So, overall, not as good as Smith and Jones. But mostly quite good.
I'm going to start with the thing that annoyed me, so I can finish up on a positive note - I did very much like most of the episode, and while watching it I very much liked it, with the occasional eye-roll. But looking back at it I find greatly irritating.
I can't believe I am actually saying this, but Gareth Roberts, plz take some advice from Rusty on how to write references to Rose. Because Smith and Jones managed to mention her in a manner that was repectful for all characters involved: Martha, Rose and the Doctor.
Whereas in The Shakespeare Code... well, you had the Doctor with his "That's why I fight" which is just NO, NO, NO! He fights because he's the Doctor, not out a devotion to a individual. (I don't mind Lilith bringing it up here, it's just the Doctor's response which tees me off) I mean, as much as I love Ten/Reinette I firmly believe he saved her because he couldn't let an innocent women die, and ruin the time-line rather than romantic heroism.
The does things because he is the Doctor, because it is right. If he doesn't, than he's not the Doctor.
The other moment along these lines... well, something I've always said is that the only way you can make me genuinely hate a character is to rip down others so you can place your character on a pedestal. I went through an anti-Hermione period because of her fans, though I'm over that now. And the fact that we have a canonical instance of this in Doctor Who... I am very, very cross.
It's actually making me briefly not-like Ten. And given how much I love him, that's bloody hard.
ETA: Though I will add that this comment here reflects a possible interesting subtext on the whole Doctor saying Rose > Martha issue. If only we'd had some explicit acknowledgement of that...
And there's the classic "The Doctor going on about being unable to see what is in front of him when right in front of him is Martha
(That said, I've seen a few argue that it's set up for the inevitable "Yay Martha!"-ness from the Doctor. Which is pretty certain given she's around for rather more than one trip. But still, there had better be some good pro-Martha stuff explicitly said by the Doctor, or I shall be terribly cross)
All in all, Martha totally earned that pissy look she was giving.
Okay, moving on to the stuff which I did like.
So, the world was saved because Martha is a Harry Potter fan. MADE OF FUCKING AWESOME! I shall never get over the sheer hilarity of the world being saved by Expelliarmus. Also, Deathly Hallows apparently made the Doctor cry. Bless.
And he's a JK fanboy. Even more bless. I wonder if Ms Rowling was watching this episode. I mean, she was asked to write on the show, but this was a fabulous shout-out.
Also, explaining time-travel with Back to the Future is completely win.
Speaking of references, not only some hilarious dialogue between the Doctor and Martha about time travel, which shows that A) she's up with her sci-fi, and B) she's smart enough to worry about screwing up the timeline.
Martha: "What if I kill my grandfather?"
Doctor: "Are you planning to?"
*me falls over giggling*
Oh, and my fave:
"What if I step on a butterfly?"
"What did the butterfly ever do to you?"
Which filled me with glee, not just because of the hilarity, but because the original stepped-on-a-butterfly, screwed-up-the-timeline story? Is none other than Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder. You know, the story I think episode 12 is named after, and has themes riffed upon If I am right, then I shall be terribly impressed. Great riffing, that'd be.
Also on that vague note: Cheers for no gratuitous Saxon references. Considering the context, I'm hoping they only show up in modern day eps.
Speaking of context, comparing the past to the future amused me. Especially when Mr "The End is Nigh" actually had a look at said Nigh Ending.
Also whilst on referencing, I found the whole "Shakespeare getting ideas from the Doctor" thing hilarious.I know some think it was overdone, but I utterly adored it, honestly. Partially because of the twists given (the Doctor quoting other sources "Rage against the dying of the light" at telling Shakespeare he couldn't use it, and Shakespeare realising the Doctor was quoting him). And partially because it ended up being, well, a bit Thursday Next. With the Doctor giving Shakespeare ideas that were originally taken from Shakespeare. An endless loop, with no source...
Bless on the Doctor being a big Shakespeare fanboy. Well, he is, isn't he? Just like with Dickens and Madame de Pompadour, he loves those famous faces.
But Shakespeare was quite good, in my opinion.
And Shakespeare flirting with the Doctor! *cracks up* And the Doctor's response. "57 academics just punched the air" Great. I did like seeing Shakespeare "get his flirt on" with Martha. Amd her being really quite flattered, but still turning him down. And her being the Dark Lady, and getting the sonnet written about her... as odd as it is, I like the way Martha now gets her own sort of built in mythology now. The Oncoming Storm for the Doctor, Rose got Bad Wolf, and Martha gets the Dark Lady, to be the subject of some of the worlds most famous poetry. But then I do love seeing the Doctor and all get tied into history...
Actually, on Martha, I was surprised and, farnkly, a little impressed that Martha's race was touched on in the episode. Even if the Doctor's advice was just "Act like you own the place", it was still touched upon. And then you had Shakespeare listing all these descriptions for a black women, which obviously made Martha terribly uncomfortable, even if they were flattering for the time.
Martha was terribly practical about time travel, wasn't she? Asking if the Doctor had a TARDIS licence (naturally, he failed the test), catching onto the when of things, if she needed to be careful of paradoxes, etcetera and so forth. And some practical application of medicine... well, sort of. She started the Doctor's heart up. Again. (Symbolic, maybe? Who knows...)
The Doctor and her still have great chemistry, no matter what lines the writers give them.
"Care to accompany me to the theatre, Miss Jones."
"Of course Mr Smith" (or whatever that one was).
He was so asking her on a date there. I was pleased to see Mr Smith hanging around, too. Huzzah for character continuity.
The ending, with Queen Elizabeth, cracked me up. And it played around with the concept of time travel, which is always good. An enemy he hasn't yet met... I do wonder what the story with that will be. Shall we see it on the show, or is it going to end up in spinoff media, do we think?
Your Gay Agenda for the day: Lilith has Two Mummies.
As for the main subject of the episode... well, anything on the power of words is going to get me. I mean, my Nineteen Eighty-Four essay was entirely on the power of words, I tend to go on about it in assorted other classes...
Yeah, you can always get me with the discussion of the power of words. And a race that needs the power of words to escape, that can be imprisoned by words, who can use names to have power over someone (very Earthsea, that)... it fascinates me. Words, words, words...
And in this story, it's all about the words, the powerful ones, the hurtful ones, the words without a source, in their endless loop of inspiration. Words and stories, in which the day is saved by by words from the story, and the Doctor is powerful because he hasn't a name. It sort of gives creedence to one of my personal theories (or contrasts when you consider my other one is the Doctor was stripped of his name when he became an exile...)
I love a story about the power of words.
All in all, so long as I try not to think too long on that one fucking annoying thing, I really enjoyed it. Hopefully we shall see future episode in which the Doctor become fully aware of Martha's awesomeness to make up for it.
ETA: Apparently the writer is on the commentary track on the Beeb website, along with Julie Gardner and the director. Anyone heard it?I'm interested in what they say, but am too lazy to download it. It'd be interested to see what is said about Martha and future events...
ETA2: Confidential is cheering me a little. On the next episode: "The Doctor finally realises he's becaome attached to Martha."