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< The Edge of Desctruction
The Keys of Marinus >

Marco Polo

Rating Votes
10
27%
26
9
25%
24
8
15%
14
7
22%
21
6
5%
5
5
2%
2
4
3%
3
3
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Average Rating
8.3
Votes
95
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User Rating:
10
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Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 11/17/18 12:44 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Marco Polo is a story which covers The Roof of the World and the following six episodes. The adventures take place in the late 1200s in Cathay (ancient China) with Venetian explorer Marco Polo journeying to meet Kublai Khan the Mongol ruler. Polo confiscates the TARDIS and our heroes have an ongoing battle to convince Polo to return it whilst villains try to secure its powers for their own ambitions. The whole story was sadly lost when the BBC wiped the tapes. However the audio survives and along with numerous still photographs from the production a reconstruction is available. There is a full reconstruction with all the audio and stills for all 7 episodes so this is what you need to see, not the 30 minute massively reduced version!

It is a real measure of the quality of this story that even this reconstruction is incredibly interesting and enjoyable. I was totally engrossed despite the lack of moving pictures even though it was not designed as an audio. The still pictures help to fill in some visual elements. The audio preserves the excellent performances of the actors and the brilliant script and story by John Lucarotti.

Marco Polo is an exciting, clever, sometimes amusing and always interesting adventure. The still photographs also leave proof of the superb sets and costumes which make this a top notch production all round.

My Ratings: Episodes 1-4, 6 and 7 - 10/10, Episode 5 - 9.5/10

Overall: 9.93/10
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
9
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10
Replay Rating:
8
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NR
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Reviewed By: GuiannosReview Date: 9/29/18 12:04 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

To me, this is the greatest loss of the tape wiping policy of the BBC. Marco Polo is a rich story and the greatest of the pure historicals. Some of the reconstructed "lost" episodes I find tedious or difficult to get through but not this one. Sadly, like the great Kahn's empire, it has been lost to the annals of time.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
9
Plot Rating:
9
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
9
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10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: Lord SlarrReview Date: 6/29/16 1:05 pm
3 out of 4 found this review helpful.

Marco Polo was the fourth ever serial made for Doctor Who and is the first proper example of a historical, sure An Unearthly Child was first but it was a bit silly and didn't have much in the way of history as we don't particularly know famous people or events from those times. However here the TARDIS crew encounter the explorer from the 1200s, Marco Polo.

The plot is that Marco Polo wishes to give the TARDIS, or a flying caravan as he knows it to his master, Kubli Khan as a gift so that he may be dismissed and return to his home in Venice but out of guilt take the Doctor and co with him and promises to help them build a new "flying caravan" despite the Doctor insisting that it's an impossibility. As they travel through Asia in Marco Polo's caravan they have to survive the many schemes set out by the War Lord Tegana who is also in the company of Marco Polo on a peace mission and attempt to escape into the TARDIS.

So overall when you look at it, not a lot happens in this story for 7 episodes but it's the amazing level of engagement John Luccarotti creates with his writing that keeps you invested. All of the characters are masterfully written and you'd be mad not to want Marco Polo and Ping-Cho to get on with the TARDIS crew as at points they are really good friends but due to the fact Marco has taken the TARDIS and the schemes set out by Tegana to stir distrust amongst the travellers its not meant to be which adds a lot of dramatic conflict as you as the audience should want them to get in which keeps you thoroughly engaged.

The War Lord Tegana is a brilliant enemy, while the actor is no Kevin Stoney, Derren Nesbitt does the job admirably in bringing the character to life. Tegana is scheming, devious, treacherous and when he gets the chance, bloodthirsty. It's a perfect character which you love to hate as he is the source of all trouble in the story which makes it all the more satisfying when *spoilers* he meets his death at the end.

Marco Polo is also a fantastic character, you really do want to like him as he his a strong sense of morality and anything wrong he does is only out of desperation to see his home again. Him and Ian are really great to watch in this episode as they really get on and I do detect a bit of chemistry between William Russell and Mark Eden which certainly helps a lot. He's a very torn man, stuck in limbo between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to see his home again. In the end it's heartwarming to know in the end he gets to go back.

One of the best parts of this episode other than the excellent character interaction is all of the Chinese culture and history explored. This is edutainment at its finest as you do learn a lot about politics in Asia in the 1200s and their many customs and issues facing the populace, you even get to hear a myth told by Ping-Cho to everyone which was a very nice moment. All the sets and costumes are clearly well researched with lots of love care and attention put into it. Sure some of the outdoor sets look a little shabby like the Gobi desert but you could swear they were filming in China when they are in a building or in a city.

If I was to highlight any problems I'd struggle as the episode is beautifully constructed and one which I really do enjoy. However if may not be to everyones taste as not a whole lot happens on the whole so unless you like the characters you're not going to enjoy it at all. Plus I might add that the first three episodes are definitely stronger than the subsequent four, they're not bad, the drop in quality is very small, but it's there and I'm struggling to think of negatives.

Overall this episode is a beautiful little tale in ancient China which while it may not to be to everyones taste, it's certainly to mine as I love it and consider it the best of the "pure" historical serials.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
8
Acting Rating:
9
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: adamelijahReview Date: 3/23/15 10:00 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

"Marco Polo" is the fourth Dr. Who Serial and ran seven episodes from February to April 4 and follows after the events of "The Edge of Destruction" which left the TARDIS damaged and finds the Doctor and the TARDIS crew (Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, and Susan Foreman) stranded on top of a snow capped mountain and in danger of freezing to death. However, they encounter several Chinese as well as a Mongol warlord named Tagama who wants them killed. However, the Chinese are led by Marco Polo who saves them and treats them kindly. However, they quickly find that Polo's motives are not entirely pure: He wants to give the TARDIS to Kublia Khan in hopes of securing his own return home to Venice. However, the warlord Tegana has designs on TARDIS of his own.

The audio is narrated by William Russell (who played Chesterton in the series) who shares bits of action that the soundtrack can't pick up. These bits are minor. In some ways, being in an audio format helps this series as the setting is quite ambitious with luscious and ornate Oriental settings.

This serial also seemed reminiscent in its slower pacing of radio serials I've listened from the 1940s and '50s which often had more deliberate pacing overall with cliffhangers built in to keep the audience's attention.

The character of Marco Polo makes this story unique from many early serials. While in other programs like "The Aztecs, " characters like Tegana scheme and turn initial allies of the TARDIS crew into enemies, this is a lot more complex as Polo is enlightened. He isn't superstitious, bloodthirsty, and works to save the crew despite requests to kill them. His broad experiences have made him willing to consider anything including their claim that the TARDIS is a flying caravan, which is why he stole it. He feels bad about it too. Polo's moral struggle really does create some solid dramatic tension.

Less interesting is the overused trope of the girl about to enter into an arranged marriage that doesn't want to do it, and the convenient plot device used to resolve it, though they did do a decent job making the character likable and someone you care about.

This is a fun historical adventure serial. It works well with the audio format and for now, it's the only way to encounter the classic Marco Polo story line unless you want to read the novelization.