovered by the landlady (also the Bard's lover), whom she frightens to death. On hearing another scream, the Doctor runs in and finds the body. Through the window, Martha sees a witch fly away on a broomstick.

In the morning the Doctor, Martha and Shakespeare proceed to the Globe Theatre, where the Doctor asks why the theatre has 14 sides. Shakespeare replies that the architect thought it would make sound carry well and mentions that he eventually went mad and talked of witches. The three then visit the architect, Peter Streete, in Bedlam Asylum. The Doctor helps Streete to emerge from his catatonia for long enough to reveal that the witches dictated the Globe's design to him. He also tells the Doctor that the witches were based in All Hallows Street.

The witches observe this interview through their cauldron. Doomfinger teleports to the cell and kills Peter with a touch. She threatens the other three but the Doctor works out who the witches really are. He names the creature as a Carrionite, which causes her to disappear. The Doctor explains that the Carrionites produce their magic through an ancient science based on the power of words.

Back at the Elephant, the Doctor deduces that the Carrionites intend to use the words of a genius — Shakespeare — to break their species out of eternal imprisonment when Love's Labours Won is performed. The Doctor tells Shakespeare to stop the play whilst he and Martha go to All Hallows Street to thwart the witches, explaining to Martha that if they don't stop the Carrionites, she and the rest of the human race will fade, much the same as Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Shakespeare bursts on to the Globe's stage to make the announcement, but two of the Carrionites use one of their dolls to render him unconscious. The actors carry the playwright off stage and the performance proceeds.

The Doctor and Martha reach All Hallows Street and confront Lilith, who is expecting them. She confirms the Doctor's suspicions: the three Carrionites hope to gain entry for the rest of their species, eliminate the humans, begin a new empire on Earth and spread out from there. Martha, mimicking the Doctor's actions at Bedlam, tries to neutralise her by speaking the name Carrionite, but Lilith mocks her, since naming only works once. Instead, she names Martha Jones, rendering her unconscious.

Lilith tries to do the same to the Doctor, but it fails to affect him, as she is unable to discover his real name. She attempts to weaken him by naming "Rose", but he assures her that that name keeps him fighting. Lilith then feigns an attempt at seduction, which brings her close enough to the Doctor to steal a lock of his hair. Taking flight through the window, she attaches the hair to a doll — which the Doctor explains is essentially a DNA replication module — and stabs it in the heart, whereupon the Doctor collapses. Assuming that he is dead, Lilith flies to the Globe. Martha wakes, and helps the Doctor restart his left heart before the duo race to the Globe.

The actors have already spoken the last lines of the play, a series of directions and instructions that have opened a portal allowing the Carrionites back into the universe. The Doctor tells Shakespeare that only he can find the words to close the portal. Shakespeare improvises a short rhyming stanza but is stuck for a final word. Martha comes up with Expelliarmus (a word from the Harry Potter novels), which is shouted at the Carrionites. The Carrionites — together with all the extant copies of Love's Labour's Won — are sucked back through the closing portal. Martha, Shakespeare and the actors are left to take the applause of the audience who believe it all to be special effects. The Doctor meanwhile finds the three witches trapped, screaming in their own crystal ball and appropriates it for safe-keeping in a dark attic of the TARDIS.

In the morning, Shakespeare flirts again with Martha and with the Doctor, whom he has deduced be an alien, but he is interrupted by the entrance of Queen Elizabeth I, who calls the Doctor her "sworn enemy" and declares, "Off with his head!" The Doctor, who has not yet met the Queen, but comments that he is looking forward to finding out how he will offend her, flees with Martha to the TARDIS, slamming the door just as an arrow embeds itself before dematerialisation.



Shakespeare in Doctor Who

Shakespeare has appeared in one earlier Doctor Who episode before, and the Doctor has also mentioned prior meetings. The Bard is seen by the Doctor and his companions on the screen of their Time-Space Visualiser in The Chase (1965), conversing with Elizabeth I; in Planet of Evil (1975), the Fourth Doctor mentions having met Shakespeare, and in City of Death (1979) he claims that he helped transcribe the original manuscript of Hamlet; and in The Mark of the Rani (1985) the Sixth Doctor says "I must see him [Shakespeare] again some time".

