When the TARDIS breaks down in Central Asia in 1289, the
Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara are stranded on the Roof of
the World. They are rescued by the explorer Marco Polo, who
invites them to travel with him as he journeys to Peking.
But Polo wants to present the TARDIS as a gift to the emperor
Polo defies the old generalisations that the historical
Doctor Who stories are boring. Despite being seven
episodes long, writer John Lucarotti's constant changes of
location - from the frosty Himalayas and the creepy Cave of
Five Hundred Eyes to the luxurious residence of the elderly
and eccentric Kublai Kahn (Martin Miller) - keep the audience
interested. Of course we don't get to see these wonders, this
being the earliest Who serial to be absent from the
BBC archives, but we can still hear the unnerving sounds of
the "singing sands", the sandstorms of the Gobi Desert.
Waris Hussein and John Crockett (who helms the fourth episode)
coax excellent performances out of their cast, including Mark
Eden as Marco Polo, Zienia Merton as Ping-Cho, the young Chinese
girl who befriends Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and the aforementioned
Martin Miller. Derren Nesbitt is also good as the villainous
Mongol Tegana, though it has to be said that he doesn't sound
Who was originally intended to have an educational quality
in addition to its entertainment value, and this is evident
in Marco Polo. Quite apart from the historical information
that is provided (though some of it isn't 100 per cent accurate,
as the sleeve notes explain) we learn why water boils at lower
temperatures at high altitudes, what causes condensation and
where the word "assassin" came from.
of this serial's gimmicks was the device of an on-screen map,
which showed the progress of Polo's party through Asia as
he documented his travels in his journal (and via a voice-over).
To compensate for the lack of visuals, the CD pack contains
a stylised map, which shows the locations visited during the
course of the story. This map is also available as a desktop
image on disc 1.
first disc also contains MP3 files of all seven episodes without
William (Ian Chesterton) Russell's linking narration.
five is rather poor quality in places, owing to the age of
the recordings, but we're lucky to have anything to listen
to at all. This, the first of the historical Whos,
is a classic in every sense of the word.
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