Say Something Nice – Doctor Who: Marco Polo

In an effort to find something quick that can be written as part of Daily Doctor Who, we are kicking off Say Something Nice, where I look back at each of the Doctor Who stories and pull out one cool thing about it.

(Daily Doctor Who #36)

Read the previous entry here. Today, we continue with the series’ fourth story…

Marco Polo

Featuring the same core cast as last time–William Hartnell as the Doctor, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, and Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman. Written by John Lucarotti and directed by Waris Hussein (all episodes but Episode 4) and John Crockett. This is the first story which for which the overall name of the serial doesn’t seem to have ever been disputed, though each individual episode still has its own name. In this case, that’s The Roof of the World, The Singing Sands, Five Hundred Eyes, The Wall of Lies, Rider from Shang-Tu, Mighty Kublai Khan, and Assassin at Peking.

Nobody who is under the age of 56 has ever seen this full serial, and even today there is no clips from it at all. It’s the first serial to not currently exist in the archives, and it’s the longest story to be completely missing.

Say Something Nice…

(Named for Missy–aka the Master–and her catchphrase from her first full appearance in Dark Water)

Though I have never seen it Marco Polo, I do have appreciation for it. It’s a story that demonstrated just how epic Doctor Who could be, pulling off on its modest budget a whole journey from the Pamir Mountains to Peking. It’s the first fully historical story–which is a format that has long-since fallen by the wayside for reasons that I understand, but the audio story Wrath of the Iceni proves to me that done right, it could still be compelling. And it features a cool idea of the Doctor playing backgammon against Kublai Khan for the TARDIS…and losing!

But because we’re equal-opportunity fans here, we’re not going to only be sycophantically complimentary.

You craven-hearted spineless poltroon!

(Another cry from the Master, but not exactly a catch-phrase, this time from The Deadly Assassin)

I have seen the “telesnap + audio soundtrack” version of this story–in greatly reduced form…but I don’t remember it very well. So I don’t have anything negative to say about it except that it’s irritating that it’s missing. Apparently, it was the serial that was actually sold to more countries than any other–at least 19 different countries aired it. So it means that if it really is lost, than probably more copies of the story were destroyed than any other.

Catch you next time!

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