Something wicked this way comes… at long last it’s time for The Shakespeare Code! You have waited long enough, and here we have it for you. Patrons got the episode a couple days early, but the public release is here, on the sixteen-year anniversary of the episode! Joining us on the episode is a very special guest, Skye of the Queer Archive! Together we discuss how the episode handles the legacy of Shakespeare and its historical setting, its problems with racism and transphobia, the relationship between Martha and Ten, and touch on ways that later eras of Doctor Who do things differently.
Talia Franks: Hello and welcome to the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Podcast!
Lucia Kelly: I’m Lucia Kelly, expert at applied analysis, and if I say the right words with the right emphasis at the right time, I can make men weep.
Talia Franks: And I’m Talia Franks, media critic, fanfic enthusiast, and no mortal has power over me.
Lucia Kelly: And we’re here today to talk about The Shakespeare Code, the second episode of Series Three of Doctor Who.
Talia Franks: The Shakespeare Code aired on April 7th, 2007. It was written by Gareth Roberts and directed by Charlie Palmer.
Lucia Kelly: Reminder that time isn’t a straight line, it can twist into any shape, and as such this is a fully spoiled podcast. We might bring things in from later in the show, the comics, the books, the audio dramas, or even fan theories and articles.
Talia Franks: With that out of the way, all the world’s a stage! So let’s get in the TARDIS.
Talia Franks: Alright. IMDB synopsis! The Doctor takes Martha to London in 1599, where William Shakespeare’s new play is being used by three witches in an evil plan. That’s such a shitty synopsis. Get it together, IMDb.
Lucia Kelly: It’s so bad. Literally none of them are good. Our synopsis is that this is the one where Gareth Roberts tries his best to make Shakespeare as gimmicky and offensive as possible.
Lucia Kelly: Argh! I’m annoyed. I’m upset.
Talia Franks: But on the bright side while this episode is … blah, our episode about it is gonna be great, ’cause guess who’s here?!
Lucia Kelly: We have a guest!
Skye: Is this the part where I jump in? (All laugh)
Talia Franks: This is the part where you jump in. Yes.
Skye: That’s my cue. Hey y’all! Thanks for having me. I’m Skye and I co-host The Queer Archive podcast with my partner Brenna, and we are a queer and feminist Doctor Who podcast, where we watch episodes of Doctor Who — shock — and we just talk about them with our community. And I’m happy to be here!
Talia Franks: We’re so happy to have you here. I’m so hype! You’ve been on our dream list of guests for so long.
Skye: The collabs, they’re happening. Yes.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. I’m pretty sure all of the listeners know how often we cite you and be like, “By the way, don’t even bother listening to us, just go over to Queer Archives, just — they said everything better and smarter.”
Skye: (Lucia and Talia laugh) There needs to be multiple queer podcasts about Doctor Who, you know? Like, there shouldn’t be just the one. Same with podcasts hosted by fans of color. Like, there should be so many that we’re constantly referencing each other and we can host our own stuff and collaborate, and I think that’s slowly but surely happening, which is super exciting.
Talia Franks: It is super exciting. I’m super excited.
Lucia Kelly: So Skye, can you tell us a little bit about your journey with Doctor Who, like where it started, how you got to be making The Queer Archives and the sort of story behind that and anything else you’d like to tell us about your journey with Doctor Who?
Skye: Oh, of course. Yeah. Brenna watched Doctor Who before me, and that is absolutely 100% the reason why I started this show, to impress her, and it was early on in our relationship as friends where I just wanted her to like me so bad. And she talked a lot about this show and so I was like, “Yeah, I’ll watch it,” had no idea what I was getting myself into. Let’s just say that. And of course it turned into a love for the show and, fast forward, how many years down the line, where I’m the one, kind of, like, trying to convince her to make the podcast with me.
Skye: ‘Cause I knew she would — She’s just brilliant at that kind of stuff and I knew I wanted this to be something that we do together. And I had a lot of ideas and it was 100% inspired by uh, the Black Girls Create Doctor Who podcast, TARBIS, just seeing them be out there. I think y’all have similar experiences where if we see ourselves out there making content about the conversations that we have in our own circles, around our virtual dinner table, then it’s just so much easier to imagine ourselves doing that as well.
Skye: So I got really inspired by listening to TARBIS, pretty much to the point where I was talking back to (Skye laughs) the, the speaker in my car, commuting and listening to their episodes, and I was like, “I need to make my own thing.” And I hope that creating more podcasts, as a really accessible medium, just encourages other folks to do the same.
Skye: Like I said, there just should be lots coming from our community, because there’s so much to talk about with Doctor Who, and we can always look at it from like, a different angle. And yeah, it’s really transformed how I interact with the show because it has introduced me to so many different people who I enjoy the show through.
Skye: Part of it is just watching the show, and enjoying it in my own house, sitting on my own couch, but a lot of it is interacting with fans, having these conversations and just getting to nerd out together.
Talia Franks: I totally identify with that because I love getting to interact with fans and friends, and that was so much of the inspiration for us in creating our podcast, and also like, I remember when we met at Gally, especially what you’re saying about like, the virtual dinner table thing. I vibe with everything that you just said. See? This is why it’s great to have it as an actual conversation because it’s like, literally, when I listen to your podcast, it’s exactly that. Like, I talk back, like exactly what you’re saying. I always talk back to my speakers and now we actually get to talk.
Skye: Let’s do it!
Lucia Kelly: It’s definitely that moment of you pause it and then you’re like, “But what about this point?” And then you’re like, “They had the nerve not to respond to me!” Like — (Lucia breaks off into giggles)
Talia Franks: Yeah. So, with that, do you wanna get to talking about The Shakespeare Code?
Skye: Absolutely. Let’s do this.
Talia Franks: Alright. Alright. So —
Skye: My favourite episode. No, I’m absolutely kidding. I’m gonna — Spoiler alert, I don’t love this episode that much.
Talia Franks: I don’t —
Skye: If at all.
Lucia Kelly: So fair.
Talia Franks: I don’t love this episode that much either. Like, Lucia and I, we were saying before that this used to be an episode that we loved and then we watched it for this time when we’re like, “Oh no! Oh —
Talia Franks: — Oh no.”
Lucia Kelly: Yeah …
Talia Franks: (To the tune of the popular TikTok sound) Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
Skye: Insert TikTok sound here. (All laugh)
Lucia Kelly: It’s definitely one of those episodes where like, the version in your head is much better than the actual product.
Talia Franks: Yup.
Skye: Yeah, we were talking about this cause I was curious if y’all had watched it closer to the air date, and this is coming back to watching this episode as quite a different person, you know, how many years down the road. Whereas I watched this episode much later, I think, than both of y’all. So I did not have an initial experience with it where I was, I don’t know, “in the moment” and with Ten’s run or closer to Ten’s run. I jumped into Doctor Who around the end of Eleven’s series of his run.
Skye: So it was much later and I was like, “This is wild. This is bananas.”
Talia Franks: I jumped into Doctor Who at the beginning of Eleven’s run. So I basically watched Nine, watched Ten, watched Eleven’s first season and then watched Season Six live. And that was also all my freshman year of high school, which was honestly, probably the worst year of my life? And, it is not an understatement to say that Doctor Who was one of the things that was like, foundational in really helping save me at that point.
Talia Franks: Especially, a lot of the episodes that I watched, those first five seasons, were episodes that I kind of clung to for a long time. I just really loved this episode for — It’s funny I loved this episode because I was really into Harry Potter and I was really into Shakespeare and I was really into witchcraft and all those things —
Skye: The Trinity! (Skye laughs)
Talia Franks: — converge in this episode, but then watching this again, it’s like, “Okay, the Harry Potter references are still good, but I don’t love Harry Potter anymore.” And then, the Shakespeare references are terrible (Talia laughs) and the way it represents witchcraft is shitty. So, what do I do?
Skye: Everything is ruined!
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: And now we have to contend with the fact that the Doctor is a TERF supporter, so … Yay. Like —
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: (Heavily sarcastic) Oops. It happens. Oops.
Lucia Kelly: (Also sarcastic) Happens to the best of us, I guess.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, the — This episode has really aged. But I guess it also hasn’t, because one of the things that — I don’t like, I don’t wanna really spend too much time on but like —
Lucia Kelly: — one of the things I think it’s appropriate to address is the fact that Gareth Roberts is a very vocal transphobe and racist. And has not at any point in time expressed any regret or apologies about things that he says and that’s part and parcel, that’s right — like, it’s woven into the fabric of this episode, unfortunately.
