Monday 6 December 2010

014 Marco Polo Part 1: The Roof of the World

EPISODE: Marco Polo Part 1: The Roof of the World
TRANSMITTED: 22 February 1964
WRITER: John Lucarotti
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: CD: Doctor Who - The Lost TV Episodes Collection: (1964-1965) No. 1

We're using a soundtrack CD instead of a DVD for the first time this episode.

Having materialised in a mountainous snowy landscape that the teachers wonder if it might be on Earth the Doctor finds that a number of the Tardis systems have failed. They end up being captured by a group of Mongol Warriors who believe they are evil spirits and want to slay them, but are saved by a European man: Marco Polo. He is accompanied by the warlord Tegana & the lady Ping Cho: she is on her way to be married. They are in the year 1289 and are on the Pamir Plateau bound for Shang-Tu. Marco Polo is interested in the Tardis wondering how it is big enough to accommodate them all and can move without wheels. Arriving at a way station the Doctor tries to repair the Tardis but is stopped by Marco Polo: Believing it to be a flying caravan he intends to offer the Tardis to Kublai Khan as a gift to buy his way out of the Khan's service. The Warlord Tegana has acquired a strong poison and intends to use it to kill the party and steal the Tardis' power for himself.

This is the first truly historical Doctor Who story. While the later three episodes of an Unearthly Child are set in the past this story is the first to feature a documented historical setting and figure. I'm afraid I'm not a huge fan of most of these stories, but after the confusing mess that was Edge of Destruction I found this episode a relief as I could actually follow what's going on.

We also have a famous sci fi guest star wander into view: Playing Ping Cho is an eighteen year old Zienia Merton, later to find fame as Sandra Benes, the senior data analyst on Moonbase Alpha in Space 1999. I've been trying to watch that right the way through in order since the first season Blu Rays came out but am struggling to!

Missing Episodes

Marco Polo is the first story that we've come to that no longer exists at the BBC. So over the course of it's seven episodes I thought I'd run a series on how episodes came to be missing from the BBC and why we have the missing episodes in the form we do today. I am indebted to Richard Molesworth's Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes (a fine read on the subject) and The Nothing At The End Of The Lane Omnibus edition for much of the information that follows. Both tomes will be referred to again and again over the course of this blog.

We start with

1) Videotape

Doctor Who was mainly recorded & transmitted on Videotape. The initial contract for a story allowed for one showing by the BBC and a repeat showing within two years during which time the videotapes were retained in case a repeat showing was needed. Eventually the Videotapes, which were very expensive, were wiped and reused by the BBC to save money. However as we'll see most Doctor who stories had previously been copied to film for overseas sales.

1 comment:

  1. As you say, the first "proper" historical story. I think I am more disposed to these kinds of stories than you are. I tend to find there is enough peril, threat and entertainment in visiting parts of human history even without there being space monsters.

    I can understand why they don't float everyone's boat though. They belong to a particular vision of Doctor Who which died out relatively swiftly, so they feel very different in comparison to the show as it had become even halfway through Hartnell's tenure.