Monday, April 16, 2007


A few O'Bservations about "The Shakespeare Code", the second episode of 'Doctor Who' this season. There will be spoilers.....

This is one of those episodes where the American audience is at a disadvantage, since it will be months before we get to see it (officially and legally). In "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor mentions the seventh book of the "Harry Potter" series, teasing Martha with how good it is, since from her perspective it hasn't been published yet. (It's the first few days of April, 2007, her time perspective, but the episode takes place in 1599.)

Being a time traveler, he's already read "The Deathly Hallows"; by the time this airs in the States, anybody who wants to read the book will have already done so.

Of course, it's a reference that will date the episode for all future audiences, in much the same way that Number Six's comment that he'd like to be the first man on the moon dates 'The Prisoner'.

It's also a reference that spoils my dream to one day see JK Rowling allow a TV series based on Hogwart's Academy. Luckily for me, this could still be the Doctor from an alternate Toobworld as was the case in the last two years.

However, should it ever come to pass, I'll find a way to splain it off....

Once again we see how the Doctor inserted himself into Earth's history; this time by supplying William Shakespeare with a few choice turns of phrase. (During which he almost robbed Dylan Thomas the opportunity to be the first to come up with one of his most famous quotes!)

The first Shakespearean quote used by the Doctor was "brave new world". But he said that within the TARDIS, out of earshot for Shakespeare. So four years later (or perhaps more), when Will was writing "The Tempest", it was wholly original for him.

What was interesting about the Doctor's use of the phrase is the full quotation from which it comes:

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't
The Tempest, Act V, Scene I

The sentiment it expresses captures the Doctor's enthusiasm for the potential in the human race. This was a running theme last season during the first batch of adventures for the Tenth Doctor.

One term in "The Tempest" which can be attributed to the Doctor was the name of "Sycorax". In "The Christmas Invasion", the Sycorax were an alien race bent on subjugating the Earth to be their current foodbasket. At the end of "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor found a mask in the prop room similar to that worn by the Sycorax and pointed this out.

Shakespeare liked the sound of the word and promised to use it - which he did, as the name of the witch who was the mother of Caliban.

This helped clear up that little bugaboo. At least it was a problem for me - I thought it lazy to steal from Shakespeare to create the name of an alien race. But now, thanks to a time travel loop, we learn that Shakespeare stole the name from that alien race!

I should point out that all of the plays written by Shakespeare were based on "true" events in the TV Universe. Not just the histories, but the comedies and tragedies as well. For Toobworld, there really was a Prospero, a Shylock, a Malvolio and a Titania; Shakespeare was just creating his own version of what really happened to them. In a way, like screenwriters inventing dialogue for real-life characters in intimate situations where there is no public record. (See last year's movies "The Queen" and "The Last King Of Scotland", both by Peter Morgan, who also brought the televersion of Lord "Longford" to life in Toobworld.)

As with modern screenwriters, Shakespeare took liberties with his source material: combining characters, creating fictional characters to better serve the narrative (like DeVito's character in "Hoffa"). And sometimes he changed the names or even added them when none could be found. It just may be that there was no record of the name for Caliban's mom; but since she was a witch, Shakespeare probably remembered the term "Sycorax" from when he dealt with "witches" while the Doctor was in town.

From online sources: "The Tempest" is dated by many conventional scholars circa 1610-11. However, Oxfordian researchers and some modern scholars dispute this dating, arguing for a date closer to 1603-04.

It could be that Shakespeare's interpretation of the "real" Prospero was inspired by his encounter with the Doctor.....

These are the plays Shakespeare wrote before meeting the Doctor and Martha:
(Dates in parentheses indicate the date of first publication only.)

(1562), "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet", by Oxford, under the pseudonym Arthur Brooke.
(1567), Ovid’s Metamorphoses, collaboration with Oxford's uncle and tutor, Arthur Golding.
1574, Famous Victories of Henry Fifth, early version of Henry IV, Part 1 & 2, and Henry V.