Talia Franks: Yep. Yeah. There’s so many points where it pops out. Even from that first moment when the Doctor and Martha like, come out of the TARDIS and there’s that total disregard of Martha’s worry for her safety.
Talia Franks: And the Doctor is just like, “Oh, walk around like you own the place. It’s what I do.” Or whatever he says.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Easy for you to say, you white, attractive man. What the fuck?
Talia Franks: He’s like, “Oh, it’s not so different from your time.” And it’s like, “What?”
Skye: Yeah, I think that there’s like, the nuance there, right? Because … his statement, his dismissal, was wrapped up in a statement that so profoundly displays his white privilege. Absolutely missing the point, right? Like y’all said, “Of course you can act like you own the place,” but the idea, like the literal idea of white supremacy and racism is that, that is only afforded to white men. Especially, (Talia mhmms) like, a white, good looking man, walking around doing that.
Talia Franks: Yup.
Skye: And it undercuts the idea that could have been done better, which the two next episodes in Doctor Who that tried to tackle, head on, a similar idea, when a Black Companion’s relationship to traveling in the past comes up, and they express concern for their safety, so that we get later on in Doctor Who — and then we could totally talk about these ’cause they’re really great comparisons to make throughout this episode — but Thin Ice and Rosa.
Talia Franks: Two of my favourite episodes, honestly.
Skye: Super great. Yeah. And you could just track the like, evolution, like this three step evolution of Doctor Who through those that start here with Shakespeare Code.
Skye: Then we get a huge step up to Thin Ice, and then we get another step up to Rosa, and specifically how that question of a Black companion traveling to the past expressing their concern for their safety and how the Doctor responds to that. And I think what even Thin Ice does better than Shakespeare Code is the question of acknowledging that there actually are Black people present in that time that they’re going to.
Skye: So it’s less about Martha just being able to walk around, act like she owns the place, and like that be all fine and dandy, instead of making it about pointing out how whitewashed history is, which Thin Ice does really well. Instead of the Doctor doing that, he just dismisses her concern entirely, which he does not have to be concerned about. (Talia mhmms) Which is again, like just showing his privilege, and on top of that, not even thinking about her own safety, but going further to not acknowledge that, “Oh, I didn’t think about that” which is what Twelve does. He’s like, “I didn’t have that thought. You did. Let me course correct and let’s address it.” He just dismisses her concern outright and be like, “You shouldn’t worry about that, because actually London’s totally the same. There’s diversity in the past, blah, blah.” He just doesn’t address the history there.
Skye: And then Thirteen, another step up, where not only is she thinking about this alongside her companions, in the moment, but then she leverages her privilege, and makes sure that they engage this risk only on their own terms, right? So, she takes it seriously. And I think that there’s so much more to unpack if you compare those three episodes together, but that’s like, the first moment where you’re like “Okay.” Like, “You could have done something there.”
Skye: Someone who’s written a lot about this and who’s thought a lot about this is our dear friend Amanda-Rae Prescott. And, I totally encourage y’all to go to her Twitter because it is pinned as her tweet at the top of her profile, a link to a slide presentation and write up about this exact topic, on comparing a few of these episodes and how Doctor Who kind of shines light on the history of Black British history, and includes companions going back in the past and how they handle that. And this is a good example of like, outside of just having Black people there, you could have actually done something powerful with that.
Skye: And I don’t know if the author was trying to do that, whether or not he was, he didn’t do it successfully.
Lucia Kelly: And it also completely dismisses the fact that Martha isn’t exactly safe in her own time either. Like —
Lucia Kelly: — racism is still very much a thing that hasn’t been solved. It’s privilege all the way down. Like, it’s just a complete misunderstanding and unable to even comprehend the kind of vigilance that a Black woman would have to have on her best day, (Skye mhmms) let alone in 1599 London, like —
Skye: Yeah, and unfortunately, that’s the step that Doctor Who still hasn’t taken, that the best that we get is where we can address that head on in Rosa, in what? 19 … 90 — or 1995, (Skye laughs at themself) 1955, at Montgomery, Alabama. But we still haven’t gotten to the place in Doctor Who, where we can talk about how even traveling in just space and not time, Black companions will have concern for their safety with the Doctor and the Doctor needs to take that seriously. We’re still at the dynamic of the Doctor being white, and always having to like, think about that through their companion’s eyes and never having enough of the show be about a Black Doctor and seeing that play out for them themselves.
Skye: We’re a few steps behind and we can see this progress, but it is — whew, baby steps.
Talia Franks: Talia from the future here. As you can surmise, we’ve recorded this before Ncuti Gatwa’s announcement! So we do have a Black Doctor now! Yay! Still baby steps, absolutely still baby steps, but! We’re getting there babes! All right, back to the episode.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And it also — Like, just to another point, all of Shakespeare’s comments about Martha, and the way that he talks about her, is just so uncomfortable and feels very unnecessary. Like, obviously people in past times talked about Black people differently. But like, the way, the way, he just said those things with his chest (Lucia makes a noise of agreement) and like, the Doctor’s reaction was just to go, “Oh, political correctness gone wrong” and then move on, and like, disregard Martha’s reaction to it, and her shock, and just like, keep plowing on ahead to what his agenda was, just took me out.
Skye: Yeah, absolutely. Y’all were mentioning this before, or referencing, something that just gets brushed over, is that again, he’s so dismissive. Like, one of my big notes, in here is “Ten is an asshole,” like whew, for many reasons, and we’ll get into more, but it’s one thing to not think about the practicality of her safety and another just to not be at all concerned, or interested, in how, like there’s an emotional impact there, right?
Skye: There’s like, the weight of this history that she has to grapple with going into the past that he’s just so uninterested about. And I think that it would be more interesting to see Doctor’s, like at least address that, at least be interested in that, or acknowledge it, but it’s definitely like, in the background, or we can feel it. But yeah, to your point, Talia, this is another thing that Amanda definitely touches on, where it’s an annoying framing that the author puts us in because he’s like trying to say there’s always different ways that people are advocating to frame our language around how people wanna be spoken about.
Skye: So like, at Gallifrey One is a great example where we had a guest come up for a Q&A, and was not really intentional about the language that he was using as a white man, asking a question to a stage full of three POC guests on the Gally stage. And he just threw out the phrase, like “non-white” at them and it was like super, super, uncomfortable, as an audience member, let alone, as someone being interviewed on stage as a guest of color. And obviously the language that he was using is super important and informs that dynamic. He did not say “guests of color” or “people of color” or “actors of color.” He said, “so y’all are non-white” like as if he was trying to say that like the “non-whiteness is very apparent here and it has to be addressed, blah, blah, blah.”
Skye: And so in this episode they’re like, “Oh, well, that means that we can just kind of make fun of the way that people frame from generation to generation and how like, the language of race evolves and it’s all just “political correct nonsense” because now y’all wanna be called like POC, but before you want it to be called this, and it sounds ridiculous.”
Skye: And it seems like it’s a very weird, aggressive commentary on that, that did not need to be made, but it was in fact, based on Amanda’s research, the phrases that people were advocating for at the time, but of course, to Martha’s ears, super not cool to hear that. And then again, the Doctor’s just complete dismissal of that, of how she might be receiving that, ’cause that’s important.
Lucia Kelly: And I feel like there could, like there could have been like, a really cool storyline about the fact that, ’cause like obviously Shakespeare was a 16th century white guy, like he was racist, that like — (Skye mhmms)
Lucia Kelly: Thank goodness they weren’t doing Othello you know, like (Lucia laughs) that could have been a whole nother kettle of fish, but like, um, there could have been a really interesting storyline there about how like — Or like, even touching on like, Martha’s line about “Those men dressed as women, yeah?”
Talia Franks: And then the Doctor being like “London never changes,” which like is — baghhh!
Lucia Kelly: There could have been a really interesting conversation about how theatre evolves and like, the way that theatre and life, sort of reflect and mirror each other and how they influence each other.
Lucia Kelly: And as you were saying Skye, how that’s evolved over time. Like this whole idea of old representation or like, examples of representation that were like, groundbreaking and fundamental cornerstones of where we could go to the next day, then being dismissed as, regressive and backwards. And it’s this complete dismissal of the history of how history is built and how progress is built.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Especially like, talking about progress is making me think of how the — about how the Doctor is like — This whole concept of how the Doctor says that Martha is like, from “Freedonia” and Shakespeare keeps questioning her about like, “Oh, this place where like, like a woman can be a doctor,” and then she’s like “Where a woman can do what she likes” and I’m just very interested in the way this episode talks about women in the context of the Carronites all being women, and it’s this species of witches. So like, from the way they’re talked about they’re all women, ’cause they’re all referred to as like, “sisters” or referred to with feminine pronouns. Lilith refers to both of the other Carronites as her mothers. So like for me, I definitely read that as “Oh, so they’re definitely gay, yes?”
