Posted 31 August 2009 in Doctor Who by Catriona
Right. I am entirely prepared for the live-blogging of this episode, despite a day of marking. (And not my most successful day of marking, either.)
I’m also uncertain about the correlation between Shakespeare and Dan Brown implied by this episode title—though I’m reluctant to push that one any further, lest I be accused once again of being a Leavisite.
I have also (just to embed yet another sentence in this series) done some light research, the better to enrich my live-blogging of this episode.
Yes, I only looked up some key dates. And, yes, I work in an English department. And, yes, I should probably have know those dates already. My only defense is that I’m not a Shakespearean scholar.
(My friend Drew would be able to give you those dates off the top of his head.)
We’re here in London in 1599, with the girl from Hex carrying a candle and smiling at a young boy out of her window, as he serenades her with a fairly atonal Elizabethan ballad.
Still, it works for him: he’s invited in with the double entendre, “Would you enter, bold sir?”
“Oh, I would,” he says.
But she’s called Lilith, which is never a good thing. And she introduces him to Mother Doomfinger and Mother Bloodtide, who tear him apart.
Lilith speaks to camera about the coming of the end of the world at the time of woven words.
NICK: Who is she talking to?
ME: It’s a soliloquy, darling.
NICK: Straight to camera?
I don’t see why not.
Martha, in the TARDIS, wants to know how he travels through time, but the Doctor accuses her of wanting to take all the mystery out of things, and then reveals that he failed his driving test.
They’re in Elizabethan England.
MARTHA: Oh, my god. We did it! We travelled in time!
ME: Or you’re in Disneyland.
Martha is reluctant to wander around, in case she steps on a butterfly, or kills her grandfather. The Doctor asks whether she’s planning to kill her grandfather, and she says no.
Martha wonders whether she’s going to be carted off as a slave, but the Doctor says he’s not even human: he advises that she just walk around as though she owns the place. He says it works for him.
So they go to the Globe Theatre.
DOCTOR: You can go home, tell everyone you’ve seen Shakespeare.
MARTHA: Then, I could get sectioned!
At the end of the play, Martha starts shouting for the author, which the Doctor implies starts the tradition, but Shakespeare looks fairly happy to leap out on stage, so he seems quite used to it.
Lilith, the mysterious woman from the beginning, pulls a voodoo doll out of her purse as Shakespeare wanders across the stage.
The Doctor is partial to Shakespeare, it seems.
Now, this is Love’s Labour’s Lost (believed to have been written 1595-1596, first published 1598, so is this a later performance? Would it have been published before it was performed?) and Shakespeare promises the sequel tomorrow night.
Martha says she’s never heard of Love’s Labour’s Won, and the Doctor describes it as “the lost play.” Ooh, Cardenio must be feeling pretty out of things at this point.
Martha asks how it went missing in the first place, and that piques the Doctor’s interest: he says they can stay a little later.
So, they burst into Shakespeare’s room, while he’s sitting with his players and insisting he’ll have the last scene by tomorrow morning. (Lilith is wandering around disguised as a serving maid, by the way.)
SHAKESPEARE: No autographs; no, you can’t have yourself sketched with me; and, please, don’t ask where I get my ideas from.
Shakespeare manages to offend Martha—about ten times in a row.
The Registrar of Plays—I’m assuming he’s an historically accurate figure? I know the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century stage was heavily censored, but I’m not sure about dramatic practice in the sixteenth century.
Oh, it doesn’t matter: he’s bumped into Lilith, who is determined to have the play performed, and she and her “mothers” drown him through the powers of voodoo, and then stop his heart.
Well, that’s a bit mean! Why didn’t they just kill him? Why torture him first?
The Doctor tells people that he died of a sudden imbalance of the humours. When Martha challenges him, he says these people have one foot in the Dark ages: they’ll panic and think it was witchcraft.
MARTHA: Okay, so what was it, then?
The Doctor and Martha take rooms at the inn, which allows Shakespeare to show how insightful a man he is, not least by noting that the Doctor is constantly performing.
DOCTOR: All the world’s a stage.
SHAKESPEARE: Hmm, I might use that.
(As You Like It would have been written about this time, in 1599 or thereabouts.)
There’s some bantering here about Venusian spearmint and the seventh Harry Potter book, but the Doctor spoils it all by saying Rose would know what was going on, and right now she would say exactly the right thing.
However you feel about Rose, that’s pretty tactless, when he’s currently sharing a bed with Martha.
Meanwhile, Lilith rises up to Shakespeare’s window and takes control of him with glowing green dust. Sorry, I can’t express it more scientifically than that. He’s now a puppet—literally: she has a marionette—writing what she and her “mothers” want him to write. And when she’s interrupted by the landlady, she turns back to her crone form, kills the landlady, and flies off—again, literally, on the landlady’s broom, right across the face of a full moon.
DOCTOR: Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
SHAKESPEARE: I might use that.