Among non-TV material (which is of debated canonicity), Shakespeare features in the Virgin Missing Adventures novel The Empire of Glass and in the Big Finish Productions audio drama The Kingmaker. In another Big Finish drama, The Time of the Daleks, a child is revealed to be Shakespeare at the story's end. Finally, the Bard also appears in the Doctor Who Magazine Ninth Doctor comic A Groatsworth of Wit (also written by Gareth Roberts).

Producer Russell T Davies and screenwriter Gareth Roberts have both stated that they were aware of these past references to meeting Shakespeare, but that they they would neither be mentioned nor contradicted in the episode.[4][5] Roberts added that although early draft of "The Shakespeare Code" contained "a sly reference to City of Death", it was removed because "it was so sly it would have been a bit confusing for fans that recognised it and baffled the bejesus out of everyone else."[5]

References to earlier Doctor Who episodes and stories

The name of the Carrionites derives from screenwriter Gareth Roberts' own New Adventures novel, Zamper (1995), which refers to a slug-like race known as "arrionites". Roberts has said, "I always thought it was a nice word, and I was thinking of the witches as carrion creatures, so I bunged a C in front of it".[6]

There are several references to events in recent Tenth Doctor apisodes. At one point, the Doctor uses the title "Sir Doctor of TARDIS," which had been awarded to him by Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw" (2006). When Martha first speaks to Shakespeare, she says "verily" and "forsooth" in an attempt to copy the language of the plays, and the Doctor chides her, "Don't do that," echoing a similar scene with Rose at the beginning of "Tooth and Claw" in which Rose attempts a comical Scots accent. This scenario reappears in "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (2008) when Donna Noble attempts a 1920s upper class vernacular.

There are several references to races from earlier Doctor Who episodes. Their contribution to Love's Labour's Won includes the a reference to "Dravidian shores"; a "Dravidians starship" is mentioned in The Brain of Morbius (1976). Lilith refers to the Eternals, a race introduced in the original series serial Enlightenment. In addition, the Doctor finds a skull in Shakespeare's prop store that reminds him of the Sycorax race from The Christmas Invasion (2005); Shakespeare says that he will use the name (the joke is that the name in fact derives from Caliban's mother in Shakespeare's play The Tempest.) A character dies by drowning in a dry environment, similar to a fatality in the 1971 serial The Mind of Evil.

Other sequences include subtle references to much earlier episodes. One of the putative lines of Love's Labour's Won, "the eye should have contentment where it rests", is taken from episode three of the 1965 serial The Crusade[7] — a story consciously written in Shakespearean style. The arrow which embeds into the TARDIS's exterior at the end of the episode echoes the gold-tipped arrow which does the same in Silver Nemesis (1988).

In this episode, the Doctor uses his Time Lord psychic abilities to improve Peter Streete's mental state. This ability was previously seen in "The Girl In The Fireplace" and "Fear Her" (2006) and later in "Journey's End" (2008). The Fourth Doctor also demonstrated a hypnotic, possibly psychic ability with Sarah Jane in Terror of the Zygons (1975) and The Hand of Fear (1976). The Doctor's psychic paper makes its first appearance since Army of Ghosts (2006), but is shown to be ineffectual on the genius Shakespeare, who only sees blank paper.

References in later Doctor Who episodes

Some of the events in this episode are picked up in later ones. The crystal ball in which the Carrionites are trapped reappears in the episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (2008). In The End of Time (2009), the anger of Queen Elizabeth is explained a scene which implies that Doctor married her and left her under unamicable circumstances.

References to other works

References related to Shakespeare

The episode concerns the "lost" Shakespeare play Love's Labour's Won, which is referred to in more than one historical document, but which may be just an alternate title for an extant play. In reality, a reference to Love's Labour's Won (in Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, 1598) predates the construction of the Globe Theatre (1599).

