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Reviews for Marco Polo

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By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 26 April 2005
Rating:   7

Judging by the ranking this story has, most people seem to think very highly of it. In general, I like John Lucarotti's stories, especially "The Aztecs." This one, however, lacks some of the depth of those other stories. The problems here are two: a cardboard villain, and repetitiveness. "Marco Polo" probably would have been very good at 4 episodes. At 7 episodes, we get just too much of the Doctor demanding his TARDIS and Marco denying it, too much of the TARDIS crew getting in his graces, only to lose them again. It happens just too often. The real problem for me, though, is Derren Nesbitt as Tegana. The war lord is so obviously a villain, and so heavily played, that one can only suppose that Marco Polo is just plain stupid for not being able to see it. Even keeping in mind that the producers thought of "Doctor Who" as a children's program in the 1960s, and thus subtle villains were probably not encouraged, still one could do more with a villain than is done here. I refer back to the aforementioned "The Aztecs," where the obvious villain Tlotoxl has a strong motivation for his dislike of the time travellers, that they threaten both his power and his way of life. The contest of wills between Barbara and Tlotoxl is fascinating. Here, on the other hand, we just get a cheap melodrama baddy.

This is not to say that "Marco Polo" does not have its rewards. Lucarotti is often best as a writer in dealing with character pairs. Thus, the relationship between Susan and Ping-Cho works very well, as does the humorous interplay between the Doctor and Kublai Khan. We get the first real evidence of Ian's resourcefulness and intelligence in this story, as well. The basic story is interesting in its episodic fashion, and, as I said, would have been very effective if shortened. Lucarotti also does a good job of avoiding some of the nastier and stupider cliches involving Chinese culture.

A classic sorely missed!

By:Lord Nimon, Skonnos
Date:Sunday 19 November 2006
Rating:   10

Classic. Can't see how this could be sortened.

Impressive Production, Too Many Episodes

By:Doug, Pocono Summit, PA, USA
Date:Saturday 18 August 2007
Rating:   8

I've had the opportunity to view a version of Marco Polo that supplements the audio with an abundance of still color photos of the action. The photos are amazing, and I feel that this story could've been, at least by some measures, one of the most highly acclaimed stories of the entirety of the original series, particularly if it were colorized. But there lies the problem. The sets and costuming for this serial are really rather exquisite and beautifully realized, but I wonder if they would be nearly as impressive on monochrome video. As it is, in this reconstruction, the abundance of color production photos in existence yield an almost scene by scene record, making it easy to visualize the action, and making this an entertaining presentation.

However, this story would have been much better at only four or five episodes. Episode five is nearly a complete waste and repetition, and episode six has some important flaws as well, bringing in some misplaced attempts at humor.

In general, the actors in Marco Polo give very consistently good performances, and this enhances the enjoyment of the serial, in which the TARDIS crew get caught up in a great journey with Marco Polo, who is traveling a great distance to reach the court of Kublai Khan in Peking. This is a very character-driven "historical" story that moves at its own pace, not conforming to a more typical science-fiction structure, and not involving any "monsters" or over the top evil megalomaniacs. And as in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, there is an issue with asian characters being played by non-asian actors, but as with The Talons of Weng-Chiang, I don't see this as detracting from the quality of the finished product.

Set immediately after The Edge of Destruction, the TARDIS materializes on the snowy peaks of the Himalayas and promptly breaks down completely. All power is lost, and this means no heat or water. This forces the Doctor and companions to seek aid and shelter, and Marco Polo's caravan is where they happen to find it. When Polo learns that the TARDIS, which he refers to as the Doctor's caravan, can travel "through the air," he seizes it to present it to Kublai Khan, hopefully in return for freedom to return to Venice, believing that Buddhist monks will be able to learn how to operate it. This sends the Doctor into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, as he comes to realize the fullness of the predicament they are now in - a great scene! In the days and weeks that follow, the friendship that develops between Susan and a young woman in Polo's caravan named Ping-Cho is a delight, and the interplay between Marco Polo and the villainous Tegana is well-played, in spite of a lack of subtlety in Tegana's character.