Martha says Shakespeare should know all about witches, since he wrote about them, but the Doctor shushes her. (Macbeth was written somewhere between 1603 and 1606.)
But Shakespeare says that their architect was obsessed with witches, and that makes the Doctor think about the shape of the Globe (fourteen sides) and the magic of the theatre.
But the architect is in Bedlam—and Martha doesn’t know what Bedlam is, which seems unlikely to me. (It’s now part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, so it’s not as though it burnt down.)
DOCTOR: Come on, we can flirt later.
SHAKESPEARE: Is that a promise, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Oh, fifty-seven academics just punched the air.
Back in the Globe, the actors work on the play, and conjure up what they think is a spirit, but which looks remarkably like the witches. They agree never to speak of such things again.
Martha is horrified by Bedlam, but Shakespeare says he went mad once, and the thought of places like this sent him sane again. The Doctor mentions the death of Shakespeare’s son, and he says it made him question the significance of life.
SHAKESPEARE: To be or not to be . . . Oh, that’s quite good.
DOCTOR: You should write that down.
SHAKESPEARE: Maybe not. Bit pretentious?
As the Doctor does his Gallifreyan mind-meld on the architect of the Globe, the witches realise that something is going on, and they see the significance of the Doctor for the first time.
The Doctor hypnotises the architect, telling him that he can recall the entire scenario of the building of The Globe as though it were a story, “a winter’s tale.”
Lilith sends Mother Doomfinger out to Bedlam to doom the Doctor, as Peter (the architect) describes the story in terms that are strongly reminiscent of Edgar as mad Tom in King Lear. Or so it seems to me, anyway.
But Mother Doomfinger turns up then, and kills the architect.
But the Doctor says that he has knowledge that no human has, and he names her: Carrionite. Apparently, they use words as a kind of science, rather than the mathematics that humans chose.
Mother Doomfinger is not dead: she’s simply been flipped back to the rest of her coven. Lilith promises to destroy the Doctor, but says her “mothers” have to get to the theatre for the performance.
The Doctor questions the performance, asking Shakespeare what the play is about.
SHAKESPEARE: The boys get the girl, they have a bit of a dance; it’s all as funny and thought-provoking as usual.
But he admits that he can’t remember writing the last few lines, and the Doctor realises that it’s a spell, with the theatre itself as an energy conductor.
Unfortunately, Shakespeare, trying to stop the performance, comes across as rather drunk, so when the witches make him collapse (with the voodoo doll from earlier), his actors assume he’s in a stupor, and drag him off the stage so that they can continue the play.
Meanwhile, as they search for the witches, Martha insists (just as Rose did in a similar episode) that the world can’t have ended in 1599, because she’s still here.
DOCTOR: It’s like Back to the Future.
MARTHA: The film?
DOCTOR: No the novelisation! Of course the film.
Oh, this episode is all about texts and variants.
Martha is knocked out through the power of her name, and the Doctor talks to the Carrionites. Lilith says that the Eternals found the right words to banish them into the darknes.
(NICK: The Eternals probably got bored with them very quickly.)
But they have a plan for taking over the world, as all villains do.
Lilith manages to take the Doctor out with a voodoo doll (or DNA-replication something or other: I forget the exact term), but, because he has two hearts, it’s not a success.
Still, it takes him a little while to get back on his feet, and Lilith gets to the theatre in time for the final words and the opening of the portal.
The next bit is mostly running and screaming—including the Doctor telling Shakespeare not to rub his sore head, or he’ll go bald.
But there’s no time for that, because the Carrionites are coming, streaming up out of the crystal that the three witches are holding.
And the Doctor tells Shakespeare to reverse it: he says that Shakespeare is the wordsmith, the one true genius, and he can use the power of The Globe to banish the Carrionites.
I make no comment whatsoever on the comparative quality of this speech, not even to mention the blending in of “Expelliarmis”—though I do think the combination of Shakespeare and J. K. Rowling is something that will either fascinate or make the blood boil.
And there goes the copy of the play, into the void.
Still, the play is a roaring success, since people are inclined to think it was all stagecraft, especially now the witches have been trapped in the crystal ball.
Back in the real world, Shakespeare is trying to cop a feel from Martha.
Then the Doctor wanders in wearing a ruff (he says it’s a neck brace) and carrying a skull, apparently from the props store.
Shakespeare has already worked out that the Doctor is an alien and Martha is from the future: he is a genius, after all!
He salutes Martha with a sonnet to his “Dark Lady,” and I know this annoyed some people. (Has he really known Martha long enough to write twenty-five sonnets to her over the next ten years? Really? Who can say?)
And then Queen Elizabeth turns up, declares the Doctor her sworn enemy, and tries to have him killed.
Martha and the Doctor dash back to the TARDIS—Martha asking how he knows Elizabeth I, and the Doctor saying he doesn’t know, but he looks forward to finding out—as arrows thud into the door.
And we’re off until next week!