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MARCO POLO


Chase - Posted on 07 November 2009

1-The Roof of the World

Oh my goodness, look ! A time travel show! That goes into the past and uses a historical figure AND takes its time to build a world!

This is ...well, fantastic. It is how Doctor Who should be more often. The Loose Cannon reconstruction is almost like watching the show and Mark Eden does an opening telling us that of all the wiped stories, this one should not have been wiped and I agree. He also does, in character as Marco, a diary entry putting us into the story but don't worry, nothing is missing here: we get the opening credits and the full story, not the terrible 30 minute thing on the BEGINNING dvd set. AND almost all of this is in color, colored, I think, by hand! And there are photos of the whole story pretty much.  

There are no monsters. Let's say...THERE ARE NO MONSTERS! Okay, granted they set up the idea that there is some kind of big footed monster or snowman (just wait a few years, okay) on the mountain but it is really just a Mongol in furs, thank goodness. The entire thing, given the circumstances, is beliveable because it takes its time  and we get the reactions of everyone and including the funny Doctor. He's aggravated because, "Oh dear oh dear, we're always in trouble. It follows us whereever we go."  TARDIS has broken down and again we hear it stated as THE Tardis, the standard of saying TARDIS uses the THE more often than not. Despite what others might say.

We also get a one story companion in Ping Cho played by the same woman who married or almost married Sarah Jane Smith in THE WEDDING OF SARAH JANE and oddly enough her character here, Ping Cho, is to be married to a 75 year old man and she is 16. Susan tells us she is 16. This could mean she's in her first regeneration or that she's only 16 in her current regeneration or that she's not even a TIme Lord or even a Gallefrean. Pick your choice. In hindsight THATS' all very interesting. But not needed to enjoy the whole story.

Tegana (no, not the air hostess person) is the villain but even he has reasons and depth and is played well. Not as just a villain. Oh and the sets, acting, and costumes are...rather grand and special. Here, Doctor Who takes its time as it travels from place to place, outside of the TARDIS, which is being dragged along with it from the top of the roof of the world to a place called Lop. In fact, I would have to check but I think this story spans many weeks, even a few months in total. THEY WOULD NEVER DO THAT TODAY!!! Imagine a story that spans the entire trip of LEWIS AND CLARK or the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

I must admit, that at times, later on, I long for a historical, a pure one, not the promise of one like in BLACK ORCHID which in hindsight is NOT a historical. One which has no monsters (HORROR OF FANG ROCK, TALONS OF WENG CHIANG and eh, IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL, even though that last one is supposed to take place in the present of that time in the 1977 era I think it is more like a past setting, and while all three are good, great even, they are not really pure historicals) and no sci fi other than time travel. Of course, DW did thse well at first as shown by this but later on....and THE TIME TUNNEL had the reverse problem: showing only stories that were historicals and whenever, later on, they did alien stories, they were hopelessly poor.

Still, if you look at ABOUT TIME 1, the way this story is presented as history...may be off. This may not even be MARCO POLO but someone impersonating him for his own reasons. I forgot the logic behind that idea but it makes sense in the book ABOUT TIME 1 so read it, it's very interesting. Even if  you buy that idea, this ep and this entire story is just great. The atmosphere, the characters, the travelogue. and the visuals are all 10/10 or 5/5 or more!

Enjoy this because DW will never be like this again, an adventure in the past a true adventure in time. Everyone likes to say that DW can go anywhere and do anything and be anything but in the near future of this story it will discard a lot of that idea and all of the past history of Earth to go into space and the future more than ever with mixed results, dealing with Rills and blowing up planets etc and while all of that has its place in DW, discarding the pure historicals was, I feel needed to keep viewers (MAYBE but maybe that's a fallacy or rumor of fandom) but was, a mistake quality wise. It broke up the future/space stories if the Doc could encounter Richard the Lion Hearted (loin hearted?) and/or Cossacks (which he never does), Vikings (he was to, in an unmade script, encounter, I believe Eric the Red), and more. There were plenty of planned stories to this effect but most never made it to even script stage.

What more can I say? Nothing. IMARCO POLO is great.        

 

 

2-The Singing Sands

This ep is not as good as the first but it's still pretty good. The Doc is mostly out of action in this, either for most of it being sulky and not eating and later on, suffering from not having water. The exciting bit is the sand storm and while Barbara goes hysterical because Ping Cho and Susan are outside in the storm, they just followed Tegana. I't is a good scene and well done. Ian and Marco play chess before the storm; Susan tries to get the Doctor to eat food; Barbara calls the TARDIS just TARDIS I think. It's all very leisurely, perhaps too leisurely this time. In any event, Tegana plans more mischief, emptying the water gourds, all but one, which he drnks from. Not much else happens in this. Susan and Ping Cho chat and..that's about it. I guess I might have even dozed off during some of this, only about a minute or so but I don't think I missed much. Barbara blamed Marco for Susan and Ping Cho's predicament. Later on. Marco allows the Doctor and Susan to take a night's sleep in the TARDIS, demanding Ian and Barbara not go in. Even if they could, there's nothing they can do to get it going. And at the start, Marco tells of their moving and later on they move again, across the Gobi. I guess just savoring the moments of this journey is what this ep is for, for after this and a few others, there will be no pure historicals and it will be monsters, aliens, monsters and other Time Meddlers.     

