Thursday, June 6, 2013

Doctor Who-Marco Polo

                                 After being nearly ripped apart during the formation of the universe the TARDIS,with all its systems completely out of order crashes in the Himalaya mountains in the late 13'th century. They are soon picked up by the Caravan of Marco Polo himself. While this gives Barbara in particular a chance at meeting up with history,a strange dilemma soon arises. They meet Tegana,a warlord set on sabotaging Marco's journey on the fabled Silk Road in the country of Cathay,one day to be known as China. They also meet Ping Cho,a lady in waiting from the city of Samarkand,daughter of a local official who is arranged to marry a man half a century her senior. As the doctor insists on repairing the TARDIS, Marco insists on penance for helping to drag the TARDIS out of the mountains: he wishes to present the TARDIS,which Marco sees as "a flying caravan" to Kublai Khan himself as barter for getting Marco back to his home city of Venice. Though objecting at first the doctor,Ian,Barbara and Susan-who has befriended Ping Cho take the journey from the city of Lop to Shang Tu,ancestral home of Khan.

                               Travelling across the treacherous Gobi desert,in hard conditions with no water,sings emerge that Tegana himself is also quite treacherous as his attempts at locating water from obvious areas conveniently fail. Realizing his attempts to take over the caravan for his own benefit Susan entrusts the TARDIS key to Ping Cho,who puts it in Marco's journal so that Tegana could not can access to the TARDIS through Marco. Upon arriving at the temple of Kublai Khan the doctor,who relates to Khan due to their advanced age and wisdom strikes up a deal with him: a game of backgammon whose wager will be either a collection of various goods from the city of Shang Tu or the doctor being returned custody of the TARDIS which Marco offered him as ransom to return to Venice. The doctor not only gets back the TARDIS but money enough for Marco to return to his home town. However Ping Cho has escaped to try to get out of being returned to Samarkand-wishing to marry someone of her own choice.  Tegana meanwhile,after slaying Khan's guards in an attempt to curry power,slays himself as his mission fails. Before the doctor and his companions can get further involved,the TARDIS disappears before Marco's very eyes.

                     Sadly this review is only based on a half hour production still/audio based reconstruction of this story,which was "junked" by the BBC in its entirety sometime in the mid 1970's. But this is a wonderfully revealing first historical story of Doctor Who's long history. From the available images the visualizations,costumes and sets were some of the most striking and elaborate of this earliest period of Doctor Who. Unlike many historically based episodes of the series, this presents a genuinely multi racial cast. In terms of the story,its wonderful to see Susan-a rather lonely young women travelling with an ambitious but ailing grandfather,befriending Ping Cho,who herself lives in a difficult position of being seen mainly as property in her society. While Susan gains the freedom alotted by the TARDIS key from her,Ping Cho gains from Susan the will to allow herself freedom and liberation. While the doctor,Ian and Barbara do not fully gain Marco's trust due to his own ambition to return home, he does believe them enough to keep them safe and alive. This is also one of the few Doctor Who stories to mention narcotics,in this case Hashish.
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