Doctor Who’s Most Memorable Literary Moments

Posted by Brian Morell

Doctor Who meets Agatha Christie

The Doctor is a well-read Time Lord, who is particularly fond of British literature. What else would he do between all his adventures?

Here are some of the most memorable literary moments from the new series of Doctor Who.

William Shakespeare: The premise of “The Shakespeare Code” is one of my all-time favorites. The Doctor takes new companion Martha Jones on her first trip across all of time and space and they end up relatively close to where they were in geography, but not in time. They are in Elizabethan England to see Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Globe Theatre, where at the end of the performance, William Shakespeare announces that the following night will be the premier of a sequel entitled Love’s Labour’s Won. The play, which actually may have existed, is lost to us, but I won’t spoil as to why. I will tell you though that Shakespeare is an unrelenting flirt, composing Sonnet 18 for Martha, calling her his “Dark Lady.” But Shakespeare didn’t stop there and flirted with the last Time Lord as well, to which the Doctor exclaimed, “Fifty-seven academics just punched the air!”

Harry Potter: The Shakespearean episode of the new series didn’t stop with just one (albeit major) literary reference. To save the universe, Martha Jones helped Shakespeare complete his verse by shouting out expelliarmus! “Good old J.K.!” to save the day.

Agatha Christie: In 1926, the Doctor and companion Donna Noble join a party and are delighted to find Agatha Christie as one of the guests. Things quickly turn deadly, however, as several of the guests are murdered under mysterious circumstances. Just like with, “The Shakespeare Code,” the writers used a real mystery to give us a fictional explanation as to what really happened. In this case, the entire episode takes place right before Agatha Christie actually disappeared for ten days. Her disappearance was allegedly due to her husband having an affair, but if you watch this episode, you’ll know the real reason.

Charles Dickens: During the Agatha Christie murder mystery, Donna Noble thought it was a bit ridiculous, saying “I mean that’s like meeting Charles Dickens, and he’s surrounded by ghosts, at Christmas!” Little did she know that’s exactly what happened to the Doctor, just not her Doctor. Well, not exactly. Whereas the previous two literary references happened with David Tennant as the Doctor, this episode features Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor with Rose Tyler along for the journey. The two have traveled to Cardiff in 1869 and try to figure out why Charles Dickens is surrounded by ghosts. But there were also zombies. So I guess Donna Noble didn’t think ridiculously enough!

Not only did Charles Dickens work briefly with the Doctor to fight against evil zombie ghosts, but the 2010 Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol,” was inspired by Dickens’ original, with a Time Lord twist.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: In the 2011 Christmas special, the Doctor is “the Caretaker” for the Arwell family as they travel to a country house to escape the air raids in London. Days before, Mary Arwell received word that her husband, a bomber pilot, had gone missing over the English Channel and was presumed dead. Repaying a kindness that Mary had previously shown him, the Doctor decorated the house before Mary and her children, Cyril and Lily, arrived, complete with a Christmas tree and presents. During the night, Cyril discovered a glowing present under the tree, which was a portal to a snow-covered world. Lily and the Doctor venture through the portal to find Cyril, with Mary following soon after. In the end, a mother’s love saves the day and her family.

Sherlock Holmes: In the most recent Christmas special (it seems these classic literary references show up a lot at Christmastime!), the Doctor disguised himself as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in order to find out more about Dr. Walter Simeon and his nefarious plan to unleash an army of evil snowmen. It was certainly a fandom’s dream to see Matt Smith as Holmes, since head writer Steven Moffat’s other popular BBC show is “Sherlock.” If you don’t believe me that fans don’t already envision the Doctor as Holmes and vice versa, you’ve never been on Tumblr.


Brian Morell is an awesome librarian from New York City. He writes about his travels and life at That Long Yellow Line and about music for The Ruckus. Follow him on Twitter @goodinthestacks.