1577, revised 1594 (1623) Comedy of Errors' earlier version called “A Historie of Error". If this is the same as the play entitled "The Night of Errors," it was also performed on 28 December 1594.
1577, revised 1593 (1594) Titus Andronicus .
1577, (1609) Pericles Prince of Tyre. Completed in 1607 by another hand, probably George Wilkins.
1578, (1623) Cymbeline; earlier version called "An History of the Cruelties of A StepMother"
1579, revised in 1602 (1623) All's Well That Ends Well; earlier version called “An History of the Second Helene"
1579, (1623) The Taming of the Shrew; earlier version called “A Morall of the Marriage of Mynde and Measure”
1579, revised in 1590 (1623) Love's Labour's Lost, earlier version called "A Maske of Amazons and a Maske of Knights”
1579, (1623) Merchant of Venice; earlier version called “The Jew”
1581, revised 1594 (1597) Romeo and Juliet
1581, revised 1592 (1602) Richard III
1581, revised 1590 (1595) Henry VI, Part III
1583, revised in 1599 (1600) Much Ado About Nothing
1584, revised 1590 (published 1598) Henry VI, Part I Stationers' Register on 25 February 1598.
1585, revised 1598 (published 1600) Henry VI, Part 2
1586, revised in 1599 (1600) Henry V
(The Doctor uses the line "Once more unto the breach", and Shakespeare exclaims that it's one of his lines, so that fits the chronology.)
1588, revised in 1599 (1623) As You Like It Stationers' Register in August 1600
1589, revised in 1599 (1623) Julius Caesar Mentioned by Thomas Platter in 1599.
1589, revised in 1601 (1603) Hamlet Stationers' Register in July 1602 describes it as “lately acted.”
1589 (published 1600) Henry VI, Part II Parodied by Robert Greene in 1592. In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1590, revised in 1596 (1622) King John In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1591, revised 1604 (1622) Othello Performed November 1604. Stationers' Register in November 1607.
1592, revised in 1602 (1623) Twelfth Night
1593 (1623) Taming of the Shrew
1593, (1623) Henry VIII (probably revised in 1612 by John Fletcher)
1594 (1623) The Two Gentlemen of Verona In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1594 (1598) Love's Labour's Lost In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1594, revised in 1603 (1623) Macbeth; revised again in 1615 by Thomas Middleton.
1594, revised 1603 (1608) King Lear, earlier version called "The True Chronicle History of King Leir"
1594, (1623) "The Winter's Tale; earlier version called "A Winter’s Night Pastime".
1595 (1597) Richard II In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1595 (1600) A Midsummer Night's Dream In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1596 (1600) The Merchant of Venice Recorded at Stationers' Register on 22 July 1598. In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1597 Henry IV, Part I In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays.
1594-1597 (1603?) Love's Labour's Won In Francis Meres' 1598 list of Shakespeare plays. In Christopher Hunt's August 1603 booklist. A lost play.
1598 (1602) Merry Wives of Windsor,
[from Wikipedia]

So any quotes the Doctor delivers in this episode had better come from future options. If not, it'll just have to be yet another example of the differences between Toobworld and the Real World which extend beyond geographical locations and phone numbers - like the fact that in one of the TV dimensions, Jules Verne is at least twenty years younger than he was in the Real World. ('The Secret Adventures Of Jules Verne')

Marsha Jones is now woven into "History" as the "Dark Lady", inspiration for the sonnets. I don't think this ever happened for any of the Doctor's Companions before - except maybe Jamie McCrimmon. They've been involved in historical events before, mostly with the First Doctor, - like the Shootout at the OK Corral and the Burning of Rome - and they've met historical figures - like Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, and Richard the Lion-Hearted - but I don't think any one specific historical event can be attributed to them.

But if I'm wrong, I'm sure there'll be somebody out there who will correct me......

