Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tales From The Tardis: The Roof Of The World

We begin our look at the Marco Polo serial this week with The Roof Of The World...

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Hello and Welcome To The Basement, It's Saturday which means its time for Tales From The TARDIS.

This week, we'll starting our breakdown, over through and commentary on Marco Polo... and I know what you're going to say, but that serial is one of a many that no longer exist... to which I say, let's do a little history shall we?

From 1967 to 1979, large amounts of videotape and film stored at the BBC's engineering and film library were destroyed to make way for newer programming, with the belief that there no one would be interested in watching old programming, plus there was an actor's union who fought against TV recordings, which lead to how many time something can be repeated before it was to be destroyed. So yeah, unions were the true enemy of Doctor Who, as their demands ended up exterminating a bunch of episodes from William Hartnell and Patrick Troughten's run on the show.

Now episodes and complete serials were recoverd intact, but there are cases of Marco Polo, where not a single piece of film exists... however the audio track survived.... and also there telesnaps (or as we call it today screen captures). So with a bit of ingenuity, a company called Loose Cannon Productions started a process of reconstructed the missing episodes for Doctor Who, which is the version that I've have.

Also... Marco Polo is one of the serials that in terms of Doctor Who, were 'ahem' pure historicals, as in stories set on Earth with no aliens or alien technology (well apart from The Doctor, The TARDIS, Susan...) and it's to show 'historical events'. It was a mandate that in addition to the sci-fi adventures like 'The Daleks', it would be balanced with actual educational stories as well. Most have seen the Aztecs, which is a big example of this, but we'll get to that story down the road

So history lesson out of the way, lets get right too it with 'The Roof Of The World'

Picking up right where The Edge of Destruction two-parter ended, The TARDIS has arrived in a snow covered wasteland, the ship is damaged, being unable to provide light, heat, food, etc... The Doctor really needs to give it an overhaul I'm telling ya... anyway, this situation means that he, Ian, Barbara and Susan face the very possibility of freezing to death as the temperatures drop rapidly. In case you're wondering: yes the TARDIS wasn't exactly reliable in the old days.

Ian and Barbara head out to try and find a way to keep warm, but end up spotting a figure out in the snow, so they hurry back and and hide in the TARDIS with the other. With being spotted a 'two-way' street, it turns out that Ian and Barbara were followed by a group of Mongol soldiers who deem them to be evil spirits, and just as they are about to kill our heroes... Marco Polo intervenes.

Polo is more than happy to help the Doctor and the others out, which is a good thing as The Doc is suffering from altitude sickness, introductions are made with both groups. Noteable characters traveling with Marco Polo are Tegana, a warlod who is peace-emissary, and Pingo-Cho, a woman who is on her way for an arranged marriage to a 75 year old..

Now the Mongol of course fear The Doctor, declaring him to be an evil sorcerer who is powerless outside of his realm aka The TARDIS, so to keep the peace, Marco forbids The Doctor from entering it until they reach a town... but then things go south later with Polo says he's 'taking' the TARDIS to give to Kublai Khan he's on his way to see to buy his way out of being in service to him. So yeah... within a short period of time, Marco goes from hero to scoundrel

Of course, the real danger is Lord Tegana, who has plans to poison the groups water supply for when they cross the Gobi desert... so that he can take the 'thing of magic' to bring Kublai Khan to his knees

Obviously being the first episode of a serial means the status quo has to be set, The TARDIS is broken, Marco Polo intends to give it to the Emperor, there's a traitorous plot underfoot... now I should also say this, since I using the Loose Cannon reconstruction for my viewing of this episode, they had a very cool framing device, getting actor Mark Eden who played Marco Polo to reprise the role to do the intro and outro, to get the impression of the story being told from his memory. It was a nice little touch.

Anyway, next week: "The Singing Sands"

Additional Footage From Doctor Who 'Marco Polo' BBC, 1964

Doctor Who: Marco Polo Reconstructed Loose Cannon Productions, 2002

Additional Music Doctor Who Theme RCA, 1980

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