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"The Shakespeare Code" is an episode of the Britishmarker science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 7 April 2007, 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", 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. She bids him enter the house, but to his shock he finds it full of witching artefacts. The woman, Lilith, kisses him, and he finds her transformed into a wrinkled hag. She introduces her two "mothers", Doomfinger and Bloodtide, who appear, cackling; they lunge at the screaming youth, apparently devouring him.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS lands in Elizabethan Londonmarker. Martha questions whether it is safe to walk around, 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 safety 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 and takes her to a performance at the Globe Theatremarker. 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 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, decides to find out more about why it was never published — extending 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 "blackamoor 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 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, 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 Bedlammarker 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. The Doctor explains 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. 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 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 mentioned nor contradicted in this episode. Similarly, Gareth Roberts told Doctor Who Magazine that "The Shakespeare Code" "neither confirms nor denies what's already been said." 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 Theatremarker 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.
  • In "The End of Time", the Doctor implies having married Queen Elizabeth and having left her under unamicable circumstances, fuelling her rage screaming "Off with his head!"

References to other Doctor Who episodes and stories

  • As the Doctor and Martha walk to the Globe Theatre, a soothsayer proclaims ... the Earth shall be consumed by flames. This indeed happens in The End Of The World.
  • 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 — 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" and later in "Journey's End". 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".
  • 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 Scots accent. This scenario is repeated in "The Unicorn and the Wasp" when Donna Noble attempts 1920s upper class vernacular.
  • 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.

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, referring to the short story A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. The Doctor attempts to 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.
  • 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".
  • The planet Rexel 4, as listed in the previous section, is a planet named in an episode of The Tomorrow People from 1974.

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 in Stratford-upon-Avonmarker.
  • 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.
  • The Doctor mentions the Sycorax near the end of the episode, a name which Shakespeare seems to like; it is the name of Caliban's mother, from The Tempest.
  • 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".


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.

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 Trefforestmarker for the scenes in the Crooked House.

Production then went on a week of location night shoots, beginning in Coventrymarker for one night, before moving to the Lord Leycester Hospitalmarker at Warwickmarker. Scenes set in the Globe Theatre were then partially filmed in the recreated Globe Theatremarker in London.

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.

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. Doctor Who Magazine 382
  2. Doctor Who Magazine 382

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