Talia Franks: This all feels very queer coded to me. I have a lot of feelings about it, and I’m not really sure how to articulate my feelings, but they are strong.
Skye: They are strong. (All laugh) No, I picked up on the queer codedness too.
Skye: So I just wanted to jump in with I see you! Affirmation. (Talia laughs) Did you have more? Sorry.
Talia Franks: No, but it’s also the way that, first of all, so all of these witches, all of these magic users who, again, focus on words and like the power of words, the power of language, are defeated by Shakespeare and the Doctor, who are men.
Talia Franks: And first of all, to even break free of this prison, they needed Shakespeare to free them. And then he was also the one who trapped them again. So, they’re supposedly so powerful, but there’s still dependent on this man.
Skye: For sure. It feels like all of the trappings of, you know, how witches are depicted and demonized in literature historically, and on top of that, like transphobia and on top of that, like just (Talia mhmms) queerphobia in general, just kind of all wrapped up. I wish that the witches were more compelling and that the writing was more compelling, ’cause like it’s like, if camp was trying to be campy, which like, negates the camp.
Skye: But I, I see right through a lot of the fear that is behind, like so much of this plot. And I agree just, it’s just like super … it’s so untrusting of women and especially the way that the episode opens up on this, like supposedly beautiful, alluring woman deceiving this man into her home.
Skye: And then before taking him to bed, like (Skye snaps) she flips it on him, (Talia mhmms) deceives him enough to get him upstairs, but then she transforms into this monstrous thing that, again, like you’re picking up on is like, queer coded, and it just feels like it fits right in with his transphobia. I don’t even remember the author’s name, but y’all know the one.
Skye: And, just because of typically how transphobia is manifested and articulated, as this monstrous thing. And yeah, I wish it was all more compelling, but on top of that, on top of it falling flat, it’s just also like a gross premise. And not at all, like the interesting parts of witchcraft and the things that — like all the things that we love about witchy-ness? (Skye laughs) It’s just like, the tropey trope stuff and just like, camp that isn’t even camp.
Lucia Kelly: Also the weaponizing of sexuality specifically, like this idea of the queer woman being predatory —
Lucia Kelly: — or dangerous. Which feeds right back into this fear of like, the witchcraft trials, and the Salem trials, and all of that sort of stuff, of that — the fear of witches, which, the Doctor actually articulates, like, “I can’t tell them it’s witches, otherwise they’ll think it’s witches,” right? What that actually leads back to in our real world, is the fear of the empowered woman, like someone who lives without the need of a man and can wield their own power and divine their own destiny.
Lucia Kelly: The purge that happened there removed so much knowledge and so much power that was traditionally held by women and the consequences of that bleed into today.
Talia Franks: So this is gonna get a little bit high level and niche, but —
Lucia Kelly: Our speciality.
Talia Franks: So, when I was in grad school, I took a class called “Magic and Witchcraft in the Ancient Near East” and my final paper was about the demonization of the witch as an illegitimate practitioner of magic in the Ancient Near East, and it was basically about how witches, who were women, were basically seen as illegitimate practitioners of magic as compared to the men, like exorcists. I might be mispronouncing this cause it’s been a while, but like Ašipu, is like the Sumerian word, um, or Akkadian, I don’t know. It’s been a while since I actually —
Skye: How dare you. (Skye laughs)
Talia Franks: I forget exactly where the word comes from. But basically the whole premise of it was that men were the only legitimate practitioners of magic and women, witches, who practiced magic were bad, and so this is very much making me think of how Shakespeare who like, is the one with the power in the words, and like the Doctor also with his science or whatever, and his grasp of that; like the men are like, able, and like, even the Doctor who names the Carronites, like when he does the magic and the words and everything, that’s good, but the Carronites, witches, women, bad.
Skye: Women equal bad. (Skye and Talia laugh) Yeah. Even the Doctor with his Time Lordy connection brain thingy, that he does pull out this episode, is very magic adjacent, adjacent, (Talia mhmms) adjacent, if you think about it. But no, it’s like science. It’s like Time Lord shit. It’s like not that level. So, um, you know, totally different category.
Skye: And it’s always been framed through the Doctor, who up until this point, has been a man. And I even like, okay, so I haven’t thought about this like, too deeply, so absolutely you can hashtag “It ain’t that deep,” but like I do, (Talia laughs) I’ll throw in there, a, a little bit of an eye roll just at the fact that of course, history works in such a way.
Skye: That we’re talking about Sha — Shakespeare, is the episode that we’re doing right now. We’re talking about words, so it elevates the words of Shakespeare, that he wrote and he invented over all the other literature because that’s just how history works, and I just have to eyeroll a little bit, because here it literally gives him such grandiose importance that these aliens — they’re aliens, right?
Talia Franks: They are aliens. Yes.
Skye: Okay, cool cool. I was like yeah — So these aliens, they can choose anyone, any place, anytime, anything. And they choose him for their plans because we believe he is the God of words. And I just think about how like the role of the Latin language in like his work and the Expelliarmus word that you know is at the climax of this episode and of course it like wraps back into JK, which like is just the cherry on top of this transphobic cake, you know, like of course, we obviously didn’t know at the time, but wow, what a, probably not coincidence. They’re probably in a book club together or something. (Talia and Lucia laughs)
Skye: But, like now we know, and it just adds another layer to this, but yeah, like even in her books, the role that the Latin language plays in, the” right way to do magic” the “right way” that witchcraft is taught is very much emphasis on Latin spells and how that’s because the Latin language is linked to authority, history, and control — and of course, when we say that, we mean Western authority, Western history, Western control — and that’s the version that JK builds with her books, and that’s the version here that is elevated because that’s Shakespeare’s, that’s what he leans on and so much of his words are rooted in that language.
Skye: Yeah, it’s just another thing that was in the back of my mind. Just comparing those two different powers that obviously his is the most authoritative power because of who he is and the influence that he has had on the world, because we’ve highlighted his works for all of those different reasons.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And I feel like we’ve highlighted Shakespeare so much and in so many different ways that it was inevitable that Doctor Who would do an episode on him. But it feels like … the way that they did this episode was also just so … it feels weird to say self aggrandizing, because the self is Shakespeare, but like, it was aggrandizing? It was like, weird. The way it’s building him up is so … I mean, it’s like you said, the way it’s reaffirming this institutional power just feels very … icky to me. And it’s weird ’cause I like Shakespeare. I like his plays. I like his sonnets a lot —
Skye: Oh, absolutely.
Talia Franks: — which is why weirdly enough, part of the reason I dislike this episode is even though it does build Shakespeare up and draw from so much of it, is it does it badly! It doesn’t even do a good job! (Lucia mhmms) It doesn’t even do a good job!
Lucia Kelly: One of the reasons that I initially really liked this episode is generally how Shakespeare is portrayed, because I do think, as a Shakespeare nerd, and as an English nerd, I find it really frustrating when people are like, “Oh, Shakespeare’s boring . Like, I can’t read it. It’s all just these old fuddy duddy words.” Once you actually get into the language, and once that’s accessible to you and once you can read it, if you’ve got a good teacher and you’ve got a good mentor, it gets really fun.
Lucia Kelly: And it was low-brow entertainment, right? Like, he was writing for the masses. And so there are a lot of like, bawdy jokes and cheap shots, so like, the introduction to Sha — and also, there’s a whole thing about how, like, we don’t actually know what he looks like.
Lucia Kelly: Like, the image that you have in your head of Shakespeare, like when you think of Shakespeare and you think of, you know, the balding guy in the ruff, there’s actually no confirmation that that is Shakespeare. It’s a portrait that people have found and have attributed as Shakespeare, but we actually don’t have a way of confirming that.
Lucia Kelly: So like, the whole introduction of him as like this, much younger, suaver looking guy, who’s like, playing to the crowd. That’s a really good introduction of flipping the script and like, using what we do and don’t know about this man to introduce this level of intrigue and interest to the episode.
Lucia Kelly: And again, I would’ve loved if they’d like, addressed the fact that he was a 16th century man, so has like 16th century man opinions on race and gender, like in a way that was … good.
Skye: (Lucia laughs while saying um) Yeah, that’ve been great.
