Episode 4: Marco Polo

Today, the Daleks Aren’t Robots!? team looks at their first missing episode of Doctor Who.  Can “Marco Polo” overcome the slideshow and fan-animated presentation? Why did they lose the episode with the most beautiful sets and sumptuous costumes? And can we all overcome the distressing racism? (Nope!)

Daleks Aren’t Robots!? is a podcast in which two Whovian friends take two non-Whovians on a deep dive through the show from the very beginning.

Theme: Garage – Monplaisir

Podcast Contents Include

Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though.  – Kari

SUMMARY

Marco Polo wants to claim the broken-down Tardis to give it to Kublai Khan in an effort to get Kublai Khan to let him go home. Our team wants to fix the Tardis and leave. There’s an agent of an enemy warlord, Tegana, who does evil stuff because he’s evil and finally he gets killed trying to assassinate Kublai Khan.

THE SHOW

  1. Technically these episodes don’t exist; we just have the audio track. We watched several different types of “reconstituted” episodes, one with black and white pictures, one with color photos and one that was created in a 3D virtual environment, which made it a little like watching the show in the form of a Playstation 2 game.
  2. The pacing is awful on this one, and it should have been 2-3 episodes long, because half of it is just Marco Polo going “Tegana says x, the others say y, I believe Tegana!” and this is very tiresome. In my notes, after the first episode was over, I wrote, word for word: I just realized, the whole plot is in this first episode and the entire rest of the series is just faffing about.
  3. The yellowface, oh gosh the yellowface. Why are some people Asian and some people white people made up to look “Asian,” with the biggest finger quotes ever?
  4. They still haven’t addressed why everyone is speaking English.
  5. There’s some swordfighting. No idea if it’s any good, because these episodes don’t exist.

THE GUEST STARS

  1. There are a few important characters this time, with the most prominent being Marco Polo, who is probably not meant to read as a jerk, but definitely does seem like a real jerk. In this story he’s working for Kublai Khan.
  2. Ping Cho is a sweet noblewoman of 16 who is set to be married to a 75 year old dignitary at the court of Kublai Khan. She has amazing chemistry with Susan and I really enjoyed reading them as a couple.
    2A. Ping Cho’s relationship with Marco Polo is really weird, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be reading it as fatherly or brotherly or what. This element is underdeveloped; if he’d been protective of her and related to her more as a dad it would have been a stronger episode, because he would have been more sympathetic.
    2B. Ping Cho’s storyline is resolved when her ancient husband-to-be poisons himself taking a lethal concoction intended to make him “younger” for her. She decides to stay with Kublai Khan’s court.
  3. Tegana is the transparent baddie. He’s a warlord and an emissary of Nogai, an enemy of Kublai Khan, and even though he couldn’t be more obviously evil if he was wearing 47 skulls, Marco Polo trusts him over anyone else. Even though he’s the enemy of Kublai Khan. For no reason. Because that’s the plot. Also, he wastes fruit, so you know he’s evil.
  4. Kublai Khan in this story is a nice old man with lots of aches and pains, who is the best administrator in the world. He bonds with the Doctor about being old. He also plays backgammon with the Doctor with horrifying stakes, including, at one point, the Tardis.
  5. Eyepatch pirate guy.

THE TEAM

  1. FOR THE LOVE OF LITTLE GREEN MEN STOP SPLITTING THE PARTY. We need to make a drinking game for this and the first rule is going to be “take a shot when they split the party.” And everyone will die of alcohol poisoning in the first hour.
  2. No one believes Barbara even after she saved the day in the last episode. She screams again in this one.
  3. No one believes Susan, either, that the eyes on one of the paintings in the cave moved, even after she’s repeatedly been shown to be reliable. When she’s proven right, no one apologizes for doubting her. Again.
  4. Ian is actually slightly, a tiny bit, useful and explains thin air and later, condensation in the episode, both times in an appropriate way. He also comes up with a way to distract baddies by making an explosion later. At one point Ian pretends to be drunk, and this was funny. Maybe it would be better for Ian to just be drunk all the time.
  5. The Doctor is an arrogant jerk again for a lot of this episode, but it doesn’t seem to matter much either way.

THE SETTING

  1. The Tardis breaks AGAIN, and this time it has no water or temperature control. And it will take A WHOLE WEEK of work to fix.
  2. The Palace sets looked pretty, particularly in the color photos.
  3. At one point, there’s a sandstorm and I remembered the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring a sandstorm; this was just as much DEEP HURTING.
  4. AND STILL NO ONE HAS FED THE TARDIS.

Honestly, this episode just shows the road trip from hell: Everyone is angry with everyone else and anyone who isn’t is just whining constantly.

Sources Include

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