7 – Assassin at Peking

And here we are at the end of “Marco Polo!” The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm. Let’s get to it!

Episode summary: First aired on 4 April, 1964.

Ian has located the runaway Ping Cho, and together they have found the bandit Kuiju and the TARDIS! Before they can do anything, Tegana steps out of the woods, grabs the girl and a standoff begins! Tegana admits he cares nothing for Kublai and wishes to see his lord Noghi conquer all–with the TARDIS! Thankfully for Ian, guards of the Khan, led by Ling-Tau (the messenger from a few episodes ago) arrives and takes them all into custody, but not before one of the guards kills Kuiju.

Meanwhile in Peking, the Doctor and Kublai Khan play backgammon–the Doctor is winning game after game. He makes a final wager: if Kublai wins, the debt from previous games is cleared, but if the Doctor wins, Marco’s gift of the flying caravan will go to him! Marco is a bit upset by this, but bows to the Khan’s will. Unfortunately, the Doctor loses.

Tegana, Ian and Ping Cho arrive in Peking, the latter two under guard, as Tegana has claimed that he caught them trying to steal the TARDIS. Ping Cho is excused, thanks to the entreaties of her ancient husband-to-be, but Ian must stand trial. His prospects do not look good; even Marco no longer believes that Tegana was the real thief! Tegana, meanwhile, sows the seeds of doubt in the Khan’s mind by telling him that the travellers had attempted to steal the Khan’s gift before, yet Marco had not punished them by the Khan’s law. Kublai confronts Marco with this and he does not deny it, saying that he now feels that what he had done, to take the ship from the crew, was wrong. Kublai Khan is displeased.

That night, Marco and Ping Cho arrive at the pre-nuptial banquet, only to discover that Ping Cho’s fiance has died after taking a potency potion. The Khan offers her a choice, return to Samarkand, or stay in Peking for a while? She chooses Peking, as she is free of the hated marriage.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew, held in a room under guard, discusses Tegana’s motivations. Noghai has moved his army closer to Peking and the Doctor realizes what the master stroke would be–Tegana is going to assassinate the Khan! They overpower the guard and run into the hall, running into Marco, who attempts to convince them to return to their rooms until they tell him of their fears. And Tegana is in audience with the Khan at that very moment! Sure enough, Tegana draws his sword and attacks Kublai, but the Vizier jumps into the way and is killed. Marco bursts into the room and the two men fight a vicious battle (we assume), at the end of which Marco disarms Tegana, who is taken by the guards, but grabs a sword and kills himself. In the confusion, Marco, in gratitude and guilt, gives the Doctor the key and hurries them all into the TARDIS. Susan and Ping Cho exchange a quick goodbye and the TARDIS takes off.

Kublai Khan is mystified, but not upset–he says the Doctor would have eventually won it back anyway! Marco wonders, will the travellers journey to tomorrow or yesterday? He will never know…. Episode transcription


This evening, after discovering our technical problem, began with a reading of a summary of episode six. Surprisingly, that didn’t hurt our enjoyment of this episode one bit. We really enjoyed old Kublai Khan, especially his early interactions with the Doctor. They are two old men, being old men together and it was kind of delightful. All in all, it was a great ending; everything got wrapped up and nothing felt rushed or wrong, which is nothing short of miraculous considering how huge the buildup was. I’m going to try to hold off assessing the story as a whole until the wrapup post (coming this week!).

Polo and Tegana were both wonderful; their stories came to a completely understandable, if not inevitable end. My absolute favorite moment was when they met after Tegana poisons the Khan’s mind against Marco. Polo finally sees the warlord for what he is. “I underestimated you, Tegana.” “No,” the warlord replies. “You overestimated yourself.” Just beautiful and encapsulates their relationship perfectly. Though I still think Marco’s fatal flaw is his belief in honor and that men (and women, obviously) should be honorable. Again, perhaps more on that in the next post. And Marco finally just saying, “Go, just go, you should take it back” works wonderfully. Even Ping Cho’s resolution, with the sudden death of her old husband-to-be, felt less convenient and more…well, it made sense.

Basically, I think we all enjoyed the heck out of this episode, and this story. Although, I think we will all agree we’ll enjoy getting back to moving pictures for a while next week. Until next time, I remain


Ketina here, with my view of the episode.

The good: I loved the part with The Doctor and the Khan playing backgammon. I fully expected The Doctor to win the TARDIS back, so I was quite surprised to discover he lost. We had a little discussion after the show wondering if the Khan had somehow sharked him with the game, although there was no evidence of this in the reconstruction.

The silly: The Khan’s empress had quite an amusing, if short, part to play. During her grand entrance the horns played an fanfare rather reminiscent of the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey (forgive me, I can’t spell the actual name of the music). [HISTORIAN: “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Ketina.] She was also in hysterics when Ping Cho’s would be husband was discovered dead. And I did not get his random death. Suicide? Murder? Completely unresolved. A good way to wrap up the Ping Cho plot, but otherwise fairly random.

The less than best: I’m sure the fight scene was good, and there were more pictures this time, but I just don’t appreciate fight scenes with pictures and vague audio. And once more, either Susan or Barbara (not clear which) screamed upon Tegana’s suicide. Personally, I think it sounded like a Barbara scream this time. Slightly less shrill.

Well, that’s all for me this week. Next week motion is back, but we lose the colour. You can have colour or you can have movement, but apparently not both.


One Response to 7 – Assassin at Peking

  1. Avatar Alzarian
    Alzarian says:

    True story – the last time I went on a marathon viewing of Doctor Who with a newbie who hadn’t seen the early years, I didn’t have pictures or the soundtrack – so I took my friend out for Chinese, and we played a game of Backgammon, all the while, I was relaying the story as best I could remember from the old Target novelization.

    Now, as fun as that was, and I would never deny anyone a chance for some good Chinese food… finally being able to “watch” this serial has been quite enjoyable. The conclusion does what it needs to, the rapport between the Kublai Khan and the Doctor is delightful, and you really feel for Susan and Ping-Cho being seperated, as we always suspected was inevitable.

    However, what this story has in an incredible length of time spent in this one time zone, with these particular people. It is almost jarring to realize that they are off at the end. Rich characterizations and a well-told saga. Definitely a favorite of mine.