Talia Franks: My specific and fierce gripe with this that I just, I cannot let go, is the sonnet at the end. (Lucia laughs) The sonnet at the end is like nails on a chalkboard. I don’t know if either of you know anything about Shakespeare’s sonnets?
Skye: Listen, I’m just gonna apologize that Brenna is not here, seeing as she is basically a Shakespeare scholar. Uh, (Skye laughs) she hates this episode too so, uh, but she would’ve had something to say. She would definitely agree with all you’re saying Lucia about, hopefully breathing fresh air into the you know, misinterpretation of Shakespeare being super high brow, the fact that like most of his stuff is boob and fart jokes.
Talia Franks: Mm-hmm.
Skye: I know a lot of her students, me included when I was learning this, just clutching our pearls, learning what it’s actually about, all the body jokes. So 100% agree with that, but yeah I’m sorry that you got me instead of Brenna on this very Shakespeare centered episode. I’ll do my best.
Talia Franks: So it’s been a while since I actually like strictly studied Shakespeare, but the sonnets are like, widely thought to be broadly about two people. The first chunk of the sonnets are about a young man, and the second chunk of the sonnets are about “The Dark Lady” which is widely thought to be about her dark hair, a lot of the time. Sometimes people think it’s about like, dark skin, but a lot of times people say that it’s probably just about her dark hair, because he’s probably a racist.
Talia Franks: Because some people are like, “Oh, there’s a line about her breast being dun” but it’s probably just —
Talia Franks: Anyway, we can talk about that whole thing later, but anyway, the point is Sonnet 18 is in the first half, the “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is Sonnet 18, which is in the first half, so it’s about a young man and it’s not about Martha. It’s not about Martha. Like, he had a whole lover who was a young man and it was not about Martha.
Skye: Isn’t that the point? That like, she’s offended that it sounds like he’s gearing up to, go off the cuff, write her a sonnet out of the pure admiration he has of this beautiful woman sitting in front of him. And then he goes off and says one of his sonnets that she knows is not about her and she’s like “Rude!”
Skye: I totally interpreted that scene that way. Also speaking of him writing a sonnet about a man, I do somewhat enjoy the “fifty-seven academics just punch the air.” Great line. The author meant it facetiously of course, but I loved it for my own reasons.
Talia Franks: Yeah, no, I just, I don’t —
Lucia Kelly: But even that line, right? Like, like it feels like, I also kind of like, I’ve, I’ve flipped back and forth on that line because by putting that line in earlier, right, specifically in reference to the Doctor, like the Shakespeare is flirting with the Doctor, and then later on using “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” on Martha … to me, what that reads as is deliberately erasing Shakespeare’s actual queerness, like the actual documented stuff that we’ve got, and then inserting, and then giving credit to like, like making it, making it himself and then being —
Skye: Just galpaling it?
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: Yeah, that’s exactly why I don’t like the “fifty-seven academics punched the air,” and I don’t like using, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” to be about Martha. Because the thing is even if he was just reusing a sonnet that he already had, it’s not entirely obvious.
Talia Franks: One of the things this episode emphasizes is Shakespeare’s ability to improvise, do things off the cuff, write a whole scene of a play in a night. It’s established by the episode that writing a sonnet off the cuff is something that he would totally be able to do. It’s not something that people who aren’t scholars of Shakespeare are necessarily expected to know, that all of his sonnets were about like, dedicated to, or about specific people.
Talia Franks: So it could be that someone who’s just like —
Talia Franks: — a casual learner of Shakespeare could just not know that.
Skye: And the author took advantage of that rather than giving him his queerness.
Talia Franks: Yeah, so rather than giving Shakespeare his queerness, it’s basically making it a one-off line about the Doctor.
Skye: Yep, of course.
Talia Franks: And it’s just —
Skye: For laughs?
Talia Franks: Just for laughs.
Talia Franks: And that moment also feels like, the word I wanna use is tokenizing, but I don’t know if that’s the right word. Also fifty-seven? There’s a lot more than fifty-seven. Like when I did —
Skye: Why that number?
Talia Franks: When I did —
Skye: Yeah. (lots of jumbled laughter)
Talia Franks: Like, when I did, when I did my “Queer Readings” class in college, we read two Shakespeare plays and like, dozens of his sonnets. We had like, a whole Shakespeare unit, like, half the class was spent reading Shakespeare. It was a pre-1800s class.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Like, why isn’t the line “half of Cambridge”? Like? —
Skye: That’s way more than 57 people. There just seems to be a lot of, like you’re saying, erasure happening here.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: Like, waving the hands, it was straight the whole time, you know, like, racism isn’t a big deal in all of British history. It’s chill. And then we’re like, “People are gay, Stephen. Let Shakespeare be gay.”
Lucia Kelly: Even the fact that he’s sort of portrayed as this womanizer. It would’ve been so —
Skye: They bro’d him.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. (Skye laughs) It would’ve been so easy to include like, one male lover.
Skye: Yeah. And of course that happens to the Doctor, which feels like it’s “illegitimate”. Like whenever it happens to the Doctor, it’s like, “Oh, the Doctor’s so alluring that even men are attracted to him.” So it doesn’t feel real. Like they just play it off for jokes. Yeah.
Talia Franks: Oh my God. It’s like, when someone throws in a line where it’s like “all the women loved him and some of the men” like a line like that.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: Like you’ve seen that line in fiction before.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Skye: Yes, exactly.
Talia Franks: And we haven’t even gotten to the point about Bedlam and the portrayal of mental health.
Lucia Kelly: Oh God.
Skye: We need to get stepping for sure. What is the next topic?
Skye: For the most part, I have like a shit ton of random, random notes. (Skye laughs while saying um) If I find a place for ’em, great. If I don’t it’s chill, but um, yeah, other than Ten being an asshole and race and my third main big, like topic that I have multiple notes on is actually the overlap with Haunting of Villa Diodati. So other than that, I say, take us where you wanna go and I’ll follow.
Talia Franks: Yeah. So I do wanna get to the overlap of Haunting of Villa Diodati, which I wish I knew you were gonna talk about that because that’s next on my lineup of my 13 rewatch. So I would’ve —
Skye: Oh dope.
Talia Franks: I would’ve watched that.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Um, my roommate and I are watching 13 together.
Talia Franks: So there’s a couple things wrong here. And I think part of it is just like, 16th century attitudes about mental health are much different from 21st century attitudes about mental health. And like, that’s something that I always struggle with and always pains me to think about. Because like, honestly, like, I haven’t done a whole bunch of research on it, but I feel like it’s probably a reasonable representation. It’s just a distressing representation. So there’s three things that distress me about the scene when they’re in Bedlam.
Talia Franks: One of them is Martha and Shakespeare’s conversation. The other one is how when Martha is like, shouting to be let out and is having, is panicking about the Carronite. The Doctor is again dismissive and he’s like, “That’s not gonna help. Everyone is shouting.” And the third is the Doctor using his mind powers to basically just rewind everything that’s happened to Peter in the past year in order to figure out what’s been happening to him and the lack of autonomy that Peter has in the way that the Doctor basically is just using this person who is mentally ill to like, take information from them. And I’m wondering if Peter hadn’t died, what would the Doctor have done?
Skye: Yeah, just left him there?
Talia Franks: Just left him there?
Skye: It definitely seemed like it.
Talia Franks: It definitely seemed like that was what the Doctor was going to do. And it’s like … what?
Skye: It was so manipulative. Yeah.
Talia Franks: It’s so manipulative.
Skye: It was not a good look.
Talia Franks: It was not a good look. The Doctor was just taking what he needed and leaving. ‘ Cause he made no efforts. And especially because, specifically it was the conversation between Martha and Shakespeare and the Doctor that was distressing me, because Martha was upset about all the “patients”, prisoners, being whipped all the time.
Talia Franks: And the Doctor is basically not sympathizing with her at all. Like not helping her through the like, trauma that she has of grappling with what is going on, ’cause this is a very traumatic feeling for her, being in this space.
Lucia Kelly: Especially as a doctor, right?
Talia Franks: Especially as a doctor. This is her field. And so seeing this is very traumatic for her and then the Doctor turns around and gets all righteous and says like, “It helps if you don’t whip them.” The Doctor obviously agrees with Martha because he goes and shouts at the guard, but doesn’t actually verbally agree with Martha or empathize with her in any way.
