Review: Doctor Who: Books: The Shakespeare Notebooks

ShakespeareBy James Goss, Jonathan Morris, Julian Richards, Justin Richards and Matthew Sweet

BBC Books, out now

Who realized that Doctor Who and Shakespeare overlapped quite so much?

This has to win some form of award as the oddest tie-in to Doctor Who we’ve had in some time (not ever – the Knitting Patterns and the Cookbook still hold top places in the annals of the bizarre). It’s a mix of rewritten Shakespeare, new verse in his style, and accounts of encounters between the Time Lord and the Bard.

Those with long memories may recall that Paul Cornell did something of this sort for one of the Decalog collections mixing the Kandyman into the perils of Tara in Shakespearean metre. It’s an interesting exercise… once, but after reading a whole raft of them together, they do rather blend into one another. The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe become embroiled in the plot of Macbeth; the First Doctor sees the Sontarans performing their version of Horror of Fang Rock on Vortis (really, don’t ask…) Rory and Amy engage in some foreshadowing of their own future in Romeo and Juliet.

Some sections work better than others – there are some laugh aloud moments in the Master’s encounter with Christopher Marlowe, and whichever of the authors penned Sonnets 1 and 123 (don’t worry – we don’t get them all), take a bow. The Doctor’s notes on Hamlet are spot on, and there’s real tension in the Academic Notes chapter. The best is saved for penultimate – Ye Unearthly Childe – and there’s a nice little sting in the tail.

A good working knowledge of the plays (outside the standards) will really help you to appreciate the jokes in this, and admire the cleverness of the writers; it’s certainly the first book I can think of which feels squarely aimed at the undergraduate audience (and those of us who have never really fully grown up from that status!)

Verdict: A highly unusual, but nevertheless enjoyable, addition to the Who bookshelves. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks from




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