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New Series Episode 31:
The Shakespeare Code
England, 1599. In the shadow of the Globe Theatre, a man has drowned in the street, while a woman dies of fright. William Shakespeare is about to premiere Love's Labour's Won, which the Doctor knows only as the Bard's fabled “lost” play. And Martha Jones swears she's seen a witch. Fires burn and cauldrons bubble as the Doctor races to prevent Shakespeare from unwittingly unleashing an ancient evil upon the world.
By 2006, Gareth Roberts had written for Doctor Who in virtually every possible capacity, from novels to comic strips to audio plays. For executive producer Russell T Davies in particular, he had scribed both the TARDISodes which had accompanied Doctor Who's second season back on the air, as well as the interactive game Attack Of The Graske. Indeed, Roberts would also be working with Davies on the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, called Invasion Of The Bane. As such, it was virtually an act of mercy when, on February 3rd, 2006, Roberts was informed by script editor Simon Winstone that he was to write a script for Doctor Who's 2007 season; Davies' only guideline was that it should concern English playwright William Shakespeare. Davies had intentionally included so-called “celebrity historicals” early in both previous seasons of Doctor Who (with Charles Dickens in 2005's The Unquiet Dead and Queen Victoria in 2006's Tooth And Claw) and this would continue the tradition.
As Davies knew, Roberts had long been deeply interested in Shakespeare, and indeed had already included him as a character in his 2005 Ninth Doctor comic strip A Groatsworth Of Wit for Doctor Who Magazine. Roberts was therefore aware that the Bard was alleged by some researchers to be the author of a “lost” play: two catalogues of Shakespeare's output dating from 1598 and 1603 indicated that he had written a comedy called Love's Labour's Won, even though no work by that name survives to the present day. Although some historians believe that this is simply an alternative title for an existing play (probably Much Ado About Nothing), others believe that it is a distinct script -- likely a sequel to his Love's Labour's Lost -- which has not been preserved. Roberts presented Love's Labour's Won as an ideal hook upon which to hang his Doctor Who script, and Davies readily agreed.
For his villains, Roberts decided to seek inspiration from the Bard's own writing, and proposed drawing upon either the Three Witches of Macbeth or the Fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was felt that the former were more iconic, and so Roberts created the Carrionites (originally spelt “Karyonites”). Lilith herself was named after a storm demon in Mesopotamian mythology who is also mentioned in Judeo-Christian tradition (including in the Apocrypha of the Bible, where she is indicated to be Adam's first wife, preceding Eve). Initially, Bloodtide and Doomfinger were referred to as Lilith's sisters rather than her mothers. Their despatching of Peter Streete was at one point envisioned as being much more complex, with Streete being sucked down into his bed.
Many of the characters who appeared in Roberts' script -- itself called “Love's Labour's Won” -- were genuine contemporaries of Shakespeare. These included actors William Kempe and Richard (Dick) Burbage, as well as Globe architect Peter Streete, although the latter's death at this point in his life was Roberts' invention. (Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, was also to have appeared at one stage.) Invented figures included Wiggins (named for Doctor Who fan and Shakespearean professor Martin Wiggins) and Dolly Bailey (a reference to David Bailey, who has written various Doctor Who short stories and audios in Big Finish Productions' range of Bernice Summerfield dramas).
Roberts littered his script with references to a variety of Shakespeare's plays; most notably, he acknowledged Davies' use of the name Sycorax (from The Tempest) for his aliens in The Christmas Invasion by having Shakespeare hear the Doctor utter it. Meanwhile, for the Bard's infatuation with Martha, Roberts was drawing upon the legend of the unnamed “dark lady” to whom Shakespeare wrote twenty-six sonnets (although most scholars doubt that the woman in question -- if she was not wholly metaphorical to begin with -- was actually of African descent).
“Love's Labour's Won” was married to the preceding episode, season premiere Smith And Jones, to form the year's second recording block under the aegis of director Charles Palmer. It quickly became apparent that the scale of Roberts' script exceeded the other historicals made for the new Doctor Who series. To resolve this, the production team approached the management of the new Shakespare's Globe Theatre. Opened in 1997, this was a faithful reconstruction of Streete's original edifice, which had been destroyed by fire in 1613 (and rebuilt in 1614, only to be closed by the Puritans in 1642 and torn down in 1644). Doctor Who became the first television drama to be granted permission to film at the new Globe, although a requirement of this deal was tate recording could only take place at night; Roberts' scripts were duly revised to reflect this.
The first material recorded for “Love's Labour's Lost” involved the set for the Carrionites' lair, erected at the Upper Boat Studios. This spanned August 23rd to 25th, and was originally intended to include an elaborate swordfight between the Doctor and Lilith, which was excised only at the last minute when it was felt to be too impractical to complete. The production was then nearly dealt a terrible blow when it appeared that contractual difficulties would scupper the filming at the Globe Theatre after all. A complete rewriting of the script to relocate the action to the countryside was contemplated, but fortunately the issues were resolved in time for the cast and crew to leave Cardiff for their first location, Coventry in the West Midlands, on August 28th.
There, scenes on the London streets were filmed at Ford's Hospital and Cheylesmore Manor. The next two days were spent at Lord Leycester's Hospital in nearby Warwick, Warwickshire, where more sequences on the streets of London (including the materialisation of the TARDIS) were captured, as well as the exteriors of the Elephant Inn. Recording at the Globe Theatre itself then took place from August 31st to September 2nd. This included the material involving Queen Elizabeth I, which was written into the story at Davies' request, inspired by an element of Roberts' Sixth Doctor audio play The One Doctor, co-written with Clayton Hickman and released in 2001 by Big Finish Productions.
The team then returned to Wales, where September 5th and 6th were spent at Upper Boat taping scenes in Shakespeare's room. The cellar of the Newport Indoor Market in Newport served as Bedlam on September 7th. The remainder of the action in the Globe Theatre, the Elephant Inn, the TARDIS and the Witches' lair was then enacted in the studio at Upper Boat on the 8th and 11th to 13th.
With principal photography on “Love's Labour's Lost” complete, all that remained was some insert work. Crowd scenes were captured at the Colchester Avenue Industrial Estate in Cardiff on September 14th to 15th; the former coincided with the official announcement that Doctor Who and Torchwood would be joined by a second spin-off series in the form of The Sarah Jane Adventures starting in early 2007. Finally, Shakespeare handwriting his new play was first taped at the Market Tavern in Pontypridd on October 2nd, and then remounted at Lloyds TSB in Cardiff on the 13th.
By now, it had been decided that “Love's Labour's Won” was not sufficiently exciting as a title. It was briefly changed to the more traditional “Theatre Of Death” before The Shakespeare Code was settled upon, spoofing the enormously popular 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
|Updated 6th July 2014|
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