Skye: It’s very convenient that he got to be righteous in that moment and look like the hero for, question mark, standing up for her? These patients, they — One of them, he just absolutely manipulated into giving him what he needed, and like he was very tender and sweet up until the moment that he knew he was going to be able to get the information and then he flipped into typical, what I think is like a lot of Ten’s meanness? Like he has this particular brand of meanness that I think shows up a lot. And he just turned that Ten meanness on and I was like, dang, like that is super, like I said, not a good look for you Ten. But yeah, of course, like when the moment came and he had his opportunity to slip in his little clever remark, he could totally look like a hero.
Talia Franks: Mm-hmm.
Lucia Kelly: And that’s written throughout the whole episode, right? Of Martha voicing these concerns, or complaints, or ideas, and then Ten dismissing them outright, and then literally five minutes later being like “You were right but I’m presenting it as, my own idea.”
Lucia Kelly: Right at the very beginning when she’s like, “Oh, do I have to be careful? Do I have to like, not touch anything? Or like, not interfere, cause like, the butterfly effect. I don’t wanna like kill my own grandfather,” and he’s incredibly dismissive of her. And then later on —
Lucia Kelly: “It’s like Back to the Future,” and you’re like, “Yeah, that’s what she was asking!” (Lucia devolves into incredulous giggles) What the fuck?
Skye: Yeah. “Martha, how you not been thinking about this this whole time?”
Lucia Kelly: And then also, she asks like, “Is it witchcraft?” And then he’s like, “No, of course not. Well, yes it is, but no it’s not. Well, yes it is.” And it’s like … I’m at a loss for words, like please — and then of course the awful scene in the bedroom where he’s like, comparing her to Rose and like, it’s just —
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: She’s treat so horribly.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And, and this is, this is also a small, a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but he gives her a loose toothbrush that was just in his pocket, and it’s like, “Why would you put that in your mouth, if it was just loose in his pocket?” Like, didn’t even come in a wrapper. It was just hanging out in his pocket, probably has lint on it. Sorry, this is a tangent.
Skye: No, I agree. Like, I thought it was gonna be — I, I saw like happening, right? Cause I forgot what happened this episode. I was like, oh, one of the Doctors like super weird antics where they do something and they think it’s normal, and then the companion gives them a look like, “What the hell are you on about? Like, I’m not gonna fucking take that nasty ass toothbrush,” but it’s not framed like that. She’s like, “Oh, thank you for this toothbrush.”
Skye: I would not be brushing my teeth with that.
Talia Franks: No! No!
Skye: It didn’t even come in like some plastic? Like have a little cap? I don’t — nah-uh — That was like next to his sweaty armpit. Absolutely not.
Talia Franks: Absolutely not. No.
Skye: Okay, also the psychic paper. So remember when, at the beginning of the episode when, he shows Willie Shakes the psychic paper, and uh, he’s like, “Yo, that’s blank, blah, blah, blah.”
Skye: And then Martha’s like, “No, it’s not. It says, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then he’s like, “Ugh!” He’s so annoyed with Martha. And just like, diminishes like — and she’s like a fucking smart human being but he doesn’t give a shit. Like he just diminishes her because she hasn’t been familiar with something like psychic paper because she hasn’t been traveling on the TARDIS that long. And he’s just like, “I hate starting over and having to like re-explain something as simple as psychic paper. Rose would know what this is about.”
Skye: And I was just like, “You are so annoying.” I really don’t like this part of Ten when he’s just an asshole to everyone around him that isn’t Rose.
Lucia Kelly: I always read that as him being annoyed that the psychic paper didn’t work and that he has to start from scratch with Shakespeare, rather than dismissing Martha outright. (Talia mhmms) Like, he’s still dismissing her because he is like, “Oh, I’ll explain it later. I don’t really have the time. Your concerns and curiosities and like, distress, like the fact that you are confused right now is not actually of importance. I’m talking to Shakespeare.” Like, that — (Lucia laughs)
Skye: I mean he does do that. The only reason why I don’t read it that way is because either the line before or right after is him calling Shakespeare a genius for not being fooled by the psychic paper. So he’s actually impressed that he isn’t fooled by it. So I don’t think that he would be frustrated with Shakespeare but maybe I’m predisposed to seeing Ten be frustrated with Martha because he does it a lot. So I didn’t think about that, that reading.
Talia Franks: Yeah. I also read it as Ten being frustrated that he had to start over from scratch talking to Shakespeare. But I also totally think that you’re, um —
Talia Franks: I think that Ten was frustrated with Martha and that’s what made him say it, but he was excusing it by making it seem like he was saying it about Shakespeare. ‘Cause it can be explained as him saying it about Shakespeare, but he could have been meaning it to be about Martha. But I feel like we have been talking for a while and I want to move to the next topic ’cause, yeah.
Talia Franks: I’m very interested to hear your thoughts about how this is like Haunting of Villa Diodati, which Lucia hasn’t seen.
Skye: Oh! Yo, like can I? Any spoilers? Should I stay away from anything?
Lucia Kelly: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Talia Franks: Yeah, feel free to spoil away, but I’m just letting you know this is gonna be a me and you conversation (Talia laughs) but I’m excited for it.
Skye: Okay. This wasn’t something that was on my radar at all, going into this episode, it was just something, and I was like, hey, that reminds me of a Haunting of Villa Diodati thing, a theme, or a moment that happened.
Skye: I love that episode so it’s really cool to have these comparisons and then they just kept happening. So I was like, okay this, this is a thing. So I don’t know if they really amount to anything, but it was enough where I wanted to, kind of, map it out. A couple of the things that I noticed, and you may have more Talia, one is I was just thinking like, it is wild that out of all the episodes, there’s so much overlap with Haunting of Villa Diodati, but everything that I saw for the most part Maxine did, what this episode tried to do, better. (Talia laughs) And we’re all surprised, right?
Skye: Okay. So like, for example, “fixed point in time” nonsense aside, in Haunting, setting the stage with the iconic line “History is vulnerable tonight.” Loved it. So profoundly well done.
Talia Franks: Mm-hmm.
Skye: Um, and that kind of set up one of the themes of that episode about the weight of words and that’s absolutely (Talia mhmms) a theme obviously in this episode, Shakespeare Code , but in Haunting, the climax of the episode is probably the Doctor’s speech. One of the most quotable lines in that speech is “Words matter.” And I just, I just think that, for many reasons, it was just done so much better, and so much more to the point, and succinctly, and profoundly, in Haunting of Villa Diodati, without slapping us over the head with it, the theme of how words impact people and how they shape culture and how much they mean to us personally, and at large, like I got that really strongly (Talia mhmms) and then here it felt like in Shakespeare Code, it was just continually undercut by the things that we’ve already discussed in the episode because of the framing of the writer.
Skye: And there was like a few moments in Shakespeare Code that I appreciated. But it’s really hard to divorce it from everything else that we’ve been talking about. One line is “You can change people’s minds just with words in this place.” And I think that’s pretty cool because I do resonate with that in how words in, you know, certain pieces of media or culture, especially as a queer person, with how it has changed our lives to see representation or our stories played out in certain stories, even if they are coded or even if we have to like, read between the lines to see ourselves, like that has mattered to so many of us.
Skye: So I can like pick it out of Shakespeare Code and take it with me even though the surrounding context isn’t my favourite.
Skye: But yeah, all in all, I just think that it was a shared theme between the two episodes and Haunting did it better. And then, they also share the fact that they’re both about historical figures and we’ve already mentioned like the things that we loved about Shakespeare’s depiction in this episode, but overall, like, I didn’t feel super moved by Shakespeare as a character, where I totally did by all of the historical figure characters in Haunting. It just felt like an intimate storyline in a way that Shakespeare Code didn’t, and yes, they were historical characters whose lives have been well documented, for sure, but in the Doctor Who episode, it felt like they were real people first, and historical figures second, and in this episode of Shakespeare, he felt very much like “We are talking about the idea of a historical figure” the whole time. He never felt like a real person. And of course, like both of these historical figures were not fooled by psychic paper.
Skye: And I thought that was super well done and funny in Haunting, and again, the Doctor in both times, they’re like, “That’s super impressive.” It either takes very little imagination or very high, extreme amounts of imagination to outwit psychic paper in Doctor Who thus far. So that was like another parallel that I didn’t expect.
Skye: I think Haunting seemed to address race better, ironically, even though it didn’t come up that much. Um, it was, set in the past, so I think Ryan and Yaz’s presence was done well because it felt natural in that setting, because of course it was natural in that setting, but it didn’t mean that white supremacy didn’t inform their treatment in some moments, even if it was super subtle.
