Whereas I felt the opening story of the current series of “Doctor Who” bettered its predecessors, this year’s reworking of “The Unquiet Dead”, retitled “The Shakespeare Code”, seemed to lack the magic it was reassuringly denying. I wish Executive Producer Russell T Davies would break away from the formulaic “Doctor Who” he is regurgitating. He takes the first three episodes from his original run, jumbles them up just a bit, and dumps them straight back into place for each new season! What’s the point of having his entire team straining at the bit to produce something visually spectacular when all the ideas are old hat? It might have been more surprising, for example, if the witches had eventually turned out to actually be the Gelth, or their ancestors if we have to be so linear in a time-travel drama, trying to break through in an earlier period, with the revelation being the need for the involvement of a writer to achieve this. Hence the original participation of Dickens, and latterly the Bard; the reasoning being that creativity in the written idea can bring about the creation of life.
As it was, the biggest surprise of the second episode was the brief involvement of Donald Pleasence’s daughter Angela, at the story’s close, as Queen Elizabeth. I hadn’t heard about her casting and checked the closing credits to make sure I was right because I wondered, immediately, why an actress with her track record would agree to take on such a small part. She was Nigel Hawthorne’s wife, Susan Grantly, in “The Barchester Chronicles”, admittedly a quarter of a century ago, and the drug-addled Molly, mother of golden-haired Eppie, in “Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe”, to name but two of her most memorable roles, and perhaps the most accomplished player in “The Shakespeare Code”! That’s not to take anything away from the two main guest stars. They were both on fine form though I thought Christina Cole the better of the two. That might simply be because she was the baddie, and got to chew the scenery, but Dean Lennox Kelly had most of the best lines, not surprisingly as they were nearly all written by a certain William Shakespeare!!
The effect of Queen Elizabeth’s entrance and attitude, upon this viewer, was not dissimilar to that induced by Donna at the end of last season (continuing into the Christmas “special”). A silly woman in an even sillier frock giving the poor young Doc a piece of her mind and him the appearance of a harried man eager to scarper. Any serious intent was thus scuppered, undermined once again, in favour of a cheap laugh. It was the same last week with the shrill Annalise designed to hit the same raw nerve as Jackie. The government must love this programme’s recycling policy! What is it with RTD and this strange view he has of women? I reckon he only made this episode in order to have a few of the male extras in skirts down on film for posterity! You’re a bit late there Russell, me old chum, as John Nathan Turner’s beaten you to that one. Take a closer look at “Remembrance of the Daleks”.
A man drowning on dry land was done in the Jon Pertwee story “The Mind of Evil” whilst an arrow piercing the door of the TARDIS was last seen in “Silver Nemesis”! Then it was handled more evocatively and on a much smaller budget. Mr Davies has gone on record as saying this series is more of the same as his last two, only bigger. I think he said bigger and not better which is a shame as the two are definitely not the same thing. Different and smaller might’ve meant more interesting. In “Doctor Who Confidential”, immediately following “The Shakespeare Code” over on BBC Three, the evening’s episode was likened to a Hammer horror film. Which one, I wonder? All the ones I know are beautifully-gothic romances, strong in the fright department, and preferably with a music score by James Bernard. Vampires inspired by Mr Stoker with plenty of bite! Now, where’s my copy of “Taste the Blood of Dracula”?..!!