The Carrionites had been around since the dawn of Creation according to the Doctor. They could have been one of those races of sentient beings who escaped the destruction of one universe via the Big Bang which then created the TV Universe. (Relax, Creationists! I'm not saying that's how the "Trueniverse" was created; not my bailiwick.)

According to 'Babylon 5', that's how the TV Universe began, as well as in the tales of Lovecraft, I believe (which have been absorbed into the TV Universe).

If not, at least the Old Ones of Lovecraft can be counted among the Eternals, the name given by the Doctor to those were old when the Universe was born. These would include the Vorlons and the Shadows, again from 'Babylon 5'.

In the TV Universe, this may have been the first time Shakespeare came into contact with time travellers, but it would not be the last. Using their own specially designed equipment (probably adapted from that used by 'Captain Z-Ro'), CBS News sent reporters back to the Globe Theatre to interview members of the acting troupe, including Richard Burbage. ('You Are There')

And Shakespeare was actually pulled forward in Time by way of a magical spell to help out a struggling screenwriter. ('The Twilight Zone')

At the end of the episode, we learned that Queen Elizabeth has met the Tenth Doctor before, but it hasn't happened yet for him.

If it ever should happen onscreen, it will have to be during David Tennant's tenure in the role since she recognized him in that bodily form.

Personally, I hope it's always left for us to wonder what might have/will happen between the two to cause such enmity on her part. Leave it to the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers to flesh out that chapter of Toobworld life between the episodes.

But should they ever film it, I hope they cast Glenda Jackson as the aging Queen Elizabeth. For Toobworld, she is the reigning version of the Virgin Queen. (The actress seen in the role at the end of "The Shakespeare Code" was on so fleetingly and covered in so much make-up, that we can fudge the "Darrin Discrepancy" of recasting.)

The adventure of "The Shakespeare Code" takes place in 1599. The Doctor - in his first incarnation - used his Visualizer to witness a meeting between Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare and Francis Bacon as they discussed "Hamlet" and the Queen mentions the character of Falstaff. (From The Doctor Who Chronology:

"The Chase: The Executioners": Shakespeare meets with Queen Elizabeth I regarding his plays.Queen Elizabeth refers to having seen a play with Falstaff. This is probably a reference to his first appearance in Henry IV, finished in this year.)

That discussion supposedly took place in 1598. Yet during "The Shakespeare Code", Shakespeare hits upon the phrase "to be or not to be" and likes the sound of it.

"Hamlet" was written in 1589, but it was revised in 1601. So it may have been then when he added the phrase. A Shakespearean scholar would know better than a branded sciolist such as m'self.

I may be remembering the scene wrong, but I believe the Doctor was dismissive of the notion that magic actually exists in the world.

Of course, his world is Toobworld, no matter which dimension he's in. (I'm still not sure if the show has shifted focus to the Doctor of the Main Toobworld yet, which I've heard rumors that it would.) And in Toobworld magic plays a major role: 'Charmed', 'Buffy', 'Angel', 'Nanny and the Professor', 'The Dresden Files', and of course, 'Bewitched'.

At best, (again, if I'm remembering correctly), the Doctor dismissed magic as a scientific process, using words and numbers. not understood by the unlearned.

It's not exactly a Zonk, more of a personal opinion held by a Toobworld character that's definitely wrong; kind of like every belief held by Archie Bunker.

And he could have just been lying to Martha about magic. It's my belief that the Doctor is an old hand at lying to his Companions - about his age; about traveling between dimensions; and about having a human mother....

So that's a lot of analysis for one 50 minute TV show, but Gareth Roberts packed a lot to work with into his script. I've still got at least one more aspect I want to cover, but it deserves to stand on its own......

It looks to be a very good season of 'Doctor Who' for such analyses.....

Sir Toby [not Belch]....

Thanks to Mark for his help on this!

No comments: