The Shakespeare Code

The Shakespeare Code

Infobox Doctor Who episode
serial_name= The Shakespeare Code

caption=Doomfinger (not pictured), Lilith and Bloodtide look on as William Shakespeare, on stage in the Globe Theatre with Martha, the Doctor and a couple of his actors, shouts "Expelliarmus!" at the swarm of Carrionites circling above the audience for "Love's Labour's Won".cite episode | title = The Shakespeare Code | series = Doctor Who | credits = Writer Gareth Roberts, Director Charles Palmer, Producer Phil Collinson | network = BBC | station = BBC One | city = Cardiff | airdate = 2007-04-07]
doctor=David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
companion=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 – Jailer
*Matt King – Peter Streete
*Robert Demeger – Preacher
*Angela PleasenceQueen Elizabeth I
writer=Gareth Roberts
director=Charles Palmer
script_editor=Simon Winstone
producer=Phil Collinson
executive_producer=Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
length= 45 minutes
date=7 April 2007
7:00 PM
preceding="Smith and Jones"
series=Series 3
series_link=Series 3 (2007)
"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, [cite news
title = Doctor Who UK airdate announced
work = News
publisher = Dreamwatch
date = February 27, 2007
url =
] 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", [ cite news
title = The Shakespeare Code commentary podcast
work = podcast
publisher = BBC
date = April 07, 2007
url =
] 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.


A young woman is serenaded from her balcony by a lute-playing suitor, Wiggins. She bids him enter the house, but to his shock he finds it full of witching artefacts. The woman, Lilith, kisses Wiggins — but, on pulling away, he finds her transformed into a wrinkled hag. She introduces her two "mothers", Doomfinger and Bloodtide, who appear, cackling, and lunge at the screaming youth, apparently devouring him.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS lands in Elizabethan London. Martha questions whether it is safe to walk around in the past, citing such time travel concepts as the Grandfather paradox and a reference to the Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder"; and also worrying about her reception as a black woman in a time when slavery still exists. The Doctor tells her not to worry. He declares that they have arrived in London in about 1599 [A caption on screen at the beginning of the episode gives the date "as" 1599.] and takes her to a performance at the Globe Theatre. At the end of the play, "Love's Labour's Lost", Shakespeare announces that there will soon be a sequel called "Love's Labour's Won". Lilith, using a poppet, influences Shakespeare to declare, rashly, that the new play will premiere the following evening. Martha asks why she has never heard of "Love's Labour's Won". The Doctor knows of the lost play and, curious, decides to find out more about why it was never published — and extends Martha's "one trip".

The two go to The Elephant, the inn where William Shakespeare is staying. They chat with the playwright, who intends to finish writing the final scene of "Love Labour's Won" that night. An instantly beguiled Shakespeare ("Hey, nonny nonny!") tries to woo Martha, describing her as "a queen of Afric" or a " lady", which she finds slightly offensive. The Doctor claims she comes from 'Freedonia' to explain her strange clothing and modern attitudes. Shakespeare sees past the Doctor's psychic paper, which the Doctor cites as proof of the man's genius.

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 this slight means he will ensure the play will never be performed. The trio of 'witches' watch the scene in 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, and privately tells Martha that any other explanation would lead to panic about witchcraft. When Martha asks what did kill Lynley, the Doctor responds, "Witchcraft."

Martha and the Doctor stay overnight at the inn. The Doctor gives a disgruntled Martha mixed signals by casually sharing a bed with her, only to then openly bemoan the lack of Rose's insight. 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. Shakespeare bursts on to the Globe's stage to make the announcement, but two of the Carrionites are already there and use one of their dolls to render him unconscious. The actors — thinking Shakespeare has passed out drunk — 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" which is shouted at the Carrionites (as shown in the picture). The Carrionites — together with all the extant copies of "Love's Labour's Won" — hence, are sucked back through the closing portal. Martha, Shakespeare and the actors from the play 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 once more with Martha and with the Doctor. He reveals his deduction that the Doctor is not of the Earth and that Martha is from the future, once again proving his genius. For his "Dark Lady", he produces the sonnet, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" in her honour, but is interrupted when two of his actors burst in, heralding the arrival of the Queen. Queen Elizabeth enters, recognises the Doctor as her "sworn enemy" and declares, "Off with his head!" The Doctor is surprised at her outburst, since he says he has not yet met the Queen, but comments that he is looking forward to finding out what he will do to offend her. He and Martha flee to the TARDIS, slamming the door just as an arrow embeds itself in the TARDIS's exterior before dematerialisation.


