TV Club: Marco Polo

TV Club sets off on an epic alongside famed Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, on his way to visit the palace of Kublai Khan and present him with his newly-acquired object, the TARDIS.

What are your thoughts on this legendary, lost, seven-episode historical epic?

Although all seven episodes are missing, the soundtrack of all the episodes are available for free on the BBC Sounds website and app:

There are also unofficial reconstructions available online including the celebrated colour Loose Cannon reconstruction.

Just for fun rate the story below:

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Can’t say I’ve seen it. 7 episodes, all missing, is a big ask, so it’s really likely to be one of the last serials I watch that I haven’t seen yet, next to The Dalek Master Plan.

(Not that that stops me from getting a TV Club badge for saying I didn’t watch it. :stuck_out_tongue: )

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They do have 30min recon available also.

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I will just leave this link for the condensed BBC version that reduces the 7 episodes to one half-hour episode while keeping the essence of the overall narrative and plots. Naturally a lot of small character moments are left at the wayside but it works surprisingly well :blush: Enjoy!

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I really love this era of historical stories. No real scifi elements. Just our main cast interacting with historical characters. The drama is very human.

This really is a non-comedic version of The Romans to me. The Doctor and Susan really get to shine. This is not to say the others don’t have things to do but really it is about the two Gallifreyans. The plot moves along at a decent pace, with enough going on so you don’t get bogged down in repeated scenes. Mark Eden as Marco is superb. His voice overs work really well for me and he can really portray the tired and weiry nature of his character.

The recon is a little trying for some but for me it is worth it. The audio work is great, so combined with the telesnaps I can really feel what is going on.

For me this is the start of a great run for the First Doctor, that runs for the next seven or eight serials, where they seem to have figured out the formula.

This is a solid 4/5 (8/10) for me. If it was not lost I honestly think this would be a perfect 5/5 for me.

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I have only watched this once and was not that big of a fan of it. It was my first tellesnap and that might have affected my judgment. I might like it more if I watch it again. But I had a hard time keeping focus.

Might watch the 30min version and see what I think about that.

3/5

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I struggle hugely with this story. It’s too long. The fact that no one except Barbara can see what an absolute asshole Tegana is is frustrating. The constant ‘we’ve got the TARDIS back but no Susan has to be an idiot and make us lose it again’ repetition. The regulars are basically bystanders which also frustrates me. Marco Polo is the lead in someone else’s show. It is a good story for Susan though, I’ll give it that (although this is where the script writers basically began to throw out the idea that she is an alien from another world and just started writing her as a teenage girl from the 60s).

I know lots of people think this is glorious and I’m sure with returned episodes I would think differently, but for now it languishes well at the bottom of my rankings.

This was my review from back in the day of my marathon:

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I think that if we had Marco Polo back, it would probably sit comfortably mid-table. The fact that we don’t have it in motion means that the production elements that we no longer get to see have been elevated heavily in the memories of the people who did see it and, as is often the way with Doctor Who fandom, mythologized in the minds of those of us who didn’t.

It’s easy to hold this up as a triumph of design and direction, but having seen the full reconstruction, I don’t think this is any more impressive an achievement than The Daleks. That isn’t to undermine either of the serials, more that Marco Polo wasn’t out of the ordinary for the tremendous effort that was being put in on a very low budget,

Toby Hadoke’s Too Much Information on Marco Polo is a very interesting listen, probably more interesting than the episode. I agree with Delta, it’s far too long, two episodes worth of padding shows quite starkly I think. What I do enjoy is that, once again, the threats the TARDIS team faces are mundane but very believable. It gives me good ammunition to use when people try and tell me that Doctor Who is just a children’s program, because what part of trying not to die of thirst on a long journey across the desert is supposed to appeal to the mind of a child? With that being said, records from the time indicate that children were losing interest, much preferring the Daleks to this rather more low-key drama. After The Edge of Destruction, which was a surrealist nightmare with no monsters OR lavish sets, I can sort of see why.

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A must read in terms of this story’s production is the third part of Waris Hussein’s diaries:

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I love Marco Polo. It’s got its fair share of faults and I’m sure a lot more might show up if we had the full episodes. But it has charm, the set photos look lovely and it’s an epic bit of story telling. Fitting the Himalayas and Gobi Desert into studio D in Lime Grove is quite the feat!

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I go back and forth on Marco Polo.

I think the main thing about this serial is that it is a sort of docu-drama about a Venetian explorer which just happens to include the cast from Doctor Who.
It is not a particularly thrilling Doctor Who adventure, but it is a rather good telling of one of Marco Polo’s travels in Asia.
And I love how their travels are told partly through narration of Marco Polo’s journal entries.

The highlights for me are the interpersonal relationships that form during their months of travelling. Ping-Cho and Susan, and Marco Polo and Ian. Their relationships form over a plentitude of small scenes across the 7 episodes, through challenges and hardship, deep and meaningful friendships are formed.

The sets are good and the costuming is outstanding - and gets an extra layer from the colourised Loose Canon reconstruction.

If I want to watch a joyous action packed Doctor Who adventure I’ll definitely look somewhere else, but as a link in the chronological chain of this TARDIS team’s development as a little found family unit, it is immensely satisfying.

The single best moment for me in this serial comes just after the TARDIS has dematerialised in the final episode and Marco Polo has the final journal entry/soliloquy where he ponders whether our travellers are in the past or future. In the end he came to trust Ian so much that he genuinely believes in their quite frankly fantastical tale of being travellers in Time - it is just such an incredibly poignant moment for this one-time main character of our favourite show. And he finally gets granted his deep-seated wish to return to Venice :blush:

I guess that as I’ve typed this out I have come to appreciate this first missing serial a tad more :grin:

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You bring up a good point that I didn’t dive too much into - because this doesn’t exist fully, people who haven’t seen or heard it do lose the fact that week on week we see the core four develop into something of a family, explicitly because of their traveling circumstances.

Also Ping-Cho and Susan were in love and you can’t tell me otherwise.

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I absolutely wouldn’t dream of telling you otherwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if they already have some sort of cutesy “ship” name :wink:

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SuPing? ChoSan?

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It all makes sense now!!! In the Aztecs Susan claims that she won’t be told who to marry - because she has already found her future wife!
I need fanfic to describe how after David’s death she travelled back in time to pick up Ping-Cho :grin:

Mrs Ping-Cho Foreman :1tardis:

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Now into my realm of spicy AO3 reading…

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Love this so much that I’m half tempted to somehow make it canon in my Thasmin fic

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I need a link to that if/when it becomes available :blush:

link to any of your work?

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This is my first time writing something and it’ll probably take me a while to finish it

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