 

3-500 Eyes

Let's get one thing straight: I love the character of Susan, I really do and I like Carole Ann Ford as well. She can be great when subdued. And she's charming and the character had potential. In the more adventurous moments, when shrieking or in panic, she can be... a bit annoying and hard on the ears as she is in the last scenes of this ep. Her cries for Barbara and her screams and her "It moved! The eyes moved!" are something we shall have to bear twice...in this and in the reprise in the next ep.

Anyway, this is another great ep. DW is at its best when it weaves in TRUE or near true history (Ping Cho's 3 minute story and Marco's story of the assassins which are both great and informative)  and science (as in the quartz scenes in the cave and earlier with the condensation bits which are great). Here, it is seamless and not forced at all. It is a pity that this will soon give way to time vectors and later to time orbits and even later to fob watches and retro-Last of the Time Lords back tracking that passes for story material. I guess it all is fair game for a show that lasted well over 40 years.

From the Tegana plotting...and we get MORE characters here from a boatload of Mongols to Malik and a supposed courier whom we don't see to another in the cave of 500 eyes to Chenchu in the NEW city...yes, they've traveled to yet another place...Tu Huang I think it is called. And of course the wonderfully atmospheric cave of 500 eyes. This moves faster than last ep but it might be shorter at something like 22 min. More happens here. Marco proves he's still not a true ally but still out for his own wants...to get home he shall give the TARDIS over to Kublai Khan and intends to carry that out. The Doctor is also a "wily old fox" as Ian says in that he's made a new key to the TARDIS, despite the one given to Marco. He tries to sneak into it but the side story of finding Barbara gets in the way.

On the other hand, Ping Cho is totally loyal to the Doc's group and will keep quiet, even though the Doc says he has to trust her now. He also tells them to never mind about Marco when he and the girls head off to the cave for a curious cliffhanger of moving eyes in the cave walls.

One thing that is chilling is how the Mongols are betting with dice on who will kill Barbara and one makes a move toward her showing her how...slitting her throat is how he will do it if he wins. I also saw in a photo one of the church lecturns that was in the TARDIS in an earlier ep, possibly the UNEARTHLY CHILD or one of the unaired pilots or THE DALEKS or...anyway just a notice.

Again, another good ep, 5/5 or 10/10 I'd say.            

4

There is a lot of travel in this ep and it's all the better for it. Another good ep as Tegana uses words and manipulation and sneaking around to get Marco to turn further against the foursome and Ping Cho. He also manages to make the Doctor think it was Ping Cho who told Marco about the Doc's second key but it was Tegana. Marco separates Ping Cho from Susan. Earlier, Barbara is saved and without the usual hysteronics from the women. Barbara's reactions are believable. So they go from La Ton or something to SunSip or something and on ward from there. Alot of movement going on. Ian's frustrated by the lack of getting on with getting into the TARDIS. Tegana has set the bandits onto an attack just before Ian finds a guard dead that he was going to knock out or something in a vain attempt to kidnap and hold Marco. He never gets the chance. Marco puts forth to Ian earlier about who he would believe: a respected warlord (who works for someone named Nogai--say wasn't that an anime/sci fi fantasy company?) or four strange travellers. The Doc is  a hoot in this one, authortative, singing, laughing, and snappish. Hartnell is just great. The idea that the TARDIS is one of the hostages is also good and Marco becomes his most outrageously villainous self here couple with sympathy. Susan is loyal to Ping Cho and she to the others and Susan.  This another good ep using character interplay and intrigue to good effect. Just what the show should be!   One more thing: some of the music sounds suspiciously like Bernard Hermann's music to JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH but only rough bits at the start of one of his huge action pieces. It adds to the tension between Marco and the group and Ping Cho and the Doctor and ...you get the idea. 

5

The bandit attack is well done, the Doctor fighting as well with what he calls oversized bread knives! Marco is alerted and Ian tells him the truth, they were planning an escape. The Doctor seriously offers to take everyone away, including Tegana, in the TARDIS! Geeze and a few stories from now he'll be chastizing Barbara for trying to stop human sacrifice in THE AZTECS which the Spanish make them do anyway! In any event, the thug is killed, the bandits turn back. And Ian comes up with the bamboo sound idea. But as usual  it is the Doctor who notices that the bandit leader Acomat  knew Tegana. He also voices that the bandits left because their leader was killed.

