Sunday 12 December 2010

020 Marco Polo Part 7: Assassin At Peking

EPISODE: Marco Polo Part 7: Assassin At Peking
TRANSMITTED: 04 April 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)

Right, part 7.

Ian and Tegana argue but the Khan's courier arrives, confiscates their weapons and escort them to Peking. The Doctor and the Khan have already arrived and is playing his new friend at Backgammon and drinking tea. Lovely list of items given that they have gambled away! The Doctor tries to gamble for the TARDIS, but loses. Ian tells their story to Marco Polo including the tale of Tegana's treachery. Ping Cho discovers she is to be married in the morning but isn't at all happy. Tegana tries to turn the Khan against the travellers. Later after the banquet, the Khan confesses to Ping Cho that her husband to be expired over dinner! Ping Cho elects to stay a while with the Khan. Tegana obtains an audience with the Khan, but then travellers deduce that he intends to assassinate the Khan. They evade their guard, meet Marco and tell him what Tegana intends. Polo goes to the throne room where Tegana and the Khan meet. Tegana attacks, slaying the Khan's Vizier but Marco arrives and fights him. Polo wins as the guards arrive, but Tegana slays himself. Marco gives the Doctor the TARDIS keys and they leave, dematerialising in front of the Khan who is astonished by what he sees. Realising what Ian said was true Marco wonders if they have gone to the past or the future.

At Seven parts Marco Polo is one of the longer Doctor Who stories, and is the longest historical story. There's one other six part historical story during this season but in the next three series, until they were phased out, historical stories are confined to four episodes. I found Marco Polo a bit of a slog in places, and a little bit up and down, but what long Doctor Who story isn't? But having said that it's much better than I remember it being, and I think I can be more positive about it now. I've seen photos and the sets for this story superb so I suspect this would definitely be served by having the film to go with the sound. I would have said, with but one exception, that I'm not that keen on the historical stories, but I think this has to be added to the plus pile. As for the historical accuracy.... well Polo existed as did the Khan but the rest of it is entirely fictional.

As we've said Marco Polo is seven parts long which is a slightly unusual length for a Doctor Who story. There are plenty of Six and Four part stories and a few Two and Three parters. At the small end of the scale there's just two single episode stories: Mission to the Unknown and the 90 minute Five Doctors anniversary special. Three Five part stories exist - The Dominators & The Mind Robber from the Sixth season and The Daemons from the Eighth. Two of Doctor Who's Seven parters are in the First season and we've done those already - The Daleks & Marco Polo. We don't see the next one for another three years until Evil of the Daleks closes the Fourth seasons. The Seventh season is, bar it's Four part opener, almost entirely comprised of 3 Seven Part stories: The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death & Inferno - the last of which pulls a very clever trick to stretch it's story to that many episodes. Season Six has both an Eight parter - The Invasion - and a Ten Parter - The War Games, while season Three featured the long time record holder, in the Twelve part epic The Dalek Masterplan. Officially the record is now held by season Twenty Three's mammoth Fourteen part A Trial Of A Timelord but you can argue that this is a) 3xFour part stories and 1xTwo part stories and B) rubbish. Actually it's just occurred to me I'm going to have to watch Trial again. Oh dear. Three times in one lifetime was enough!

Missing Episodes 7) Is that it?

When we left Ian Levine at the archives there were 137 episodes of Doctor Who missing. Today there are 108. However it's been nearly seven years since the last complete episode of Doctor Who was recovered (Dalek Masterplan 2: The Day of Armageddon in January 2004). So is that it? Maybe. All the broadcasters who showed Doctor Who have been contacted and say they don't have any older episodes remaining in their archives. But things do get mislabelled, put in the wrong tin etc - for many years there was a film can of Day of Armageddon in existence and nobody knew what had happened to it's contents. There are other film tins labelled as Doctor Who that didn't have the right episodes in: Moonbase episode 3, Ice Warriors 3 and Fury from the Deep 6 have all had cans discovered over the years. Did the contents of these tins walk out the door of the BBC, or other broadcaster, and into the hands of private collectors. Mind you if a private collector has got any missing Doctor Who then he's keeping very quiet about it. There again, to use Day of Armageddon again, that had sat in a bag hung on someone's door for years. There's a few oddities in the records: What happened to Dalek Masterplan 4: The Traitors after the BBC used it? What was the fate of Tenth Planet 4? (which has had more rumours about it's existence than any other episode) What happened to the episodes that were , according to the records, in the film library when a documentary was made in the 1970s but had vanished when Ian Levine looked? An error on the records or did they go walkies? In many cases we'll never know. But the rumour, lack of complete records of destruction and in at least one case the survival of a film print that was definitely destroyed will keep Doctor Who fans & professionals looking for missing episodes. Who knows what they might find?

The first recovered missing episode we come to will be the Reign of Terror 1 in 16 days time. As they come up I'll attempt to tell the story of where they were and how they came back to the BBC.

Those interested in the subject are directed to Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes by Richard Molesworth which is a great read and I have been indebted to while writing these articles.

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