Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - The Shakespeare Code

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we are taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....
We continue with the next David Tennant episode.... The Shakespeare Code
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

17. The Shakespeare Code

First Broadcast on 7th April 2007. Running Time: 45 Minutes. Viewing Figures: 7.23 million.
Written By Gareth Roberts.
Directed By Charles Palmer.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. Rating: 9/10.


For Martha's first trip in the Tardis, the Doctor takes her back in time, to Elizabethan England. When they find William Shakespeare under the control of deadly witch-like creatures, they must battle forces from the dawn of the universe to stop history being changed for ever.

Extras: Promotional Photos | On Set Photos | Videos | Articles |

Production Notes:
The Shakespeare Code is the first Doctor Who episode written by Gareth Roberts, he had previously penned Doctor Who novels and the interactive content Attack Of The Graske and the TARDISodes. Russell T Davies' only instruction was that he wanted the episode to include William Shakespeare.  Davies was keen to get historical celebrity cameos in to the series and had previously introduced us to Charles Dickens in The Unquiet Dead and Queen Victoria in Tooth And Claw.
It was decided that Gareth Roberts would be the ideal man to bring Shakespeare to life and introduce him to a new audienece as he was particularly interested in him and had already written a Ninth Doctor comic strip, A Groatsworth Of Wit, for Doctor Who Magazine in 2005.

Roberts decided to base the story around Shakespeare's lost play, a comedy called Love's Labour's Won. Some historians believe that this is an alternative title for an existing play, the most popular theory being that it is The Taming Of The Shrew, others believe that it is a completely different work which was supposed to be a sequel to his Love's Labour's Lost.
David Tennant of course went on to star in both Love's Labour's Lost as Berowne in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

For the villains of the episode Roberts decided to look towards the Bard's own works and in particular the iconic three witches of Macbeth. The evil witch like Carrionites were soon born. 
The action in the episode takes place before Shakespeare pens Macbeth, so we are left to imagine that the 'Weird Sisters' are based upon them and that the Bard takes his inspration from the Carrionites rhyming couplet style of casting spells.

Roberts infused the script with references to Shakespeare's plays.
He referenced the Sycorax from The Christmas Invasion - Sycorax is also the name of Caliban's mother in The Tempest. Shakespeare heard the Doctor mention them and we are led to believe then included the name his play.

During the adventure Shakespeare enjoys a flirtation with Martha Jones, and composes Sonnet 18 for her, calling her his "Dark Lady". This is a reference to the unknown female character from the sonnet.
Shakespeare also flirts with the Doctor, to which the Doctor says,"Fifty-seven academics just punched the air," a reference to the debates about Shakespeare's sexuality.
As the Doctor is about to leave  the TARDIS, he exclaims "Brave new world", from Act V Scene I of The Tempest. The local inn is named "The Elephant". This is also the name of an inn in Twelfth Night
The Doctor  also uses the phrase "A Winter's Tale", whilst "poor Tom" from King Lear is also heard.

Doctor Who became the first TV drama to be allowed to film at the new Globe Theatre in London. All filming had to take place during the night so as not to disrupt other events at the theatre and Roberts revised his script accordingly.

Scenes in the Carrionites lair, the Elephant Inn, some theatre shots and Shakespeare's home were filmed at the Upper Boat studios in South Wales.
The cast and crew also went on location to Coventry, and filmed at Ford's Hospital, for one night. The action then moved to the Lord Leycester Hospital in WarwickNewport Indoor Market doubled as Bedlam.

Phil Collinson told SFX that the episode was the "most expensive ever", because of the CGI and the location shoots in Warwick, Coventry and London.
The CGI effects were provided by The Mill. 

The original script included a swordfight between the Doctor and Lilith, but it was considered to be too elaborate and impractical and was axed. Contractual issues with the Globe also threatened to ruin plans to film there and a contingency plan was drawn up to change the location, luckily it was resolved and filming went ahead as planned.

Working titles for the episode included Love's Labour's Won and Theatre Of Death.
The eventual title, The Shakespeare Code, was a spoof reference to the 2003 Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code.

The Wicked Witch:
If ever there was proof of the saying 'looks can deceptive' beautiful Lilith was it. She was Carrionite daughter to Mother Bloodtide and Mother Doomfinger, and leader of the three aliens trying trying to create their Millennium Of Blood - a resurgence of the Carrionite Empire. Lilith was an expert in spellcasting via word-shaping, naming and the use of dolls laced with human hair.
The Carrionites were a female dominated species which existed when the universe was young, based in the 14 stars of the Rexel Planetary Configuaration. As a species, they were cast into the Deep Darkness by the Eternals, who legend has it used the Rexel stars as a prison door.

