Marco Polo (Doctor Who)

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004 – Marco Polo
Doctor Who serial
Marco Polo.jpg
Marco Polo, Susan, the Doctor and Ian
Cast
Others
Production
WriterJohn Lucarotti
DirectorWaris Hussein (episodes 1-3,5-7)
John Crockett (episode 4)
Script editorDavid Whitaker
ProducerVerity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerTristram Cary
Production codeD
SeriesSeason 1
Length7 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missingAll 7 episodes
Date started22 February 1964
Date ended4 April 1964
Chronology
← Preceded byFollowed by →
The Edge of DestructionThe Keys of Marinus
 
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004 – Marco Polo
Doctor Who serial
Marco Polo.jpg
Marco Polo, Susan, the Doctor and Ian
Cast
Others
Production
WriterJohn Lucarotti
DirectorWaris Hussein (episodes 1-3,5-7)
John Crockett (episode 4)
Script editorDavid Whitaker
ProducerVerity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerTristram Cary
Production codeD
SeriesSeason 1
Length7 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missingAll 7 episodes
Date started22 February 1964
Date ended4 April 1964
Chronology
← Preceded byFollowed by →
The Edge of DestructionThe Keys of Marinus

Marco Polo is the completely missing fourth serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in seven weekly parts from 22 February to 4 April 1964. The story is set in China, in the year 1289, with the regular series characters interacting with Venetian merchant-explorer Marco Polo and Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan. The historical period and context avoids science fiction elements beyond establishing the way by which the Doctor and his companions have travelled to the past. Although audio recordings and still photographs of the story exist, no footage of this serial is known to have survived.

Plot[edit]

The TARDIS crew lands in the Himalayas of Cathay in 1289, their ship badly damaged, and are picked up by Marco Polo's caravan on its way along the fabled Silk Road to see the Emperor Kublai Khan. The story concerns the Doctor and his companions' attempts to thwart the machinations of Tegana, who attempts to sabotage the caravan along its travels through the Pamir Plateau and across the treacherous Gobi Desert, and ultimately to assassinate Kublai Khan in Peking, at the height of his imperial power. The Doctor and his companions also attempt to regain the TARDIS, which Marco Polo has taken to give to Kublai Khan in effort to regain the Emperor's good graces. Susan gets the key from Ping-Cho but is captured by Tegana before they can depart. They are finally able to thwart Tegana, who kills himself, and, in doing so, regain the Emperor's respect for Marco Polo, who allows them to depart.

Historical episodes[edit]

Historical episodes such as Marco Polo, that feature no science fiction elements beyond the basic premise of the show, were relatively common for the first few seasons of Doctor Who. Marco Polo features many educational elements, both historical and scientific, as was originally part of the show's remit. The next historical adventure arrived later in the first season with The Aztecs, and such stories continued to be regularly featured until 1967, when the purely historical format would be discontinued after The Highlanders. The format enjoyed a brief revival in 1982 with Black Orchid, and in novel form with 1995's Sanctuary, and is a semi-regular part of the Big Finish audio series of Doctor Who, but has not been repeated in any televised form since 1982.

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
Archive
"The Roof of the World"22 February 1964 (1964-02-22)24:129.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
"The Singing Sands"29 February 1964 (1964-02-29)26:349.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Five Hundred Eyes"7 March 1964 (1964-03-07)22:209.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
"The Wall of Lies"14 March 1964 (1964-03-14)24:489.9Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Rider From Shang-Tu"21 March 1964 (1964-03-21)23:269.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Mighty Kublai Khan"28 March 1964 (1964-03-28)25:368.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Assassin at Peking"4 April 1964 (1964-04-04)24:4810.4Only stills and/or fragments exist
[1][2][3]

The commentary that accompanies the Loose Cannon recreation mentioned below also shows the wages of the people who worked on the original show (fee per episode): William Hartnell £210, William Russell £147, Jacqueline Hill £99.15s, Carole Ann Ford £63, Mark Eden £68.5s, Derren Nesbitt £84, Zienia Merton £36.15s, Martin Miller £84, Claire Davenport £42, Tutte Lemkow £63, Peter Lawrence £42, Paul Carson £36.15s.

Cast notes[edit]

Veteran Bollywood actress Zohra Sehgal appeared in several episodes in an uncredited role as an attendant. She later appeared in episode two "The Knight Of Jaffa" of The Crusade. Zienia Merton appeared in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, an episode of the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, 45 years after her appearance in this serial. Jimmy Gardner later played Idmon in Underworld. Philip Voss later played Wahed in The Dominators. Tutte Lemkow later played Ibrahim in The Crusade and Cyclops in The Myth Makers. Derren Nesbitt has appeared in two Doctor Who audio plays: as Thomas Dodd in Spare Parts and as Quences in Auld Mortality, Mark Eden later appeared in Mark Gatiss's 50th anniversary Docudrama "An Adventure in Space and Time" as Donald Baverstock.

Missing episodes[edit]

This is one of only three stories (along with Mission to the Unknown and The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve) of which not a frame of broadcast footage is known to have survived (see Doctor Who missing episodes). "Telesnaps" (images of the show during transmission, photographed from a television) of Episodes 1-3 and 5-7 are held by the serial's director, Waris Hussein. The audio soundtrack is also intact, having been recorded "off air" during the original transmissions.

The last known TV broadcast of this story was in Ethiopia, which screened Marco Polo over a period of seven weeks, between 21 January and 4 March 1971. The fate of the prints is unknown.

Themes and analysis[edit]

Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles point out that at the time this was made Penguin Books had only recently released a new translation of The Travels of Marco Polo, and note that Lucarotti, who had various times lived in England, Canada, Mexico, the US, and Spain, might have been writing from personal experience when dealing with Polo's wanderlust and Susan's complex relationship with the idea of home. They also note the story's similarities to ITC historical serials like Sir Francis Drake, and talk about the impressive scope of the story and how unlike later Doctor Who it is that it unfolds over three months and in a large geographic area.[4]

Commercial Releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Marco Polo
SeriesTarget novelisations
Release number94
WriterJohn Lucarotti
PublisherTarget Books
Cover artistDavid McAllister
ISBN0-426-19967-7
Release date11 April 1985

A novelisation of this serial, written by John Lucarotti, was published by Target Books in December 1984. The Tele-Snaps of episodes 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 were published in the Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition: The Missing Episodes- The First Doctor in March 2013.

Home media[edit]

In 2003, a three-CD set of the audio soundtrack was released, as part of Doctor Who's 40th anniversary. This CD set is unique in containing a map of Cathay (China) as represented during the period of the Doctor's visit to China, and also explaining historical inaccuracies. Further, the first disc in the set contains data as well as audio; the data includes MP3 files of the soundtracks without additional narration (which is provided on the CDs by William Russell, filling in details when action was mostly visual), PDF files of the narration scripts, and computer wallpaper versions of the aforementioned map of Cathay. The audio is also available to download from AudioGo.[5]

The 2006 DVD box set, The Beginning, includes a condensed 30-minute form of this story as an extra on The Edge of Destruction disc. This version of the story, compiled by Derek Handley, consists of telesnaps set to an edited audio track. The original three-CD set was re-released in 2010 in The Lost TV Episodes - Collection One 1964-1965 with a bonus disc of interviews. The set was also remastered.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "Marco Polo". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  2. ^ "Marco Polo". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (26 July 2006). "Marco Polo". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ Wood, Tat and Lawrence Miles (2006). About Time Volume 1. Mad Norwegian Press. pp. 54–55. 
  5. ^ "Doctor Who: Marco Polo (TV Soundtrack)". AudioGo. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Fan reviews
Target novelisation