Sunday 4 December 2011

Marco Polo

 One of the greatest joys known to man is to take a flight into ignorance in search of knowledge.
- Robert Lynd


(I was going to fill this preamble with justifications for us not digging out a full-length recon, or at least listening to the audio recording, but I’ve decided against it. There's a wonderful cut-down bootleg version on a BBC DVD, so I suppose that’s good enough.  Also, it’s the only time we’ll get to race through a seven-part historical in half an hour.) 

Him:  Did we not watch this before?

Me:  You’ve seen it before.

It begins with some motion as the recap can of course be played in from the previous episode.  Susan finds a footprint – it’s huge - see the already mentioned the whole Roof Of The World/Yeti/"Wild Man"/Kate Bush connection.  And then we’re in a slideshow

Him:  Susan sounds a bit Welsh there.

Ian, disguised as both Gilbert and Sullivan offers an explanation for the footprint that ties in quite nicely with the way ’yeti’ tracks were originally explained.  The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS – angrily – something’s blown a fuse and the power’s gone.

Ian:  I suppose I’d better try and find some fuel.

Him:  “Mercury!  Mercury!  That’s all my ship needs!  Mercury!”

Susan spots something watching them from behind a rock.

Susan:  Look!

Him:  “A thermometer.”

Our friends run into a travelling Mongol hoard.  Their bloodthirsty leader, Tegana, declares them to be evil spirits that must be destroyed.  Suddenly, a tall stranger appears and orders that they be spared.  Okay, the tall stranger's Mark Chicken, but you already knew that didn’t you?

Over a meal, the Doctor and Mark have a long chat.  The Doctor introduces his companions.

Me:  ”Charlton!”

Susan makes friends with Ping-Cho, a young lady travelling to Shang-Tu to be married.  Susan, as we’ll see later, is not a fan of arranged marriages.

Later on, the Doctor is talking to Ping-Cho and stirring a big pot of something.

Him:  Glue.

Me:  I think it’s soup.

(The use of a particular word causes the Him some confusion at this point.).

Him:  His caravan?

Me:  Not that sort of a caravan.

Him:  They’re “Inside The Tent”.

(The Him collapses in hysterics, which requires a brief explanation.  A long time ago, I’d rented the audio version of Marco Polo from the library and delighted the Him by reading out the tracklisting.  Seeing as the reconstruction was based (I think) on the camera scripts, each track represented a location or separate scene, and so nearly every other one is either “Inside The Tent” or some variation thereon.  It was funny at the time.)

Still Inside The Tent, Mark reveals that the TARDIS crew will be travelling with them.  For quite some time.  Mark, writing up the Captain’s Log, reveals he has plans for the TARDIS.

Him: Why are they using the Indiana Jones map?

Me:  It’s to show the route that the caravan’s taking.

Him:  So, is this part three?

Me:  I don’t think so.

Inside The Tent, Mark wants to swap the TARDIS with the Khan in exchange for his freedom.  The Doctor and friends will then accompany him to Venice where they can make another one.  Ian points out that this will be impossible as they need special materials -

Him:  I think the TARDIS is basically just made of mercury.

Elsewhere, Inside A Different Tent, Tegana has come up with a plan to poison the water supply and steal the TARDIS.

Him:  Is Susan a human or a Time Lord?

Me:  Time Lord.  Why do you ask?

Him:  What makes you so sure?

Me:  She’s his grand-daughter.

Him:  And?

Me:  “All Time Lords are Gallifreyan, but not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords.”

Him:  River’s not Gallifreyan.


Me:  Shush and watch the lovely reconstruction.

Him:  River was born on Demon’s Run.

(A hit! A palpable hit!) 

Halfway across the Gobi desert Tegana sabotages the water supply.  Consequently an oasis is aimed for.  The travellers are getting weak through thirst.

Him:   I meant to say this before: The First Doctor is really careful and lives for ages without regenerating but then he throws his lives away really quickly.

Everyone is saved by condensation building up inside the TARDIS.

Me:  It’s being educational again.

Marco thinks that the Doctor has been hiding water.  Susan becomes emotional.

Him:  Susan’s voice sounds different again.

Ian is becoming suspicious of Tegana.  Even compressed, Marco Polo has a very different feel to it to the preceding stories.

Me:  I don’t mind this so much.

Him:  Why were people taking random photographs of their telly?

Me:  I’ll have to look that up.

Ping-Cho steals the TARDIS key from Mark and gives it to Susan.  Ian knocks out the guard but Susan is captured by Tegana on the way to the TARDIS and the escape is scuppered. 

Tele-Snap Of Tele-Snap Creates Chronic Hysteresis
The Doctor and the Khan hit it off immediately and in no time the two are playing backgammon together, during which the Doctor loses the TARDIS.  Tegana attacks the Khan, but Mark intervenes and Tegana kills himself.  Mark gives the Doctor the TARDIS key – our heroes rush in…

Him:  Birds-eye view of the TARDIS.  That bit doesn’t actually look like pictures does it?

The Khan reveals himself to be a good loser and this marvellously written and acted adventure comes to an end.


Him:  Is that really what the first episode of Keys of Marinus was called?

Me:  Have a look.

Him:  Yeah – it is.

Me:  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Marco Polo – I might listen to the soundtrack.

Him:  And do your own entry?

Me:  Would that be alright?

Him:  Uh huh.

Me:  To go with this one of course.

Him:  Oh.

Me:  Thoughts?

Him:  No.  Don’t have any.

Me:  Did you like it?

Him:  I’m not looking forward to the other reconstructions.  How long until we’re onto The War Games?

Me:  Quite a long time.  If I watch the reconstructions then why don’t you skip them?  There’s no point doing this if you’re feeling bored, forced or not enjoying it.

(The Him does a little dance.)

Me:  Right.

Him:  Yeah – you can do the reconstructions – and if there’s any good bits of animation you can tell me about them.

Me:  Right.

Him:  (as an announcer) – “Doctor Who – The Audio Adventures.” 


“Yes, Grandfather?” 

“Where are the headphones?”

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