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6 – Marco Polo

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with one more episode! Way back in April of 2008, we missed an episode, due to not having the reconstruction to hand. It’s been a few years, but the time has come to finally watch episode six of Marco Polo, “Mighty Kublai Khan!” After this, we can officially declare the Project done, barring final post(s), some link clean-ups and wrapup additions! A note about this reconstruction: it is not the one we watched when we saw the rest of this story, but a new one released by Loose Cannon (of the no-longer-functioning website) a couple of years after we saw their old recon. And so, for the last time, let’s get to the episode!

No Summary, but here’s the episode transcription.

This episode first aired 28 March 1964.

H = Historian
K = Ketina
R = Ronelyn
Sp = Spoo
MS = MiniSpoo
EG = Elfgirl
M = Mister Mother
P = Photobug
A = Altair
E = Ezio
Sc = And Schmallturm was there

K: So, not in color like the previous recon, but I suspect it was easier to follow. But then again, it’s literally been YEARS since we watched it. But I remember Indiana Jones villain, and the general plot. So, yay me!

H: Yeah, I remember way back when we were discussing how awesome Tegana was. He’s the first real Doctor Who villain, and he’s just so cool. One thing, watching it all these years later, I really enjoyed it, but compared to the Troughton episodes, or even the later Hartnell ones, the pace was really slow.

K: <gaffaws!>

H: I enjoyed it, but I had to sort of shift my mind away from what we’ve been watching, and back to the first season.

Sp: I coasted on nostalgia for a good two thirds of the episode. Seeing Chesterton, and Barbara, and Susan…

<random names come up… “Chesterbun” and “Chesterfield” and “Chatterton” and “Chapterbook” and “Cheesibuns”>

R: Testerson, Catterwump, Kesterlumps, Kittertron, Slutbungwalla…you get the idea.

Sp: Alright, so I didn’t miss that. But, yeah, the biggest thing that lept out at me, seeing the reconstruction, is that we obviously missed a lot of great physical comedy from The Mighty Kootbly Khan. And, of course, from the Doctor as well.

R: Kubla Khan this episode portrayed by Mel Brooks.

H: I want to see this story so badly. I was so excited about the rumors, and so disappointed.

K: I’m still hoping, but yeah. I’ve love to see this one true.

Sp: So I did think I heard some L’s for R’s in there, but beyond just, I don’t know, making excuses for the era in which this was produced, I was expecting an awful lot larger “I would never do anything” factor…

H: That’s right, you didn’t watch this one with us.

Sp: It was before my time. I looked at the site to look back, and it was just you, Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, and Koroboros.

K: I didn’t even remember that Koroboros was once part of the project, and I wrote his bio on the site!

H: And Cz was here for the first episode or two.

K: She was still in high school back then.

Sp: Minispoo was in Kindergarten.

K: Oh, I’m old!

Sp: Elfgirl wasn’t in school yet. I wasn’t in the Project yet. Basically, from my point of view, this episode happened a wife and a kid ago.

K: Wow.

P: Having not seen any other portion of this story arc, I enjoyed it.

<Historian reminds Mister Mother about the plot, since he has seen the recon, although not with the Project>

M: I do remember watching the recon of this, and I remember wishing I could have seen this. The parts in the cave. Armies on the march.

R: And there’s apparently a kick ass sword fight.

H: There’s at least one fight, in the third or fourth episode, where we had no idea what was going on except for the captions. In the summary, I believe I put “apparently this happened.”

M: And I think I read that, because I was reading the summaries back that.

H: Which isn’t to say that the reconstruction wasn’t great. It was good. And it was our first reconstruction of the Project too.

K: Weird to end this on this.

H: Yeah, but kind of cool.

Sp: Completely appropriate. Given the number of reconstructions that we’ve watched, and that this is a show about time travel, the final edition of it should be us, time traveling. To a time before most of us were even here. Because reasons.

<bad inside time jokes>

Sp: <Asks Altair> Did you like it?

A: It was good.

Sp: Was it good?

A: It was awesome.

H: I recently read an interview with Waris Hussein, the director of Marco Polo, and among other things, he talked about the gentlemen who played Wang Lo, the Inn Keeper, and how it’s not just us, he was “gloriously flaming” the whole time. And Waris thought it was hilarious. Among other things, the interview had pictures of the floor plans for the studio, and you know how we’ve been saying at the time, how small the studio they were filming in was? Wow! I looked at the floor plans. They had this set setup in this corner, and another set setup here, and diagramming where the cameras had to move, so they could continue to do the continuous takes by just switching the cameras off momentary. It’s amazing.

K: Well, as I said, I only vaguely remember the plot, but on it’s own, this episode was fun, and is a neat example of the original cast dynamic.

P: Was Ping Cho royalty, or something like that.

H: I believe she was the daughter of a nobleman.

P: That explains why she was so naïve then.

H: She’s also supposed to be like 15.

K: About the same age as Susan is supposed to be.

R: “Please, please don’t take me back. I don’t want to end up in a creepy National Geographic article.”

K: So, I commented on this six years ago, but Indiana Jones villain. The guy with the monkey?

R: Somebody get the monkey a better microphone.