The Doctor and Martha make numerous references to Shakespeare's appearance: she notes that he looks nothing like his portrait, and wonders why he is not bald, while the Doctor says he could make his head bald if he rubs it and later gives him a ruff to keep (calling it "a neck brace"). Shakespeare himself speaks with a noticeable Midlands accent, a reference to his birth and upbringing in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The episode makes reference to the many debates about Shakespeare's sexuality. Shakespeare flirts with Martha multiple times during the episode, and ultimately composes Sonnet 18 for her, calling her his "Dark Lady". This is a reference to the enigmatic female character in Shakespeare's Sonnets, although Sonnet 18 is in fact one of those addressed to a male character, the Fair Lord. Shakespeare subsequently flirts with the Doctor as well, at which the Doctor observes, "Fifty-seven academics just punched the air," a reference to the debates on this subject.

There is a running joke throughout the episode in which the Doctor creates an apparent ontological paradox by inspiring Shakespeare to borrow phrases that the Doctor quotes from his plays. Examples of this include the Doctor telling Shakespeare that "all the world's a stage" (from As You Like It) and "the play's the thing" (from Hamlet), as well as the name Sycorax from The Tempest. However, when Shakespeare himself coins the phrase "To be or not to be", the Doctor suggests he write it down, but Shakespeare considers it "too pretentious". In a different version of the joke, the Doctor exclaims "Once more unto the breach", and Shakespeare initially likes the phrase, before realising it is one of his own from Henry V, which was probably written in early 1599.

There are numerous other allusions to Shakespeare's plays. Just before the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, he exclaims "Brave new world", from Act V Scene I of The Tempest. In an early scene a sign is glimpsed for an inn named "The Elephant". This is the name of an inn recommended in Twelfth Night. The three Carrionites allude to the Weird Sisters from Macbeth (which was written several years after the setting of this episode); like them, the Carrionites use trochaic tetrameter and rhyming couplets to cast spells. When regressing the architect in Bedlam, The Doctor uses the phrase "A Winter's Tale", whilst the architect himself uses the phrase "poor Tom" in the same way as the 'mad' Edgar in King Lear.

Lilith credits the Carrionites' escape from the Eternals' banishment to 'new...glittering' words. Shakespeare is credited with adding two to three thousand words to the English language including 'assassination', 'eyeball', 'leapfrog' and 'gloomy').

The character Kempe is William Kempe, a highly regarded comic actor of the era, who was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men along with Shakespeare and Richard Burbage.

Wiggins is named after Doctor Martin Wiggins, a distinguished academic in the field of Elizabethan and Jacobean literature and the editor of several editions of influential plays of this period. Wiggins is also a Doctor Who fan and a friend of Roberts'. According to writer Gareth Roberts, "if anyone was gonna trip me after transmission it'd be him, so I thought I'd butter him up first".[6]


There are several references to the Harry Potter franchise. At one point, Martha says "It's all a bit Harry Potter", which prompts the Doctor to claim that he has read the final book in the series (which would not be released until 3 months after the episode was aired; the Doctor refers to it as "Book 7" because the title had not been made public at the time of filming). At the end of the episode, Shakespeare, the Doctor and Martha use a word from Harry Potter, "Expelliarmus", to defeat the Carrionites, and the Doctor exclaims "Good old J.K.!". These references include some metatheatrical humour, since David Tennant played the part of Barty Crouch, Jr in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

There are several references to the paradoxes of time travel. Martha mentions the possibility of killing her grandfather, an allusion to the grandfather paradox, when she first steps from the TARDIS. She also suggests that stepping on a butterfly might change the future of the human race, an idea that originates in Ray Bradbury's 1952 short story A Sound of Thunder. The Doctor explain how history could be changed with devastating results by referring to the movie Back to the Future. Martha scorns this explanation by saying 'The film?' to which the Doctor retorts 'No, the novelization! Yes the film!'. There is indeed a novelization of Back to the Future, written by George Gipe.

Some of the words and names used are derived from other works. The Doctor claims Martha comes from Freedonia, a fictional country in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup. (And also the name of a planet in the Doctor Who novel Warmonger (2002) by Terrance Dicks.) The planet Rexel 4 is named in an episode of The Tomorrow People from 1974.

The Doctor quotes the line, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," from "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas — but warns Shakespeare he cannot use it as it is "somebody else's".


