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Doctor Who – The Shakespeare Code (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Shakespeare Code originally aired in 2007.

Goodnight, Doctor.

Nighty night, Shakespeare.

– talk about your British icons

The Shakespeare Code is the third season’s opening trip into British nostalgia, a celebrity historical where the Doctor journeys back in time to meet a famous character and to deal with alien menaces masquerading as something altogether more sinister. This time, the Doctor and Martha travel back to meet William Shakespeare. It’s a little on the nose, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. After all, teaming the Doctor up with Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw did seem a little cynical when the show opened with a gag at the expense of Margaret Thatcher.

The rather safe and occasionally quite “postcard-y” portrayal of British history aside, The Shakespeare Code is more interesting as a rather novel form of arc-building for the show. “Saxon” was the arc word for the show’s third season, but restricted to those episodes set in the present. However, The Shakespeare Code winds up offering major thematic foreshadowing of the season ahead.

Where there's a Will...

Where there’s a Will…

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Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth originally aired in 1964.

We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth.

– who are the Daleks trying to convince?

Watching the early years of Doctor Who, I often find myself struggling to measure the quality of a show as against its importance to the series as a whole. Sixties Doctor Who has perhaps an unfair reputation when it comes to quality. In fact, as a rule, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on my trips back to the archives for these reviews. However, it’s often much more interesting to look at the context and the legacy of these classic episodes, as the show begins to define what it is and what it isn’t, what it can do and what it can’t do.

In that context, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a massively important story. It features the first returning monsters of the series (go on, guess!), the first departure of a companion, the first invasion of Earth, the first aliens in London. The list goes on and on. There’s an incredibly vast influence that The Dalek Invasion of Earth has on the half-century of Doctor Who that follows. It’s nearly impossible to deny the shadow that this adventure casts.

However, it’s also a very flawed piece of television, for all its iconic status. Indeed, watching these six episodes I’m more often struck by what is important rather than what is good.

The Daleks of London...

The Daleks of London…

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