More travel and a great deal of it. This traveloque map thingie seen as Marco narrates is an effective bunch of bits and makes the story move along. Ping Cho sees where Marco has hidden the TARDIS keys and he knows it and makes her promise not to tell the others. She doesn't but she does steal the keys. She also keeps asking Susan to say goodbye to her before she leaves and this gets Susan caught by Tegana in the cliffhanger and Carole Ann Ford does scream uncontrollably but this time believably, 

We also get more characters as it should be since they are traveling to the Summer Palace and beyond in this one. We meet serio comic villain/hero Wang Lo (yup, that's his name but we don't know how low) and later as Tegana plots to steal the TARDIS (Ian being wrong that Tegana is frightened of it) we meet a man (Kuiju) who has a monkey on his shoulder and an eyepatch and yes later on INDIANA JONES uses this. Funny, how DW influenced so many big budget movies that Americans worship but who spurn DW.

A Rider from Shang Tu arrives, to (Ling Tau) with a message from the Khan .  Another good episode and most memorable. One scene, the gold fish pond is rather nice and again, it's another scene between Susan and Ping Cho as they name the goldfish after Wang Lo, Marco (solemn), Ian (full of energy), Barbara (alone and independent) and Susan herself (the wicked one and it's notable that earlier on in another ep, Tegana called Susan cunning) and...then Susan brings up Ping Cho's wedding when she sees a fish that looks like it's a wearing a wedding veil.  Yet again another good ep with plenty of character loyalty and some treachery by Tegana, a good villain.    

I must mention, too, that when The Doctor finds Susan has gone off to say goodbye to Ping Cho (whom at first he did not fully trust) while the rest of them made it into the TARDIS, he says something like, "Great Olympus!"

6

It's fun to see Susan and Barbara giggling and enjoying themselves in a story so fraught with danger. It's also nice to see some humor as Kublai Khan turns out to be an old man with gout and who wants the ailing Doctor to ride with him in his caravan when he finds the Doctor cannot kowtow to Khan because of his back. It's Hartnell who gets the funniest lines. When told he will be beheaded and lose his head, the Doctor says, "Well with my back, then let him take all of it --why bother with small items!" 

Ian, before being sent off to find Ping Cho, tells Marco the truth about them being time travellers but Marco does not believe him. If he did, he tells Ian, he would give it back to them. Nevertheless, Marco is a fool here: he sends Tegana off to find Ian and Ping Cho, not taking Ian at his word to find the girl but believing instead that Ian has gone to find the TARDIS. In fact, Ian is doing both and he finds Tegana, sword raised and Tegana in the cliffhanger says, "Come...come...come."

A good ep and a good cliffhanger. Alot of fun as the Doc meet Kublai Khan and more locales, each one slightly different. I must say, though, this being DW, I am now longing for a monster or alien or two but I'm sooo glad they can tell a story like this and have it last this long, really I am. Another 5/5 or 10/10.     

Ling Tau helps with just his apperance, getting Ian and Ping Cho out of a situation, saving Ian's life and taking the two of them and their nemesis Tegana back to the Khan who is at Peking. Playing backgammon with the Doctor, who gains an awful lot of Asia but ultimately loses YES LOSES Tardis (no the). In today's show they'd make the Doctor t he ultimate winner and take it back.  Other than not really understanding a few words from the Khan...and was he really that nice an old man? ...this is really a rousing ending. Ping Cho mourns an old man's passing...and hopefully she will pair up with Ling Tau. The man she was to marry died drinking an elixir of ...life or something. Hartnell laughs it up even though his Doctor lost to the Khan and got some kind of consolation prize (a piece of paper currency).

We get to see the Empress.

It's nice that Marco FINALLY comes to side with the travellers and that Kublai lets Marco go home. Ping Cho decides to stay for a bit and not go home right away so maybe she and Ling do get together. Tegana kills himself after killing the Vizier (was that he midget guy? or the other one?) by mistake in an attempt to kill the Khan.  

Mark Eden reappears at the end to write Marco's last journal at age 70. He does a good job. Additionally, a coda tells of Marco's adventures later on and to be honest, there are a dozen sequels that can be written as he wrote of unicorns, griffins, cannibals, men with dogs' heads, and had other brushes with enemies who soon became friends. Gosh how cool would it be if he saw the TARDIS someplace...again...

Anyway a good end to a good story. They really should have done more like this. To be honest, the Doctor and his comp are sometimes sidelined for Marco, Kublai, Tegana, and others but it is still a great story and realistic in many ways. 

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