Skye: So, Ryan in Haunting was assumed to be from the colonies, as if he couldn’t have not been born and raised in the British Isles, like, let’s say Graham. So there was like, these pieces of dialogue of how he was treated, and of course, hearing Lord Byron’s intentional, in front of the whole crew, like pontificating on the British Empire’s expansion and the legacy of conquest and that whole like, really annoying and it was well done because they made it very clear that he was being annoying character in that moment.
Skye: Like we were all audibly eye rolling at him. But like, the presence of racism was still in the episode and that was important that happened. Whereas my relationship to how Shakespeare Code handles race is much different and I don’t hold in high regard by any means.
Skye: Okay. And then lastly, to wrap it up, I just liked how the Doctor, in both stories, have like this insistence on there not being something like witches, and then in Haunting, there was the insistence that there’s no ghosts, and then by the end there’re like, “Oh, unless there are witches or ghosts,” (Talia laughs) like they totally just portray that assumption slash insistence on their companions that are questioning that idea.
Skye: So it leaves room in the show for that mystery, which I love.
Talia Franks: Yeah, no, I appreciate all of that. Especially, especially ’cause the “ghost” in Haunting of Villa Diodati and the way that we don’t ever get an answer for how Graham got those sandwiches?
Talia Franks: And the explanation for those ghosts drives me bananas. I need to know. I need to know.
Talia Franks: But also, Haunting is also the episode that gave us that Daddy Thirteen picture.
Talia Franks: So for that, I will be forever grateful but some of the other things, that I noticed, that’s connections between those two episodes, is one, how Ten was like, “Oh, I was just gonna give you a quick trip in the TARDIS, but I guess we can stay.”
Talia Franks: And how, Thirteen was like “I just wanted to like, pop in to like, see Frankenstein, but there’s a greater mystery here. Let’s figure it out.” And then the other thing I noticed was how these episodes referenced big historical events without really talking about them.
Talia Franks: Um, specifically how the Shakespeare Code really talked a lot about the plague without talking about the plague.
Talia Franks: Like about how Shakespeare’s son died, it talks about how Dolly Bailey, how it made no sense for her to die of fright because she sat out three bouts of the plague in her inn.
Talia Franks: And then in Haunting it talks about The Year Without a Summer. And for those of you who don’t know and who haven’t seen Haunting, because this is not the episode we’re talking about, The Year Without a Summer is basically in 1816, there was severe climate abnormalities that caused global temperatures to like, decrease and made it so that the summer temperatures in Europe were the coldest on record between 17-something and like, 2000.
Talia Franks: It was just a really cold summer, and it was basically because of like, a massive eruption of a volcano in um, Indonesia that caused like, huge climate disruption everywhere. And they’re both episodes that basically talked about big historical events that were super relevant at the time, and were like relevant to the plot somewhat, but also we’re like, talked around.
Skye: Yeah, I like how they’re a, like a backdrop to the episode.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: But the story isn’t centered on them.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Talia Franks: But also, I feel like we should talk about favourite moments, least moments, and then maybe, Hero and the Adam after that?
Skye: Let’s do it.
Talia Franks: So Lucia, what were your favourite and least certain moments since we excluded you from the last little bit of conversation, (Lucia laughs) you can go first.
Lucia Kelly: I think, oh God. It’s actually difficult to find a favourite moment, which is really upsetting.
Skye: Ooh, that’s rough.
Talia Franks: That’s rough buddy.
Lucia Kelly: My favourite moment is probably when the Doctor is talking about the power of theatre in the Globe, and they’re like trying to figure it out and it’s also the one time that like the Doctor like, gives Martha any kind of positive reinforcement, which is nice. (Lucia laughs while saying um)
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: But yeah, there like, there’s a reason I chose it for my thing at the top of the show today. The power of theatre and the power of story is very important to me.
Lucia Kelly: Least favourite moment, again, opposite reasons, there are so many. (They all laugh)
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no, it’s the bedroom scene. It’s the scene where he’s like “There’s something right in front of me and I can’t see it.” All that kind of garbage. Yeah.
Talia Franks: Yeah. This is gonna be easy. We have the same favourite and least favourite moments. Cause, you right, that’s the only good point of the episode. And also that’s my least favourite moment, but specifically, the point where he says “Rose would know,” because why would Rose know anything?
Skye: True. It’s like when you romanticize something that you no longer have and you just totally make up the idea in your head, that you’re like “This thing, or this person, would do this.”
Talia Franks: It’s like my cat, who I love, who died, and I miss him a lot, but he also used to like, scratch up all my stuff and vomit on things. (Talia laughs)
Skye: We don’t — You don’t think about that part. Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: And I don’t think about that part. I just miss him a lot.
Skye: Rose did the same thing. She like, scratched and vomited on everything all the time, right? (They all laugh) I remember that.
Lucia Kelly: I refuse to believe that Rose retained any information about Shakespeare from school. I refuse to believe that she learned anything from any of her Shakespeare units. That’s not where her mind was.
Skye: Oh boy. All right. Did you have a — or you have the same least favourite moment you said?
Talia Franks: I have the same favourite moment and the same least favourite moment.
Lucia Kelly: Do you wanna talk about why it’s your favourite moment? Just so we can boost up a little positivity. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Oh, it’s my favourite moment because I also think that it’s a great message about theatre and also because he says “Martha Jones, I like you,” and that’s the only nice thing he’s ever said about Martha. (Talia laughs)
Lucia Kelly: So far.
Talia Franks: No, he said really nice things about her, and he was really nice to her in Infinite Quest, which is a Patreon Only episode, so you can only listen to that episode we recorded if you are a Patreon of ours, but he was really nice to her in that episode. That episode should be canon.
Skye: That’s ’cause Martha is the best.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Martha is the best. And Ten does not deserve her.
Skye: Ten is a fool.
Talia Franks: Ten is a fool. Honestly, like, the amount that I wish she could be Thirteen’s companion, honestly.
Skye: No, but really like, even, even Mandip Gill has said that like, let’s see Yaz and Martha and Thirteen just kick it. And when I say “it” I mean “ass” ’cause they would kick ass like, damn.
Talia Franks: Yeah, and Bill, I want Bill on that TARDIS too.
Skye: That could maybe like, put me over the top (Talia laughs) and it would be too much to handle.
Talia Franks: Yeah. No.
Talia Franks: I might —
Skye: Dream team.
Talia Franks: I might ascend to a new plane.
Skye: Yeah. And to Queer Heaven. Queer Space Heaven. Absolutely. Yeah. Martha is the best. And I’m gonna skirt around the typical format of favourite moment, ’cause y’all chose the only answers possible in this — in this episode, so I’m just gonna say Martha is my favourite moment. Yep. It’ll work.
Talia Franks: Yep.
Skye: In this episode, because despite the writing falling short and being what it is. She’s still rad and like, I loved her first line in the episode, cause she’s like, “No, but really, bro. You have to tell me how it works. How does time travel work?”
Skye: And they’re like, flying in space and the TARDIS is going bananas and she’s like, “Okay. But tell me, I need to know,” And of course The Doctor’s like, “You don’t wanna know, I — I can’t deal with that right now.” But I just loved how curious she is, because like y’all said, Martha asked the best questions and I love when it pops up like that.
Talia Franks: Yeah. The interesting thing about both Martha and Bill as companions is how much I love them as companions, but so many of their episodes, I can’t bear to watch because while they’re excellent companions, they’re some of my favourite companions, I love them as characters and like, Freema and Pearl are some of the best actors that Doctor Who has had, their arcs have been so terrible that I find it hard to watch them — like I was tweeting about this the other day, which is going to be months and months ago, once this episode finally comes out, that I love Bill as a character, but I can’t watch passed Knock, Knock in Season 10.
Skye: You end with Knock, Knock?
Talia Franks: I end with Knock, Knock. I end with Knock Knock and I don’t watch past that.
Skye: Knock, Knock. The end.
Talia Franks: Knock, Knock. The end.
Skye: Knock, knock. Not who’s there. We don’t even go there.
Talia Franks: Knock, Knock. It’s over.
Skye: Yeah. I mean, that’s totally fair. Also uh, Martha is a queen for telling Willie that his breath stinks at the end. Just pure icon.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: I hate that they like, put us through all of that really forced compulsive heteronormativity the whole episode but I’m glad that she ended out like a queen.
Talia Franks: Oh my God. The absolute commitment that this episode had to disgusting 16th Century teeth.
Skye: Why is so much of Doctor Who obsessed with disgusting teeth? (Talia laughs) It continues. It is still a current theme. Every era, every showrunner has invested in that theme.
Talia Franks: No, I feel bad for anyone who watches Doctor Who and has a teeth phobia, except they probably don’t watch Doctor Who anymore, cause they have a teeth phobia.
