Shakespeare400 - The Shakespeare Code

Shakespeare code


Alwyn Ash finds a few keys to decipher at least some of the Shakespeare code to kick off our day of themed articles...

Shakespeare’s works are as alien to me as hieroglyphs. I’m not a fan of his works at all. So, one might think it strange that I have chosen to contribute to anything relating to the Bard’s material. But the truth is no matter what I think of his words personally, there is no escaping the effect they have had on others. One could argue that without The Tempest there would be no Forbidden Planet, a 1956 film directed by Fred M. Wilcox and starring Leslie Nielson in a straight role as the commander of starship C-57D. And I am a huge fan of this movie! And certainly Forbidden Planet played its part in inspiring Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek; how could it not? The 1950s is the golden age of science fiction cinema and we are all inspired by the best, right?

Of course, Doctor Who: Planet of Evil (broadcast in 1975) doesn’t even try to hide the Shakespeare (and Forbidden Planet) influences. And our intrepid Time Lord has even met the Bard on more than one occasion. Just take a look at The Shakespeare Code, a 2007 serial bringing Tenth Doctor David Tennant and companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) face to face with the Carrionite Witches – at a time “before the invention of the toilet”. In audio, too, with Time of The Daleks, a Big Finish play in which Eighth Doctor Paul McGann encounters a far much younger Will Shakespeare. Fans will undoubtedly know every mention and appearance in each TV episode, audio drama, book and comic strip. For those less than familiar, a Google search is recommended.

One of my most favourite comedic Shakespeare appearances is that of Colin Firth’s excellent portrayal in Blackadder Back And Forth, in which Lord Edmund Blackadder time travels by accident from 1999 to Elizabethan England, encounters the Bard and punches him in the face, saying “That is for every schoolboy and schoolgirl for the next 400 years! Have you any idea how much suffering you're going to cause? Hours spent at school desks trying to find ONE joke in ‘A Midsummer's Night Dream’, wearing stupid tights in school plays and saying things like, ‘What ho, my Lord,’ and, ‘Oh, look, here comes Othello talking total crap as usual.’”

In an alternate reality I’ve listened many times to The Beatles and their Shakespearean songs “Baby You Can Drive My Bard”, “Hey Juliet” and “A Bard Day’s Night”. Oh, and “Her Majesty”. Sorry, wrong queen? Never mind. Actually, if you do get a chance, check out Around The Beatles, a televised special from 1964 in which the Fab Four send-up Pyramus And Thisbe (Act V, Scene I) from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream; John Lennon gets to play Thisbe!

Shakespeare will never be forgotten. If proof be needed, even Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise is a fan, as is shown in TNG episode Hide And Q. A copy of The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works is read by Q, a powerful being, and the two discuss the Human race, a species that clearly fascinates Q. Picard even quotes a piece from Hamlet: "What a piece of work is man? How noble in reason? How infinite in faculty, in form, in moving, how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel; in apprehension, how like a god..."

In honour of this article, and /Garbage-file’s special day, I looked for a most pleasing quote of my own, "I must to the barber's, Monsieur; for methinks, I am marvellous hairy about the face: and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch."

I have read other quotes but scratch my head. His works are indeed a Shakespeare’s code.