Hello everyone and welcome back. The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Kroroboros for this third episode of the reconstructed “Marco Polo.” Let’s get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 7 March, 1964.
Tegana laughs as he pours water from the oasis onto the sands! Meanwhile, Marco and the caravan languish in the desert. There is no water and they will die soon without it!
The Doctor and Susan, inside the still non-functional TARDIS, are awakened by drops on their faces. Thanks to the cold night and the hot morning, condensation has created water, running down the ship’s walls! They gather as much of it as they can and take it to the rest of the caravan. Marco, angered that they might have been concealing water from him, grudgingly accepts the scientific explanation, having seen it before.
The caravan makes it to the oasis where Tegana tells them bandits kept him there over night…but Barbara sees no signs of any bandits. After reaching the city of Tun-Huang, Barbara confides her suspicion of Tegana to Ian, who brushes her off. The Doctor then confides to Ian that he gave Marco a fake key to the TARDIS and still retains the real thing!
Marco tells the crew of the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, an old hideout of the Hashishans, who had been cleared out ages ago when their headquarters in Persia was destroyed by the Mongol warlord Hulagu. After a short time, Ping Cho gives a public recital of the story of the Hashishans.
After this, Tegana slips away and Barbara follows. He goes to the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, meeting a servant who takes him to a secret chamber. Here he meets an agent of his khan, who tells him all is ready for their army’s march–they mean to break their treaty with Kublai. Tegana tells them of the “flying caravan,” as the servant discovers Barbara outside and captures her!
Later, Ian and Marco go out to search for her with Tegana “assisting.” Marco tells the rest to stay put. The Doctor slips out to enter the TARDIS and work on the broken circuit when Susan and Ping Cho appear (thus revealing the fact the Doctor has a key to Ping Cho) and say they believe Barbara might have gone to the famous cave. They interrogate a servant about how to get there and set off.
Meanwhile, Barbara’s Mongol captors dice to see who will get the honor of killing her! The servant goes to Tegana, revealing that the Doctor and friends have set off for the cave. They arrive, looking around and making noise. The hidden Mongols hear Susan and Ping Cho calling for Barbara and look out through peepholes…which happen to be located in a pair of eyes in one of the carvings. Susan looks up just in time to notice that the eyes of the carving are moving and she screams…. Episode transcription
The overall reaction to this episode was favorable with some caveats, most due to the quality of the sound recording, which…is what it is. There are also a number of sequences (like Ping Cho’s recital) that felt like they would be better seen as moving images, rather than stills, but there’s nothing anyone can do about that, alas. Everyone agreed that the condensation and accompanying scientific explanation worked really well–obviously part of the “educational” content for this week–and Marco’s judgement of character after Tegana asked him how he could believe the crew’s story (“I know it to be true”) was a really good example of his strength of character (and the actor’s ability, because we completely bought it). Tegana continues to be a fantastic villain–we’re three episodes in and, although Marco obviously doesn’t entirely trust him, only Barbara has any inkling he might be a baddie. The acting in general is very strong; this was Ping Cho’s episode to shine, finally, although some members of our crew found the recital of the full story of the Hashishans–obviously the rest of the educational bits for this week–to be kind of distracting and a bit beside the point, tie in to the Cave or not. The regulars are in great form, with Ian using his science teacher personna to explain condensation to Marco (and the kids out there), Barbara following on from the last story to continue to establish herself as an observant and thoughtful person (yay, social sciences!) and Susan…being Susan, I suppose. Some of us continue to be a bit…less than enamoured of her occasional hysterics, but I think it generally worked here. The pace of the story continues to work well. It’s not hurtling along, but not meandering aimlessly (like that episode of “The Daleks”) either. Events seem to be unfolding at a steady pace. The sets, from what we can tell, look pretty fantastic, especially for the time. Sure, it’s “TV studio China,” but it looks pretty darn good.
I’m sure there’s more we discussed, but hopefully Ketina will cover some of it below. I know I keep saying this, but I’m enjoying this reconstruction so much, I can’t wait until next week! But, until then, I remain
I personally found this episode rather disappointing. Likely this is likely mostly due to poor audio quality and viewing stills, but I can’t entirely be sure due to the poor audio quality and lack of moving visuals. 🙂
The story presented by Ping Cho took up a significant chunk of the story and was difficult for me to follow. And most of the remaining plot seemed to involve running around between creepy caves and searching for people, I think. I required an explanation from The Historian after we finished watching it to explain to me about a third of what had happened.
So, the good – from what little I could tell the costumes and most of the sets looked pretty good. The scene where Ping Cho tells her story reminded me the China pavillion in Walt Disney World’s Epcot (c). I kept waiting for Mulan and Mushu to show up, or someone to try and sell me a hat or something at the end. (Coming from me this is a good, really). I also liked in the images where they showed Susan curled up in front of her grandfather while listening to Ping Cho’s story. Very cute.
The less good – Can we get through at least one episode where neither Susan or Barbara screams in terror? Please? Susan just screams ALL THE TIME! I was also less than impressed with the cave set. The artwork looked really cool, but the cave walls themselves looked pretty fake – more like cloth backdrops than stone.
Well, that’s all I got this week.
NEXT WEEK: “THE WALL OF LIES”