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Published on April 16th, 2007 | by Gareth Kavanagh

The Pulse: The Shakespeare Code

Steve and Gareth are back for more fireside analysis of Series 3, so let’s see what they thought of The Shakespeare Code

Gaz – Well it’s “revisionist historical celebrity of the week” time. Shakespeare’s supposedly just been on my box for 45 minutes and I’m not sure if I enjoyed it. I mean, it’s got scale, it looks good and has some nice dialogue. Problem is – it just doesn’t feel right. I mean, I see the Elizabethan celebrity angle they’ve gone for, but it’s got Kev from Shameless as the Bard for crying out loud! I’m half expecting someone from Corrie to turn up as one of the witches – no hang on, that’s Mavis in a few weeks time.

Steve – I can’t argue with that, but were you in a dour mood when you watched this one? There were many hearty belly laughs at the witty dialogue from humour-monger Gareth Roberts. I was just glad they went for something different with Shaky and gave him the rock star makeover. It’s only rock n’ roll but I like it.

Gaz – Don’t get me wrong, the man carries a performance. He even occasionally drinks in my pub (pints of Guinness, if anyone’s interested) so he obviously has taste.

Steve – But you’re not a Guinness man the last time I looked, more a quaffer of unholy Australian ales of dubious quality.

Gaz – No, Shakepeare’s the Guinness man cheeky! Thinking on, once his initial swagger has worn off he’s quite likeable, especially in his scenes with Martha, whilst the no autographs or sketches scene is far funnier than the similar intro to Dickens in Unquiet Dead, staying JUST the right side of Blackadder II.

Steve – Shakespeare historicals now have the same problem as mediaeval epics, one step in the wrong direction and you’re either in Blackadder or Monty Python. But this is Doctor Who, and this is a programme that seems to be able to get away with just about anything (but the blow job joke in Love and Monsters was clearly a step too far!). Anyone watching Shakespeare Code expecting fearsome goings-on and chilling monsters has obviously forgotten to check the label. Roberts has a long history of comic repartee in his novels, so why expect him to change now? The witches were outrageously overblown though, but if observed in a kind of Season 17 afterglow, much amusement can be gained from their antics.

Gaz – I see where you’re going with that Season 17 homage angle. You can almost see Tom and Lalla quipping their way round 1599 London with style. Problem is; I’m just not sure I buy the witches. I know they make great pains in the script about it not being magic, but that’s exactly what it is! It just hammered home the Harry Potter/Roald Dahl homage just a little too hard for me. Let’s forget for a minute that it’s YET another menace from the birth of the universe (a la Rachnaross). On the other side, the young piece of scruff was fair, but did we really need the comedy cackling witches to boot? In fact, thinking aloud – didn’t you pull a bird with a nose very similar one New Year’s Eve in Llandudno, from memory?

Steve – I will not have that! I am a man of culture and beauty, the booze addled your brain and perchance it was a fair maiden somewhat like the whatshername pretty witch. I will not suffer a harpy to live. Oh Christ I’ve gone all Stratford-Upon-Bloody-Avon. No, what we’ve got here is a witty yarn told with some va-va-voom, although no sightings of Thierry Henry in the cast list. But like Arsenal, your heartfelt plea against the witches is having its effect and I can feel this one sliding down the Premiership, losing valuable points to the likes of Blackburn Rovers.

Gaz – You think I’m going to sit here and take this abuse! I’ll have you know the mighty Rovers silenced the Gooners in February.

Steve – And Liverpool, before you mention it. We’ll have to watch out for you next season, make no mistake. We can’t have you turning up like a bad penny every year like a celebrity historical in the new Doctor Who series. But I digress. The Shakespeare Code was indeed a witty yarn with fun performances and great special effects, slightly let down by the flippant harpy henchwomen and a preponderance for repeating the same gag. It was also another variant on new Who does Ghostbusters, what with ‘ghosts’ emerging from a ‘portal’ from ‘another world’ to take over our planet, it has more than a

4 Star Tompassing resemblance as a basic idea to Army of Ghosts, Father’s Day and The Unquiet Dead. But when all is said and done, a step up from the Smith and Jones opener, but still brusque on intelligent subtext, but lively in terms of fun and adventure. A safe 4 out of 5 ales?

Gaz – Hmm, it’s as if your words were as powerful as Shakespeare’s in the Globe, and I’m coming round to your way of thinking. In the context of Season 17, the humour of which I quite enjoy, this is an enjoyable, farcical romp which no doubt will be a grower on repeated viewings. Four pints of Labatts it is!

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