Talia Franks: But also I never talked to you about this before Skye, but do you also have an issue with the fact that the main villain of Series 11 is always called Tim Shaw and that’s not actually his name?
Skye: When we did this episode, Brenna brought that up and I did not really, because to me it felt like a punch up. Where he is just such a representation of space colonialism and quote unquote “white supremacy” that making fun of his name felt like it was getting at his ego as like, an alien that took himself way too seriously —
Talia Franks: Mm-hmm.
Skye: — and didn’t deserve that. But I think I landed on, “Hey, call people by their names.” And because it was a name that of course didn’t sound white and then she turned it into a very white sounding name, that is the part that felt the ickiest to me.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: Um. Like that how that typically happens is we try to translate it into a like, white sounding name so that we can pronounce it and we can understand it and we can learn it and get familiar with it. Because it’s like, to this particular character and the world that he plays, it’s still, in some ways, feels like a punch up, which is good, but —
Talia Franks: Yeah. That — that’s why I have, I have complicated feelings about it, ’cause it’s like, on the one hand it’s a punch up, but on the other hand that’s not his name.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Anyway, that’s another tangent. You actually have seen that episode though, Lucia?
Lucia Kelly: Of Thirteen, I’ve seen to the episode with the pregnant guy on — with the P’ting! (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: You haven’t seen Demons of The Punjab, which —
Lucia Kelly: No.
Talia Franks: — is —
Skye: That’s coming up!
Talia Franks: — a severe offense to me. Like I am personally offended that you haven’t seen Demons of the Punjab.
Skye: Oh, at first I thought you meant the episode, but you mean the fact that Lucia hasn’t seen it.
Talia Franks: Yeah, no. I am personally offended that Lucia hasn’t watched Demons of the Punjab. I have a tattoo dedicated to Demons of the Punjab and Lucia hasn’t seen it.
Skye: It’ll happen. It’ll happen.
Lucia Kelly: It’s gonna happen. It’s just the same as — Like, we had this conversation very early on in, like — I made this decision and I brought Talia screaming and kicking with me (Skye and Lucia laugh) that we were going to watch every single episode. Um, it’ll happen eventually.
Talia Franks: If you aren’t caught up on Thirteen by the Centenary, I am going to buy a ticket to Melbourne and sit you down and make you watch them.
Skye: Oof. An ultimatum. I mean, that’s fair. That is a reasonable request. Come on.
Lucia Kelly: Only If I get to feed you properly.
Talia Franks: I’ll — How about this? I will commit that for every Doctor Who episode you watch of Thirteen. I will have a day where I eat three meals day.
Lucia Kelly: Um —
Talia Franks: (laughing and clearly joking) I will go on a hunger strike until you watch — until you watch all of Thirteen’s episodes.
Lucia Kelly: Lucia from the future here. Um, so update. I have not watched all of Thirteen, but also Talia has not gone on a hunger strike so we’re all winning. I have watched Demons of the Punjab now and it was phenomenal and I can’t wait to talk about it with all of you, but you will have to wait for my full thoughts. I did do a uh — Oh Lord, whatever it’s called — Um, when I watched it on twitter and commented about it, you can find it if you scroll back. (Talia transcription note: we have a page on our website with links to our livetweets but Lucia hates livetweets so much she doesn’t even know about that.) I don’t do those anymore. They were draining and awful. (Lucia laughs) Now I just talked to Talia about them. So, you’ll hear that — I dunno — in about five years. See you then! Bye!
Lucia Kelly: (Lucia sighs) Anyway, Hero and the Adam. Stop me if you think I’m overstepping, but I think we are pretty clear on who the Adam is as a whole. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: I think the Doctor’s the Adam.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. What a dick. Stop being mean to Martha.
Lucia Kelly: Skye, Do you have an alternative to — So, the Adam, um, I’m not sure — I’m always unsure about whether we need to explain the Adam to the guests. The Adam is not necessarily the villain but it is the person who was The Worst.
Skye: Yeah. I hate — (Skye snorts) Imagine if I was like, “I don’t know. (Lucia and Talia laugh) He seems okay. Like, let’s really talk about this.” No, absolutely.
Talia Franks: I might have to kick you out of the zoom. (Lucia laughs)
Skye: Yeah. That would be the like, “I’ve been kidnapped” line to like, immediately distrust me, for sure.
Talia Franks: Yeah. No.
Lucia Kelly: “I think 10 treated Martha brilliantly actually.” (Lucia laughs) “Oh God, where are they?”
Talia Franks: Oh, no.
Talia Franks: Who’s the Hero?
Lucia Kelly: I mean, I wanna give it to Martha, but —
Talia Franks: But she wasn’t allowed enough autonomy to do anything.
Lucia Kelly: Exactly!
Talia Franks: Do we have to give the Hero to Shakespeare? I don’t wanna.
Skye: Does he deserve it? Like —
Talia Franks: He did send the Carronites back to their little crystal ball —
Skye: Okay. If we’re using that logic then yeah, let’s just give it to Martha because she put the nail in the coffin and said “Expelliarmus” even though —
Talia Franks: Yes, let’s give it to Martha.
Skye: All right.
Lucia Kelly: She provided the final word.
Talia Franks: She had the final word. She had the final word. Yeah. Let’s give it to Martha.
Talia Franks: Alright now, grading.
Lucia Kelly: Production. A real mix. The actual sets and everything. Everything looks gorgeous. It looks of the time. There’s some fun little CGI moments, (Lucia laughs) but mainly —
Skye: Apparently it was one of the most costly stories ever produced in the series. Because of that set design, specifically the house at the beginning, which they immediately reused as much as possible. So at least here’s that.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. There was some like, really odd, directorial choices though.
Lucia Kelly: Both Lilith, which the other thing that I didn’t really bring up in the body of the episode, but like the fact that her name is Lilith, and this guy is not like “that’s suspicious maybe” like.
Lucia Kelly: Oh, goodness. But so, in the intro uh, Lilith, like speaks directly to camera, which is a choice. Like, that’s very much, you don’t do that normally. I’m like, “Okay.”
Lucia Kelly: Bold. Okay. We’re doing this. So then that introduces the idea of breaking the fourth wall and like, borders between fiction and reality, which like this episode kind of half, sometimes, not really deals with, like it’s — (Lucia laughs) — it touches on it. And then, Peter does it as well. He looks directly into the camera. But like, I cannot for the life of me figure out why. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just really strange.
Talia Franks: I didn’t notice.
Lucia Kelly: Are you kidding?
Talia Franks: I didn’t notice.
Lucia Kelly: It always. It always pull me out. I just don’t understand why that ’cause, ’cause generally, like in our like day to day television and film, specifically because film is like a direct follow on from theatre, there’s the idea of the fourth wall, right? The invisible wall, the wall that doesn’t exist, between the stage and audience, and unless you are doing like, a specifically non naturalistic performance, the wall exists for the actors, for the characters, it doesn’t exist for the audience. And this is where the idea of breaking the fourth wall comes in is when characters directly address the audience. And that’s how you get like, characters like Deadpool. Breaking the fourth wall is like a thing, and it’s notable, and it’s done with purpose, because you a specifically breaking the suspension of disbelief of this idea of a contained world. But there’s no purpose to it. It’s not used. There’s nothing. It’s just really weird.
Talia Franks: Okay. I promise I didn’t notice. It wasn’t that weird.
Lucia Kelly: It’s weird to me.
Talia Franks: Okay, well maybe you’re weird.
Lucia Kelly: Um, Maybe like a three?
Talia Franks: I thought it was really, I thought it was really good. I thought the production was good. I was gonna give it a four. What do you think, Skye?
Skye: It’s so hard to do these episodes that were far removed from the air date. It is really hard.
Skye: Can you tell me — What did you give Smith and Jones?
Talia Franks: A three. And we gave Runaway Bride a four.
Skye: Smith and Jones a three. Okay.
Talia Franks: I know Smith and Jones’s is your favourite episode. I’m sorry. We gave it a, we gave it a D-.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no, we’re —
Skye: I mean, Martha is obviously my favourite part of that episode as well, and it only goes so far when, you know, the rest of it is not as cool as Martha. But it’s still, it’s still a fun episode. I like it.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: Okay. Production. I would rate a little higher than writing, of course. Writing is gonna be like real, real low.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Skye: But are we there yet? Are we just doing production?
Talia Franks: We’re not there. We’re just doing production.
Skye: Okay. Cause at the time it was just like really expensive, but that doesn’t equate to quality. I’m gonna go three.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah!