K: I think back then I said that they must have stolen this character for Raiders.

<discussion of Doctor Who villains as Indiana Jones villains, and determine that they based the guys from Temple of Doom on Tlotoxl from the Aztecs>

H: We may be ready for final thoughts, but things are veering, and we have partying of some kind to do.

K: And like only two or three of us remember this story. Sideshow Ezio? <yes, that was an inside joke>

E: “Oh! My back!” “Oh, my everything!”

R: Yeah, when Kublai Khan invites you to go hot tubing with him?

Sp: Euuugh.

H: Since we missed this episode, when we missed the big reveal of Kublai Khan. So when we watched the next one, we already knew he was a dottering old man. I had heard that his introduction was funny, and this didn’t disappoint.

P: Yes, the reason you shall bow is so you won’t see that he cannot walk.

K: I couldn’t tell at first if it was him or the Doctor groaning, but it was clear when Kublai left that it was him groaning most of the time. I suspect that they were groaning back and forth during the entrance scene.

H: Yeah, and it must have been hilarious.

P: I though they were going to die.

<laughter>

H: You don’t think Ian was going to die?

P: No.

H: Photobug, your final thought?

P: I think I already expelled my opinion upon the room.

E: That’s one way of putting it.

P: <laughs> However, it sort of felt bad to see the outdoor set, because you could clearly feel that it was still indoors.

Sp: We’re spoiled.

R: Welcome to season one.

K: Spoo?

Sp: Here, at least, at the end, I can really appreciate just how well rounded and rich the characters of Ian and Barbara were. We’ve been watching the Project long enough to start seeing the pattern of a certain amount of ramping up and settling in time for companions. But, Ian and Barbara were, not just the first companions, they were more than companions, they were their own agents in and of themselves. Just seeing the little smidge of Ian, in this episode, if you’d never seen Doctor Who at all, and hadn’t seen that Doctor at all, you wouldn’t know that the show wasn’t about him.

M: Totally. It was Ian and Barbara, their drunk taxi driver, and his granddaughter.

H: It really started as an ensemble show. It really wasn’t until the third season that the focus started being squarely on the Doctor.

Sp: And it even seems like the supporting cast and guest stars were a bit of a notch above some of what we’ve seen in the intervening 5 ½ years.

R: Oh yeah.

K: Yeah. Yeah, they could act.

H: I think there has been a lot of great acting on the show.

R: <Mavic Chen voice> “I would never say anything to contract what you said.”

H: Actually, looking back on what we said back then, while we mocked Mavic Chen, we appreciated the actor’s acting.

K: Alright, we should save this for the general commentary.

H: Rrrrrronelyn?

R: I gotta say, I was hoping to have a one liner for this, but it’s just an oddly polished little story. There were some things I could definitely pick on, doughy English guys with silly putty on their faces, really don’t look Chinese. But, aside from that, it was actually a really good story.

P: I actually laughed out loud when I saw the Emperor. I thought “white dude.”

H: Well, everybody except the girl playing Ping Cho, and that one guy who had two lines.

K: When we saw that one guy, I was like “Hey, an actual Asian actor!” and pointed.

R: I did have to give the shout out to that one actual Asian guy.

M: Given the time, place, and budget, you gotta give them a break on that.

H: This was also directed by the first Indian director to work in British television.

R: So, at least hopefully he had the good sense to feel dirty about it.

Sp: Y’all keep this up, and we’ll just thrown on the Talons of Weng Chiang.

<laughter>

M: Yeah, they had no excuses then.

R: Yeah, I want to find some way to make a joke, but…that was pretty darn impressive overall. It was an interesting contrast.

P: I was impressed by the number of screen snaps that were taken. Often, when we see a recon, it will go 10 or more seconds with the same picture, and you see it more than once.

<Discussion of frequency of reshowing pictures in the recon.>

K: So…now I can finally say.

H: You’ve seen every episode of Doctor Who?

K: Hey! I was going to say that. Yes. I’ve seen every episode of Doctor Who! Now I feel like I need to see Marco Polo from start to end, but ahh! I’m done with recons for a while, I think. It was fun to end on this one.

H: Schmallturm has a final thought.

Sc: It was interesting. I mean, it was a good contrast between the first season, and the stuff that I’ve seen most recently.

K: Take us home, Historian.

H: You are home.

K: You know what I mean.

H: I know, but I’ve wanted to say that for four ye…

K: YOU’VE SAID THAT BEFORE. What…are you final thoughts, Historian?

H: Thank you. I’m gonna say again, I want to see this story really badly.

R: Here here.

H: This is one of my favorite stories of the Project, I really think. I was so excited to watch this, after having read the Target book a billion times as a kid, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve been waiting to watch this episode ever since I got the new recons. I wanted to watch it with all of you guys.

Everyone: Awww.

H: And the episode didn’t disappoint either. I’m glad we can go out on something so…AWESOME!

MS: I knew that was coming.

And there we have it! The “watching” part of the TARDIS Project is completely done! It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I’ll leave that for further posts–I’ve asked Project members to contribute a bit about how they’ve felt about taking part and finishing and all that. But for now, LET’S PARTY!!

As ever, I remain

THE HISTORIAN