TV One of the more delicious elements of The Shakespeare Code is that the writer, Gareth Roberts, chose to feature a play that, had it not been missing, assuming it ever existed, would, could and should have had a cliffhanger resolution.
Love Labour’s Won should have been the sequel to the extant play Love’s Labour’s Lost. A Journey's End to The Stolen Earth.
As anyone who’s seen the play will know, at just the moment when Shakespeare is about to write in all the expected elements of a comedy, the couplings and weddings, when the King of Navarre and three noble companions, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville are supposed to finally be with the Princess of France, Rosaline, Maria and Katharine, their festivities are cut short when word comes, that the the Princesses's father has died and she must leave to take up the thrown. The expected ending, just sort of, well, doesn't.
I’m assuming this isn’t a spoiler for a four hundred year old play. If it is, my apologies.
Although the king and his nobles say that they will remain faithful and monogamous, the ladies are unconvinced and so they all agree that the men should wait a further year and a day to prove that this isn’t some silly phase they’re going through.
And the play ends there. Rather like the Duke’s hanging proposal to Isabella at the close of Measure for Measure it’s difficult to stage because on stage there’s no fast push in, sound of drums or scream into credits especially since as things stand there nothing is resolved. We don’t know what happens next.
As a side note, I have found it otherwise interesting that unlike Measure for Measure, Love's Labour's Lost isn't considered a "problem play". It's always still listed as a comedy despite these elements which work against that understanding.
For all the talk of the title Love’s Labour’s Won being an alternative for the likes of Much Ado or The Taming of the Shrew, the potentially symmetry is too strong. The love that is lost at the end of the first play must have inevitably been won again by the close of the second.
With just forty-five minutes to play about with, writer Gareth Roberts doesn’t have time to offer his version. He does give himself the challenge of writing a few cod-Shakespearean lines but there’s not much in the way of plot.
My guess, judging by their behaviour through much of Lost, and the failure to keep the celibacy oath at the start, is that they haven’t kept their oath in the intervening year and Won is about them trying to convince these ladies to take them back somehow.
They have to “win” something for the title of the play to make much sense. Unless, there was some impediment, like the Queen’s regality which stops them from being able to rekindle the relationship at the end of the year and a day.
None of which we can really know.
But what all of this does demonstrate, as I suggested earlier in the year, that we should be happy that anything of Doctor Who exists in whatever form its in. Imagine if we didn’t have the audio elements. TARGET novelisations accepted, we might never know how The Moonbase or The Evil of the Daleks concluded and we’d never know what happened in The Myth Makers, not really.
Yet somehow, we do.
I'm a romantic. If Won was ever published, I still can’t imagine that even after four hundred years a copy won’t turn up mislabelled in an archive or the library in some ancient residence, that like some of Doctor Who’s missing episodes, it isn’t sitting on the shelf of someone who hasn’t a clue just how precious it is. Or the story is contains.