*Shakespeare has appeared in "Doctor Who" 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", conversing with Elizabeth I; in "Planet of Evil", the Fourth Doctor mentions having met Shakespeare; in "City of Death" he claims that he helped transcribe the original manuscript for "Hamlet"; and in "The Mark of the Rani" the Sixth Doctor notes that 'he must see him (Shakespeare) again some time'.
*Shakespeare also 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). The canonicity of all non-television sources is unclear.
*In an interview with Lizo Mzimba, Russell T Davies stated that these past references to meeting Shakespeare would be neither referenced nor contradicted in this episode. [cite video
people = Lizo Mzimba, Russell T Davies
title = CBBC Newsround [ Exclusive Q&A: The brains behind Dr Who]
medium = News Programme
publisher = BBC
location = Newsround studio
date = September 12, 2006
] Similarly, Gareth Roberts told "Doctor Who Magazine" that "The Shakespeare Code" "neither confirms nor denies what's already been said."cite journal |quotes= |last=Duis |first=Rex |date=January |month=2007 |title=Script Doctors: Gareth Roberts |journal=Doctor Who Magazine |issue=377 |pages=13–14] He also noted that an early draft of "The Shakespeare Code" contained "a sly reference to "City of Death", but 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."
*Current scholarship has not reached consensus as to how many sides the original Globe Theatre had. Written descriptions, contemporary illustrations, and archaeological evidence do not lead to any agreement. Gareth Roberts took artistic license to give the Globe 14 sides.
*The Doctor's psychic paper makes its first appearance since "Army of Ghosts", but is shown to be ineffectual on Shakespeare, who only sees blank paper.

References to other Doctor Who episodes and stories

*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"cite web|url=|title=The Crusade - Episode 3|first=David|last=Whitaker|authorlink=David Whitaker|publisher=Doctor Who Scripts Project|accessdate=2007-04-09] — a story consciously written in Shakespearean style.
*The Carrionites' contribution to "Love's Labour's Won" is an incantation that reads::"The light of Shadmock's hollow moon doth shine on to a point in space betwixt Dravidian Shores and Linear 5930167.02, and strikes the fulsome grove of Rexel 4; co-radiating crystal activate!":Dravidians are mentioned in "The Brain of Morbius", Solon's servant Condo having been found in the wreckage of "a Dravidian starship".
*Lilith refers to the Eternals, a race introduced in the original series serial "Enlightenment".
*The Doctor finds a skull in Shakespeare's prop store that reminds him of the Sycorax from "The Christmas Invasion". (Shakespeare says that he will use the name — Sycorax is actually the name of Caliban's mother in "The Tempest".)
*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". The Fourth Doctor also demonstrated a hypnotic, possibly psychic ability with Sarah Jane in "Terror of the Zygons" and "The Hand of Fear".
*Gareth Roberts' 1995 New Adventures novel, "Zamper", featured cyber-turtle creatures known as the Chelonians, who described their slug enemies as "arrionites". According to Roberts, "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". [Doctor Who Magazine 382]
*The Doctor uses the title "Sir Doctor of TARDIS," which was awarded to him by Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw".
*The crystal ball in which the Carrionites are trapped reappears in the episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp".
*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 Scotch accent.

References to other works

*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 (He refers to it as 'Book 7' as at the time of filming the name of the book had not been made public.)—which would not be released until three months after the episode first aired. At the end of the episode, Shakespeare, the Doctor and Martha cry out "Expelliarmus!" and the Doctor exclaims "Good old J.K.!". David Tennant played the part of Barty Crouch, Jr in the film adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".
*Martha mentions the possibility of killing her grandfather, an allusion to the grandfather paradox when she first steps out from the TARDIS into 1599. Martha also mentions that stepping on a butterfly might change the future of the human race, this is due to the popular conception of Butterfly effect. The Doctor attempts to explain how history could be changed with devastating results by referring to the movie "Back to the Future".
*The Doctor claims Martha comes from Freedonia, a fictional country in the Marx Brothers film "Duck Soup". (It is also the name of a planet in the "Doctor Who" novel "Warmonger" by Terrance Dicks.
*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".

