Marco Polo: You are asking me to believe that your caravan can defy the passage of the sun? Move not merely from one place to another, but from today into tomorrow, today to yesterday?
Story Code: C1.4.
Production Code: D.
Story Number: 4.
Countdown week: 36…
After the seven-part The Daleks and the short interlude Inside the Spaceship, the stories continue with this historical, the second seven-parter of the season. Of these seven episodes, none exist in the BBC Archives, though the soundtrack is available on BBC CD and there is a condensed 30-minute version as part of the The Beginning DVD boxset – which uses the existing telesnaps of the story for visuals.
From these telesnaps, the costumes and sets seem to have been magnificent – the audio that remains has language and dialogue that conjures up a convincing picture of 13th Century Cathay though.
Even at the same number of episodes as The Daleks, it’s more of an epic, with the journey of Marco Polo and the Tardis Team traced out in graphics of a map of Cathay (featured on some of the telesnaps), combined with Marco narrating the journey whenever the map appears e.g. “The strangers and their unusual caravan accompany me to Lop. Our route takes us across the Roof of the World, down to the Kashgar Valley, and south-east to Tarkand.”
I mentioned the verbosity of the cavemen and Thals of the earlier stories, and although there is just as much talk in this story, the conversation between characters is superb and a great improvement on those serials. The plot is as meandering as the route across Cathay, but the well-sketched characters and wonderful dialogue ensure a fascinating seven episodes.