Lilith and her mothers escaped back to 16th Century England through the words of a depondent William Shakespeare  - Carrionite science being based on sensing emotions such as grief and suffering and using them to manipulate matter via words, shapes, numbers and names.
They had Peter Streete design a 14 sided amphitheatre that would channel their energies back into the Deep Darkness when the correct words were spoken aloud at the epicentre of the structure - a moment the Carrionites referred to as the Hour Of Woven Words. 

Their true form was more akin to a giant skeletal raven or crow but, by using words, the three Carrionites could reshape themselves into a more humanoid form. This required a lot of energy so, with the exception of Lilith who occasionally appeared as a pretty young woman, they often appeared aged and ugly.

When The Doctor and William Shakespeare turned their spellcasting back on them, Lilith and her mothers were trapped inside their crystal ball for eternity.
The Doctor kept their crystal ball in a box in the TARDIS and filed it under 'C' for Carrionites.

William's Way With Words:
William Shakespeare was an Elizabethan playwright, generally thought of as England's greatest ever writer. When the Doctor and Martha Jones met him in 1599, he was still coming to terms with the death of his son, Hamnet.
He arrived on stage after a performance of Love's Labour's Lost and announced he was planning a sequel, Love's Labour's Won.
The Carrionite Lilith was in the audience and used her powers to make him say that it would be performed the next evening. He then joined forces with the Doctor and Martha, who worked out that he was being manipulated by the Carriointes.

Shakespeare tried to stop his play being performed, because the final words, written while under the Carrionites spell, would open a portal to the Deep Darkness and enable a Millennium Of Blood to start on Earth.
With a little help from Martha, Shakespeare was able to create a new ending for the play, using the words against the Carrionite's own spellcasting and exiling them back into their prison for ever.
Shakespeare was immune to the Doctor's psychic paper and quickly worked out that he and Martha were from the future.


William Shakespeare: The Doctor may never kiss you, Martha. Why not entertain a man who will?

The Doctor: Come on! We can have a good flirt later!
William Shakespeare: Is that a promise, Doctor?
The Doctor: Oh, fifty-seven academics just punched the air. Come on.

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?

Martha Jones: So, magic and stuff? It's a surprise, it's all a bit Harry Potter.
The Doctor: Wait till you read book 7. Oh, I cried.

Lilith: But your heart grows cold,
The north wind blows,
And carries down the distant... Rose?
The Doctor: Oooh, big mistake! Because that name keeps me fighting!

  • The Globe Theatre in Southwark was fitted out with specially fireproofed Welsh straw for location filming.
  • The average time in make-up for an actor playing a prosthetic character such as a witch is three hours.
  • Bedlam first admitted the mentally ill in 1403. It still exists today as the Bethlam Royal Hospital of London, and is the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world. It no longer has cells, straw or sadistic jailers.
  • The original Globe theatre was destroyed by fire in 1613. The New Globe Theatre, where some of The Shakespeare Code was filmed, was completed in 1997. Its creation was instigated by the late Sam Wanamaker. Sam was the father of Zoë Wanamaker, who played Cassandra in The End of the World and New Earth.
  • Both Shakespeare and Elizabeth I have appeared in Doctor Who before; in The Chase, the First Doctor saw Will on his 'time television', being given the idea to write Hamlet by the Queen.
  • The Doctor has always been a huge fan of the Bard, and has a particular fondness for quoting Hamlet (that's HamLET). Notable instances include addressing a skull in Image of the Fendahl "Alas, Poor Skull!", deciding to "Go softly on!" in Castrovalva and wishing "Good-night, sweet prince," to a dying comrade in The Two Doctors.  Perhaps one of the reasons the Doctor loves Hamlet so much is that in City of Death he claims to have helped Shakespeare write it, after Will sprained his wrist writing sonnets!

  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Freema Agyeman - Martha Jones
  • Dean Lennox Kelly – William Shakespeare
  • Christina Cole – Lilith
  • Sam Marks – Wiggins
  • Amanda Lawrence – Doomfinger
  • Linda Clarke – Bloodtide
  • Jalaal Hartley – Dick
  • David Westhead – Kempe
  • Andree Bernard – Dolly Bailey
  • Chris Larkin – Lynley
  • Stephen Marcus – Gaoler
  • Matt King – Peter Streete
  • Robert Demeger – Preacher
  • Angela Pleasence – Queen Elizabeth I

What do you think of this episode let us know below...


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