References to Shakespeare's life and works

*The episode concerns the "lost" Shakespeare play "Love's Labour's Won", 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).
*Just before the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, he exclaims "Brave new world", from Act V Scene I of "The Tempest".
*The Doctor and Martha make numerous references to Shakespeare's appearance: Martha 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 not far from modern Birmingham.
*In an early scene a sign is glimpsed for an inn named "The Elephant". This is the name of a recommended hotel in "Twelfth Night".
*Shakespeare flirts with Martha multiple times during the episode. At the end, he composes Sonnet 18 for her, calling her his "Dark Lady". Sonnet 18 is in fact numbered among the Fair Lord sonnets. The Dark Lady is the subject of sonnets 127–152.
*At one point, Shakespeare flirts with the Doctor as well, to which the Doctor replies, "Fifty-seven academics just punched the air." Most of Shakespeare's sonnets, including Sonnet 18, are believed by Shakespearean academics to be addressed to a man, and there is a sizable body of scholarship on Shakespeare's sexuality.
*In a few instances in the episode, the Doctor, apparently creating an ontological paradox, inspires Shakespeare to steal some phrases that the Doctor quotes from his plays. Examples of this include the Doctor telling Shakespeare that "all the world's a stage", which appears in the famous Act II monologue in the play "As You Like It", and also saying "the play's the thing", a line from "Hamlet".
*Before heading to visit the Carrionites, the Doctor exclaims "Once more unto the breach". Shakespeare initially likes the phrase, before realising it is one of his own from "Henry V", which was probably written in early 1599.
*Shakespeare says "To be or not to be" which the Doctor suggests he write down, although Shakespeare considers it "too pretentious".
*The three witches are an allusion to the Three Weird Sisters from "Macbeth". Like those witches, the Carrionites use trochaic tetrameter and rhyming couplets to cast spells. ("Macbeth" was written after the setting of this episode.)
* 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').
*Kempe is William Kempe, a highly regarded comic actor of the era, who was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men along with William 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 the New Mermaid Editions of several 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". [Doctor Who Magazine 382]


* 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.
* Gareth Roberts began his professional writing career on the 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 while also developing a TV writing career. 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. This is his first regular episode of the show.
* Scenes for this episode were filmed in Coventry, [cite news
first = Marc
last = Meneaud
title = Dr Who's been sent to Coventry
url =
work = Coventry Evening Telegraph
publisher = Trinity Mirror group
date = 2006-08-29
accessdate = 2006-08-30
] [cite web
url =
title = Historic Coventry - the visit of The Doctor!
accessdate = 2006-08-31
last = Orland
first = Rob
year = 2006
month = August
work = Historic Coventry
] the Lord Leycester Hospital at Warwick, and at the recreated Globe Theatre in London. [cite web
url =
title = Fan Photos from Warwick
accessdate = 2006-09-02
year = 2006
month = August
work = Freema Agyeman fansite
] [cite web
url =
title = Podcast Commentary
* In "SFX" magazine #152, producer Phil Collinson called this episode the "most expensive ever".
*The shot of the Doctor and Martha looking at the Globe Theatre and the Doctor saying "The Globe Theatre" was changed between the Series Three preview at the end of "The Runaway Bride" and this episode; the edge of the Globe Theatre has been replaced with a CGI shot of a village and the distant theatre itself.
*A cut line had Martha mention that the sign for The Elephant Inn looked nothing like an elephant, and the Doctor explained that the people of 1599's London had never seen one. [Doctor Who Magazine 382]
*A cut line had the Doctor telling Shakespeare, "See you earlier." This, according to Roberts, would both explain the Doctor's later friendship with Shakespeare in "City of Death" as well as being a line from "City of Death" itself. [Doctor Who Magazine 382]
* "The Shakespeare Code", along with "Smith and Jones" and "Gridlock" was released on DVD on 21 May 2007
*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. [Doctor Who Magazine 382]


External links

*BBCDWnew | year=2007 |id = 302| title = The Shakespeare Code
*Doctor Who RG | id= who_tv24 | title=The Shakespeare Code | quotes=y
*Brief | id=2007b| title=The Shakespeare Code | quotes=y
* [ "Witchcraft"] - episode trailer


*DWRG| id=shakespeare | title=The Shakespeare Code | quotes=y
*OG review | id=2007-02| title=The Shakespeare Code | quotes=y

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