Writing and pre-production

The episode was Gareth Roberts' first writing credit proper on the show, however he had written for Doctor Who many times before. He started writing some Virgin New Adventures, a series of Doctor Who novels, with The Highest Science (1993). He went on to write several more books for Virgin Books and further Doctor Who spin-offs. With the new TV series, Roberts again produced a tie-in novel (Only Human, 2005) and then various smaller jobs for the TV show, including the "Attack of the Graske" digital television interactive mini-episode and the TARDISODEs.

As revealed in Doctor Who Adventures issue 30, this episode had the working title of "Love's Labours Won". By the time of production, however, the title had been changed to "Theatre of Doom", according to David Tennant's video diary shot during production and included as a bonus feature of the Series 3 DVD set. Tennant remarks that the title would likely change before broadcast, suggesting "Theatre of Doom" was only a temporary title.

The ending featuring Queen Elizabeth was Russell T Davies's idea, who told Roberts to "make it a bit like the ending of The One Doctor", a Big Finish Productions audio drama also written by Roberts.[6]

The scene in which the Doctor and Martha share a room was originally written to have the Doctor casually undress down to his underwear; and still obliviously invite Martha to share the bed. It was rewritten as the producers and Tennant thought it would be inappropriate.


Filming for the episode took place from 23 August to 15 September 2006. Production started at the production team's Upper Boat Studios in Trefforest for the scenes in the Crooked House.[8]

Production then went on a week of location night shoots, beginning in Coventry for one night,[9][10] before moving to the Lord Leycester Hospital at Warwick. Scenes set in the Globe Theatre were then partially filmed in the recreated Globe Theatre in London.[11][12]

Apart from Newport Indoor Market, where the scenes at Bedlam were recreated in the basement, the remainder of the shoot took place in Upper Boat Studios, for the scenes set in the Elephant Inn, sections of Globe Theatre material, and the TARDIS scenes.[8]

In SFX magazine #152, producer Phil Collinson called this episode the "most expensive ever", because of the large amounts of CGI and filming in Warwick, Coventry and London.

Special effects

The special effects on the episode were done by The Mill, who have created the special effects on all Doctor Who episodes since its return in 2005. The vast amount of CGI work required was mainly for the climax of the episode.

One shot of the Doctor and Martha looking at the Globe Theatre was changed between the Series Three preview at the end of "The Runaway Bride" and the final episode; the edge of the Globe Theatre has been replaced with a CGI shot of a village and the distant theatre itself.

Broadcast and release

The episode was first broadcast at 7pm on 7 April 2007. It was seen by 7.2 million viewers, and was the fourteenth most watched program of the week.

"The Shakespeare Code", along with "Smith and Jones" and "Gridlock" was released on a vanilla DVD on 21 May 2007. It was then re-released as part of the Series Three boxset in November 2007.


  1. ^ "The Shakespeare Code". Writer Gareth Roberts, Director Charles Palmer, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC One, Cardiff. 2007-04-07.
  2. ^ "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News (Dreamwatch). February 27, 2007.  
  3. ^ "The Shakespeare Code commentary podcast". podcast (BBC). April 07, 2007.  
  4. ^ Lizo Mzimba, Russell T Davies. (September 12, 2006). CBBC Newsround Exclusive Q&A: The brains behind Dr Who. [News Programme]. Newsround studio: BBC.  
  5. ^ a b Duis, Rex (January 2007). "Script Doctors: Gareth Roberts". Doctor Who Magazine (377): 13–14.  
  6. ^ a b c Doctor Who Magazine 382
  7. ^ Whitaker, David. "The Crusade - Episode 3". Doctor Who Scripts Project. Retrieved 2007-04-09.  
  8. ^ a b Pixley, Andrew (August 2007). "The Shakespeare Code". Doctor Who Magazine Special - Series 3 Companion (Panini Magazines).  
  9. ^ Meneaud, Marc (2006-08-29). "Dr Who's been sent to Coventry". Coventry Evening Telegraph (Trinity Mirror group). Retrieved 2006-08-30.  
  10. ^ Orland, Rob (August 2006). "Historic Coventry - the visit of The Doctor!". Historic Coventry. Retrieved 2006-08-31.  
  11. ^ "Fan Photos from Warwick". Freema Agyeman fansite. August 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-02.  
  12. ^ "Podcast Commentary".  

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