6 Doctor Who Literary Episodes You Should Watch Before the Premiere

On August 23, the eighth season of Doctor Who premieres on BBC America. We picked six old Doctor Who episodes with literary themes that you can watch to get in the mood before the premiere.

Ashley Dodge, assistant to


The eighth season of Doctor Who premieres Saturday, August 23 on BBC America. Whovians know that this new season will also be the debut of the Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. For all the Whovians and literature lovers out there, we’ve put together a list of Doctor Who episodes from the Grammar Girl team, fans, and readers that we love. Take a look at the list below.

1. “The Shakespeare Code,” 3rd season

The Tenth Doctor travels to Shakespeare’s day in the second episode of the third season with then-new companion, Martha Jones. The plot of the episode centers around three witches and a promise from Shakespeare to his audience that he can write the sequel to “Love’s Labours Lost” in one night, which he announces will be called “Love’s Labours Won.” As you can tell from the lack of the sequel’s presence today, it didn’t work out.

This episode has other notable literary references too: the Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter and knows how the series ends. (Although it doesn’t matter so much now, can you imagine how much it mattered when the episode aired?) One of Shakespeare’s famous sonnets was inspired by Martha herself:

Shakespeare: We’re alike in many ways, Doctor. Martha, let me say goodbye to you in a new verse. A sonnet for my Dark Lady. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

And Martha was the creator of a popular tradition in the theater:

MARTHA: Where’s Shakespeare? I want to see Shakespeare. Author! Author! Do people shout that? Do they shout Author?

MAN: Author! Author!

(And the crowd takes up the chant.)

DOCTOR: Well, they do now.

2. “The Doctor’s Wife,” 6th Season

Written by Neil Gaiman, this episode explores what would happen if the time machine, TARDIS, became a living, breathing person. Whovians know how much the Doctor loves the TARDIS. In this episode, TARDIS takes the form of a female, and we get to see the TARDIS and the Doctor’s relationship as it would be if the TARDIS were real. Meanwhile, the sinister plot for companions Amy and Rory unfolds within the dark depths of the TARDIS. Grammar Girl reader and listener John Goodridge also mentioned that the episode uses “the word ‘petrichor’ (the smell of rain on dry earth) as a key plot element,” as seen in this transcript:

IDRIS+ RORY: Crimson. Eleven. Delight. Petrichor.

AMY: Petrichor?

RORY: What do I do? Do I say it? Crimson. Eleven. Delight. Petrichor. I said it.

AMY: Petrichor. Petrichor.

RORY: I said it.

AMY: Petrichor. She told you what it meant. The smell of wet dust, remember? So, oh, it’s the meaning, not the word.

3. “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” 5th season

The entire episode takes place at a dinner party that Agatha Christie is attending. The Doctor and companion Donna arrive just as a mystery fitting for an Agatha Christie novel unfolds.

4 & 5. “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” 5th Season

Grammar Girl reader and listener Christina Dennan suggested these episodes, because both take place in a gigantic library (it’s an entire planet) that has gone silent, but for what reason? What occurs is a terrifying adventure. (Don’t go into the shadows.) Two episodes in a gigantic library? It’s a bookworm’s dream.

6. “The Unquiet Dead”, 1st Season

The Ninth Doctor and his companion Rose arrive in Cardiff at Christmas during the Victorian era. There have been sightings of ghosts, and as in most Doctor Who adventures, the Doctor has arrived to investigate. They run into Charles Dickens, who is on a tour performing “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens eventually decides to lend his hand to the Doctor and Rose to help solve the mystery of the ghost-like bodies. You’ll love this episode if you love Charles Dickens, Christmas, and a good mystery.



TARDIS Wiki http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Charles_Dickens

Transcript for The Shakespeare Code http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/29-2.htm

Transcript for The Doctor’s Wife http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/32-4.htm

Photo by JD Hancock at Flickr, Creative Commons by_2.0

About the Author

Ashley Dodge, assistant to Grammar Girl
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