Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

First of all, a disclaimer – this is neither a post about The Who or who Shakespeare was, nope Anonymous is not to feature here. Sorry to disappoint. This is really about the other Who, a certain Doctor who celebrated his 50th birthday last November. That’s right, Doctor Who. Well more accurately it’s about Will and the Doctor. Mainly inspired by this image which popped up on my Facebook feed earlier today taking me back a few years to Tennant’s time as Doc.


Incidentally, I wonder in order to time travel does a doctorate help? Who and Back the Future both go in for it. I suppose it helps you operate the Tardis or understand a flux capacitor…

I also think there’s definitely something significant in Tennant being the doctor who get’s the most Shakespeare interaction in the series especially if you look at his post-Who roles including Richard II and Hamlet. Perhaps after leaving Billie Piper trapped in a parallel universe playing tragic royalty helped him escape.. Or maybe not.

But that aside back to Will and the Doctor.

The book which sparked the post is set for release mid July, the 14th to be precise. Probably most avid watchers of the series remember the Shakespeare episode, handily titled The Shakespeare Code with the Doctor-Bard rendez-vous at the Globe at the witching hour. Avoiding any potential plot spoilers I can confirm only that Shakespeare does indeed feature in the episode but what’s perhaps more important is what Shakespeare is playing at cropping up. Yes, even mainstream TV sci-fi has something to say to Shakespeare fanatics today.


Crucially in this episode Will is writing Love’s Labour’s Won. The lost play which even with a time machine cannot be discovered, unless of course you think that Love’s Labour’s Lost’s sequel is in fact The Taming of the Shrew or Much Ado and then, hey presto they are easily found just pages away in your Complete Works. This episode and in fact the book which is due to hit the bookshelves in a month, shows our fascination with finding out more about Shakespeare. Hunger so great that we even want to travel back to the Globe via a Tardis and track down an elusive play to bulk up his already bursting body of work.

Don’t get me wrong I would love to read a copy of Love’s Labour’s Won but being stuck in 2014 unless a miraculous manuscript appears under someone’s floorboards I sense this is likely to remain a dream. Still, time travel would be pretty cool and I wouldn’t mind meeting Will perhaps over a cuppa. Catch up on all the latest Elizabethan gossip, maybe even meet his shadowy companion – yes the dark lady. I would err on the side of caution though if you do get to meet Will, here’s a couple of pointers:

1. Never EVER give him a biro unless you want to erase all traces of Shakespeare the writer. (See Blackadder for more on this).

2. Be careful what you say it might end up in a play. The Doctor really milks this in The Shakespeare Code quoting Rowling’s Expelliarmus.. (Hardly surprising since the last Harry Potter was due for release three months after this episode aired), and dropping lines from As You Like It, Henry V and The Tempest.. However, Shakespeare doesn’t seem too enamoured with “to be or not to be”..

Shakespeare: Made me question everything. The futility of this fleeting existence. “To be or not to be.” Oo. That’s quite good.

The Doctor: You should write that down.

Shakespeare: Maybe not. Bit pretentious?

3. Watch what you do, you too could be rewritten as a Shakespearean fool or worse still a conceited king. He had a habit of handpicking elements from anything he could get his hands on, and I don’t just mean other plays..

So that’s the three ground rules for next time you grab a coffee with Will.

But back to the book, the Amazon description promises us “the original notes for Hamlet (with a very different appearance by the ghost)” and “proof that the Doctor not only appeared throughout Shakespeare’s life, but had a significant impact on his writing” dubbing it “the holy grail one which might (without wanting to overstate) one day rival the fan base of Dr Who. Shocking I know. You heard it hear first. We want to hear the latest and greatest about the Bard from anything we can get our hands on, yes even a money milking franchise fuelled book on Dr Who and Shakespeare.

Sure Shakespeare scholars might turn their noses up and anything quite so low-brow as a Dr Who companion (and I don’t mean the ladies – or rather wannabe Bond girls – who drift in and out of his Tardis), but I think it has something to teach us about our Shakespearean hunger. I’m not suggesting I have high hopes for this book at all – though I do love that Will is sporting a Tom Baker scarf (perhaps my all time favourite Doctor). But, like the recent Shakespeare Star Wars books (is this a sci-fi-Shakespeare trend I see before me..?) it shows both a love of adaptation – thank heavens that hasn’t petered out over the years or we might only have a set of Shake-y remains to stick on the stage – and a love for Shakespeare himself. If enough people still want to visit him in a Tardis that can’t be a bad thing in my book.

The cosmos is a stage

And all, from thou to Fenric, merely players:

We have out exits and our entrances;

But Time Lords are required to play the greater part



About Sarah Waters

I'm a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University researching female melancholia in Early Modern medicine, drama, and its resonances with our understanding of female depression today. I also have research interests in Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, Children's Literature, CS Lewis, and The Inklings.
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2 Responses to Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

  1. Pingback: Dr Who, Shakespeare, Drood, and Friends. This is not the end. | Shakin' Spearians

  2. Pingback: Dr Who, Shakespeare, Drood and Friends. This is not the end. | The Shakespeare Standard

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