In spite of some significant flaws, Marco Polo remains a very enjoyable early serial, and it is quite regrettable that the video is forever lost. With colorization, tighter script-editing and at a shorter length, this story could merit a rating of 10, or certainly a 9.

Not too long at all mate...

By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Thursday 7 October 2010
Rating:   10

When Doctor Who premiered, it must have been quite a revelation. I will give the production team of that time their full due, at least they had the sense to let historical stories come thick and fast and brilliantly. They had a show which was so memorable back then not just for the Daleks and the sci-fi, but also for shows very tightly done and brilliantly realised. For me, Will Hartnell's historicals are some of the very finest shows in Doctor Who history. We got so many in his time, and for me this was never ever a bad thing. When I first watched Doctor Who i thought all the monsters were brilliant and some highly original, but most of the sci fi is not too high on emotion or character definition. But character definition is highly rife through these brilliant Will Hartnell historicals. Not only are the supporting cast of an excellent calibre, but the main cast members are at their peak, acting to perfection whatever story comes along. The first line up of the series remains for me one of the very strongest ever. They beat Rose into a copped hat to say the very least.

Marco Polo is the story for me where all the characters come into their own. Ping Cho and Susan's friendship for a start is awesomely done, realised to the full. It feels like one that really is believable and firm, and one wouldnt have been surprised if Susan had decided to stay with her too, but no, she went off with that wet fish David instead. But one cant always have everything. The plot threads these two alone share within the story are brilliant and make the tale shine. Then we come to Derren Nesbitt as Tegana, as fine a portrayal of a Who nasty as I have ever seen, devious and cunning and totally without scruples of any kind. And yet still his presentation is 3D, and very believable.

And the fact that the story is literally narrated by Marco Polo is an innovative and different approach that sadly was to never be contemplated again. The journey to Cathay is long and arduous and perilous. This story feels far more like a film than a tv serial. It is that good. The sand storm and fights along the way seem very well directed too, Waris Hussein really does his utmost to bring the whole thing alive off the page. And the sets are of a very high standard indeed. One grips the feel that this is ancient China in almost every aspect. And just to top it all off, William Russell's narration is informative and very well delivered all along the way.

I lament the notion to end pure historical tales in Doctor Who, Im glad Big Finish at least had the sense to do them in audio format. But woe to the BBC, what shortsightedness. Especially when they originally came out with The Massacre, The Reign of Terror, the Aztecs, The Highlanders, The Smugglers, The Gunfighters and Marco Polo....

Here's my review, Marco Polo! Read it!

By:Huw Davies, Taunton, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 5 March 2011
Rating:   10

My first experience of 'Marco Polo' was an ultra-condensed 30 minute version on 'The Beginning' boxset. As good as this was, I knew that massive chunks had been skipped out. Now listening to this, with those chunks restored, it is far better!
The imagery portrayed by John Lucarotti in this story is superb, and comes across really well on audio - William Russell's narration + my imagination = some brilliant imagery, which probably wouldn't have come across within the limitations of 1960s TV.
The story itself is an epic one in the truest sense of the word - the whole thing plays across many weeks, as Marco Polo's caravan travels from the Plain of Pamir to Peking, taking in the Gobi Desert, Shang-Tu (aka Xanadu) and the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes - again, brilliant imagery here.
The story has one main strand, that of the Doctor trying to retrieve the TARDIS from Marco Polo, but also several subplots - Barbara's kidnap in the cave, Ping-Cho's arranged marriage to a 75 year-old, and the warlord Tegana's betrayal of trust with the mighty Kublai Khan. They all add to the plot by taking the focus briefly off the Doctor's plight, which could get quite tedious.
As previously mentioned William Russell provides linking narration here, and his delivery is dramatic but thankfully not obtrusive to the listener's experience. It is a lovely touch which rounds off a lovely set.
I think I've got myself a new favourite story!

absolutely great

By:Sofia Fox, El Paso, United States
Date:Tuesday 21 May 2019
Rating:   10

and I wished it was recovered

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