Talia Franks: Okay. Three. Writing?
Lucia Kelly: I know it’s a small thing and like, obviously you have to do it for the plot of the show to work, but Gareth Roberts attempts at trying to mimic Shakespeare’s writing was not good.
Talia Franks: No, it was —
Lucia Kelly: It was real bad.
Talia Franks: It was so bad. I really wanna — Oh God.
Skye: Nice try buddy.
Talia Franks: This episode, can we give it like a 0.5 for Writing?
Skye: It like, doesn’t even deserve a whole integer.
Talia Franks: I don’t, I don’t think we’ve ever given, Writing as zero before. And I don’t know that it deserves a full zero, but I don’t know that it deserves a one either. (Lucia laughs)
Skye: Okay. I guess you could treat it as stars. Can you get zero stars?
Talia Franks: We’ve given zeros before for other things.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: We’ve given Science’s zero.
Skye: Okay, so in your universe then you get a zero. Okay. I feel fine with zero, like — (Talia laughs)
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: I just — so should we give Writing a zero?
Lucia Kelly: I think so.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Okay.
Lucia Kelly: Have we not just spent the last hour and a half ripping this script apart? Like…
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: Like, there was — Positivity was near 0%. You’re right.
Talia Franks: I just — I don’t like giving out zeros.
Skye: That’s fair.
Talia Franks: But I think this does deserve it though.
Skye: Would it have been better if it wasn’t written at all? Yes.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: Yes.
Lucia Kelly: Yes.
Talia Franks: Yes, it would’ve.
Talia Franks: OK.
Skye: If like you’re treating as like a paper assignment, like you might as well not have turned it in.
Talia Franks: Okay.
Skye: I think the acting was pretty good.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Skye: It was definitely the higher scoring of the thing. Yeah.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Martha was good. Martha was good. David Tennant did a great job of being an asshole.
Skye: He usually nails it.
Talia Franks: Uh, I think Shakespeare was good. Like to your point, Lucia, I think that was a good portrayal of Shakespeare not being boring.
Lucia Kelly: I would’ve been significantly more mad if Shakespeare had been portrayed as this, like uptight, classist arsehole.
Skye: That would’ve been whack. Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: That would’ve been the worst.
Talia Franks: I did like the part where the Doctor was like, “He always chooses the most beautiful words” and then he opens with “Shut your big fat mouths.”
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Skye: Oh, that was another overlap with Haunting. Totally forgot this. But of course, when the Doctor’s introducing the writers in the room, opening up the door, and she’s really hyping them up and they’re, you know, playing games as they open the door —
Talia Franks: And they all like, collapse on the floor?
Skye: Yeah. They’re just up to like, their shenanigans and she’s a little bit embarrassed how much she hyped them up. It is exact same energy.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. So five?
Talia Franks: Yeah. I’d give the acting of five.
Skye: Gotta bring it up somewhere.
Lucia Kelly: Science. Okay.
Skye: Um, nonexistent.
Talia Franks: So, Skye, the science doesn’t have to make sense as science. It has to make sense as logic.
Talia Franks: It doesn’t have to make scientific sense. It has to make logical sense.
Talia Franks: So it shouldn’t be called Science. It should be called Logic. (They all laugh)
Skye: But it’s a sci-fi show. I see where you’re going.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no, the line that the Doctor uses about how, like you use numbers, the Carronites use words, to do the same thing. That idea of the melding of science and poetry. Which is why the opening line pisses me off so much about Martha being curious and wanting to figure it out about how the time travel works.
Lucia Kelly: And the Doctor dismissing her because at its like, heart, at its core, science is about wonder. It is about, you know, magic. It is about an appreciation and love of the universe, which the Doctor knows. And also, he 100% taught Rose how to do the TARDIS, so — (Lucia makes a petulant annoyed sound about the double standard, which Talia mimics. Everyone laughs as Lucia says um) But in terms of like the internal logic of this episode specifically, um —
Talia Franks: I feel like the internal logic of this episode makes a lot of sense.
Lucia Kelly: It does.
Talia Franks: The internal logic of this episode feels solid to me.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Like I can’t think of one where I’m like “No.”
Talia Franks: I can actually, the Naming not working more than once doesn’t make sense to me.
Skye: But like, they made the rule, which is like how it works.
Talia Franks: But the rule doesn’t make logical sense.
Lucia Kelly: It could be a immunity thing or like a recency thing.
Talia Franks: But it doesn’t. Okay. Fine. I also don’t like it, ’cause it makes Martha look foolish.
Lucia Kelly: No, we can give it a — Do you wanna go to four?
Talia Franks: Let’s give it a four.
Lucia Kelly: Four? Yeah.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Rewatchability. Before I rewatched this episode, I would’ve said it had a high rewatchability rating. Now —
Lucia Kelly: Having recently rewatched it …
Talia Franks: Having recently rewatched it.
Talia Franks: I never wanna watch it again.
Skye: I would be fine with that. That is definitely my position.
Talia Franks: I, I never wanna watch this episode again.
Lucia Kelly: Alright.
Skye: It’s been enough. Yeah.
Talia Franks: Let’s give it a zero. And then, because I decided to be smart this time. I am clever. I plugged all the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.
Skye: Bing, bang, boom.
Talia Franks: It automatically generated the percentage for me. This got a 48%. Solid F.
Lucia Kelly: Dang.
Skye: No, that feels right.
Lucia Kelly: Yep.
Skye: That feels fitting.
Talia Franks: I’m really upset though, because this means that Rose’s seasons are gonna do better than Martha’s season and I don’t want that for my girl.
Skye: It feels a little bit like your fault for rating Smith and Jones so low in my opinion, (Lucia laughs) but there are some good ones to come, so —
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Skye: — hopefully it bumps up there.
Lucia Kelly: I’m really excited to talk about Gridlock.
Lucia Kelly: I’m really excited to talk about um, I’m nervous actually, to talk about uh, Human Nature and Family of Blood, ’cause I have strong, positive memories with this and then Talia came in and was like, “No.” So —
Talia Franks: And we have a guest for that episode that I don’t know how they feel about it. I know they have strong feelings about it, but I don’t know whether or not they’re positive or negative.
Lucia Kelly: And then —
Talia Franks: Gridlock, the Dalek episodes, Lazarus, 42, which I remember really liking, and then there’s Utopia, Sound of Drums, and Last of the Time Lords.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: AKA The Slavery Episodes.
Lucia Kelly: Yay. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Talia Franks: Yeah, no. You hate to see it, Skye. I feel like you understand why I hate that episode.
Skye: There’s a lot of that. And that’s why haven’t um, rewatched this season. I’m like hyping up Smith and Jones in my head and giving you all a hard time, but for all I know I could rewatch it and um, feel a similar way y’all feel about rewatching Shakespeare Code.
Talia Franks: I was really looking forward to rewatching Smith and Jones. And the funny thing is I had recently rewatched it actually, and I really liked it. The last time I rewatched it, which was only a few months ago. And then I’ve rewatched it again, specifically for the podcast. And I was like, “Oh no. Rewatching it critically is bad. No. Sad.”
Lucia Kelly: I think, unfortunately one of the things about Martha’s season is she is the first Black companion, so there are a lot of missteps and a lot of like not great —
Talia Franks: She’s also the rebound companion.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. There are a lot of things about how just generally Martha is treated that makes watching Season Three difficult.
Talia Franks: She’s also the only Black solo companion.
Skye: Hey y’all. I have to hop off, um —
Talia Franks: Oh yeah. Sorry. After the grading we were wrapped up. This is just shop talk.
Lucia Kelly: Yes. Sorry.
Talia Franks: Thank you for joining us.
Skye: Yeah, absolutely.
Skye: Thank you for having me.
Lucia Kelly: You’re very welcome. It’s been lovely having you, Skye, and we look forward to seeing everything that you and Brenna do in the future. And of course, we’ll be listening.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Skye: Hell yeah. Stay cosmic y’all and I’ll see you next time.
Talia Franks: See you.
Lucia Kelly: See you.
Skye: Bye bye.
Lucia Kelly: Thank you for listening to the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey podcast.
Talia Franks: We hope you enjoyed this adventure with us through space and time.
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Talia Franks: You can find out more information about us and our content on wibblywobblytimeywimey.net, and full transcripts for episodes at wibblywobblytimeywimey.net/transcripts.
Lucia Kelly: If you’d like to get in touch with us, you can send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talia Franks: Please rate and review us on Apple podcasts and other platforms as it helps other people find us and our content.
Lucia Kelly: That’s all for now, catch you in the time vortex!