The Shakespeare Code (Doctor Who)

Gareth Roberts, w; 2007.

It’s ironic, in a way, that the best (and, perhaps, most ‘accurate’) depiction of Elizabethan England on screen is to be found in Doctor Who’s 2007 episode, The Shakespeare Code. In a show about a time-travelling alien from the future, it’s these historical episodes that can be the most fun, as Gareth Roberts shows here. Filled with in-joke upon in-joke after in-joke, Shakespeare lines are peppered like full stops in nearly every scene, allusions and complicit nods abound, and for David Tennant’s Doctor, you can see he’s having the time of his life. With its story of witches, a lost play – Love’s Labour’s Won – words as magic spells, Harry Potter, and unrequited love, it’s certainly not that far off what Shakespeare wrote about across his career. There’s the mud in the streets, the filth, the gorgeous wood-and-plaster buildings, the dark candle-lit interiors and, like a beacon, the great Globe itself, and it really does feel, well, real, I suppose. As real as it can be for a television show about time-travel set in an imagined version of 1599. There’s more Shakespeare in this forty-five minutes than in the entirety of Shakespeare in Love, and that really only can be a good thing.