Story 180
Series 3 – Episode 2


“Hey nonny, nonny” – William Shakespeare

London, 1599: for her first trip in the Tardis, the Doctor takes Martha back to Elizabethan England where they chance upon William Shakespeare at the height of his success at the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare is, however, being manipulated by the Carrionites, three evil witches whose “magic” relies on the power of the word. They are steering him to write a spell into the final scene of his next play, Love’s Labour’s Won. With the Globe’s tetradecagon design serving as an energy converter, the incantation will open a portal to free the Carrionite species from age-old imprisonment, whereafter they will wreak a “millennium of blood”…

First UK transmission
Saturday 7 April 2007

August–October 2006. Main locations: Ford’s Hospital and Cheylesmore Manor in Coventry. Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick. Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Newport Indoor Market. Market Tavern in Pontypridd. Studios: Upper Boat Studios, Treforest, Pontypridd.

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

Writer – Gareth Roberts
Director – Charles Palmer
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner

RT review by Patrick Mulkern (published 7 April 2022)
“This might be our most lavish production yet,” reckoned Russell T Davies, in his episode guide for Radio Times in 2007. And it’s clear to see why. Though we don’t have, say, Daleks and Cybermen raging war across the city skyline, we are treated to a sumptuous evocation of Elizabethan London, with stunningly composed vistas of Southwark and old London Bridge glowing in the moonlight.

On the ground, the Who cast and crew were obliged to range beyond their familiar south Wales and film at authentic locales in Coventry, Warwick and – most prized of all – at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. With the theatre open to the public daytime and evening, this meant a night-shoot with the team toiling through the small hours. Action that had been set in daylight became nocturnal (albeit with events in the auditorium remarkably well-lit for 400 years ago) and called for an abundance of extras in fancy or ragged costumes, the Globe audience multiplied several times by CGI.

This first thing that strikes, though, rewatching The Shakespeare Code many years later is how darned sexy it is. The teaser at the start is a literal teaser, as yummy young lutenist Wiggins (Sam Marks) serenades comely temptress Lilith (Christina Cole) at her first-floor window. “Such sweet music shows your blood to be a-fire,” coos she. “Why wait we on stale custom for consummation?” “Oh, yes. Tonight’s the night,” gasps he, agog. Sadly, the lustful lad soon clocks her “foul” hovel and is being torn limb from limb by three ravenous witches. Thus, Romeo and Juliet gruesomely collides with the opening of Macbeth.

Flames of passion flicker throughout, from Shakespeare appraising Martha with a “Hey nonny, nonny…” when he first claps eyes on her, to ultimately proposing “a sonnet for my Dark Lady. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” At the Elephant inn, landlady Dolly Bailey promises Will carnal pleasures once he’s set down his quill, while the Doctor and Martha are obliged to share a bed. Gazing at him adoringly, she looks game for an embrace at the very least: “Sorry, there’s not much room. Us two here, same bed. Tongues will wag…” The Time Lord of course is above such things, his mind whirring with the present mystery, and he kills the moment by mentioning Rose. Stung, Martha blows out her candle. Later, mid-escapade, the Doctor halts Will and Martha’s badinage with: “We can all have a good flirt later.” “Is that a promise, Doctor?” says Will, giving him the glad eye. “Oh, 57 academics just punched the air!” trills the Lord of Time.

It’s safe to say that writer Gareth Roberts is revelling royally in this commission bestowed by his majesty Russell T. A life-long fan, Roberts had penned Doctor Who books, and the “Tardisode” mini-prologues the previous year, but this was his first full assignment for the series. “It was daunting,” he told RT in 2007, having to put words into Shakespeare’s mouth and dreaming up lines for the lost play, Love’s Labours Won. But Roberts is a pro, erudite and witty, and gets over the initial hurdle by making Will’s first words to the Globe rabble, “Ah, shut yer big fat mouths!”

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William Shakespeare is not the egg-faced beardie-weirdie of his few familiar portraits; here he’s a bit of a rock star, charismatic, virile, beaming star wattage across his own stage, putting the celeb into this “celebrity historical”. Dean Lennox Kelly is terrific in the role.

Many of the Bard’s most famous phrases are deployed, some allegedly suggested by the Doctor, such as: “All the world’s a stage.” “Hmm,” mulls Will, “I might use that.” And the Doctor later: “The play’s the thing! …and yes, you can have that.” There are several amusing variations.

As is fitting, the tale honours and hinges upon the power of the word. Words alone have power to create and destroy. This isn’t new in Who (see The Mind Robber and The Daemons) but it’s effective here, as the Carrionite witches manipulate Will to provide the incantation that will release their wraith-like kin, and the Doctor urges him to improvise lines to banish them again. When words fail the greatest ever wordsmith, an inspired Roberts lets Martha pipe up with “Expelliarmus!” JK Rowling to the rescue!

To end, the arrival of a very regal crone, Queen Elizabeth the First – demanding “Off with his head!” when she spots the Doctor at the Globe – makes for an amusing pay-off. One that would be followed up some six years later in the 50th anniversary special.

Radio Times Archive


In 2007, RT continued its extensive weekly coverage of each new episode.