Marco Polo

Doctor Who Big Finish Marco Polo

Marco Polo Radio Times

doctor-who-complete-history-32I must be honest, I’ve never really understood why fandom bangs on about Marco bloody Polo so much. To me it’s just a rather dull trudge through the desert that doesn’t warrant all the attention it gets, which I know puts me in the minority but there you go. Even as recently as The Omnirumour people were getting their knickers in a twist over the possibility of it’s recovery, though I can’t think why. There are plenty of other missing stories I’d much rather see than this. But then, you can’t see it can you, except for the reconstruction on the DVD, the final legacy of Loose Cannon, may they rest in peace.

I did toy with the idea of cutting down that cut down recon, or doing an alternate soundtrack and telesnaps version, but in the end I decided that an audio fan edit would be better, giving those of you who love it so much yet one more version to enjoy. And, to be perfectly honest, I just couldn’t be arsed with all the work that I knew would be involved in working out where to put all those photos and telesnaps. Fab thought the old LC Recons were, my pet hate was always the inevitable repeated shot due to a lack of material. If I were to do a version of this story with visuals, I would probably go heretical and put the Tardis crew into the recent Netflix Marco Polo series instead! Can’t think where they got the idea from…

doctor who marco polo netflix

Doctor Who Marco Polo Radio TimesThis is the show’s first big historical production number, and John Loo Carrot’s first major contribution to the show, taking things very seriously indeed with no light relief until near the end when we meet The Mighty Kublai Khan.

Despite the lack of humour, this story is full of humorous associations, well for me anyway – Tegana makes me think of Tegan, Polo makes me think of those mints, Ping Cho makes me think of Pingu [if she had Body Odour would that make her Ping Pong?] and the Khan always makes me think of Star Trek II. Either that or the Two Ronnies gag about Genghis Khan and his unfortunate brother Genghis Can’t…

We start with the Conclusion from the audiobook of The Edge of Destruction as a pre-credits lead-in to the story proper and, as the DVD recon proved, there’s a heck of a lot that you can lose without ripping the guts out of the story. All we really need is the beginning where Polo nicks the TARDIS from them and the end where they get it back. All that shlepping around the desert in the middle we can lose, so that was my approach as I started on this version, to make what would essentially be a short, snappy compilation of the first and last episodes. If only it had turned out to be that simple…

Cutting back Marco Polo to the bone is complicated by the fact that Marco has the keys to the Tardis and only hands them back after Tegan has been nobbled. And the fact that Pingu has buggered off, meaning neither she nor Ian nor Tegan are present when we first meet the Can’t [don’t try saying that in an ozzie accent, it sounds rude] means that it’s impossible to edit around her absence, meaning that material has to stay, as does all the material relating to the Tardis keys. Everything else – sandstorms, condensation, bandits, etc – we don’t really need.

dwm marco polo

If you listen closely to the start of part six, you can hear that the theme music continues playing underneath the opening scene, for a full two minutes, suggesting the grams operator forgot to turn it right down after the opening credits! I masked it with a cue from the bandit attack sequence and it was one of only a few tricky bits of editing that required some ingenuity on my part to fix.  I also took the opportunity to tidy up various moments where the cast stumble over their lines, and not just Billy.

marco polo roof world These early episodes can get tightened up considerably just by cutting out all the silences where the actors are reacting to each other, which means we can get through part one in just ten minutes. That short duration’s not due to cuts, because I made hardly any, it’s almost all just through picking up the pace. marco polo singing sandsIt takes just two minutes to cover part two, achieved by combining two of Polo’s journal entries into one, allowing us to navigate around all that business with the poisoned water gourds, the condensation and the sandstorm, none of which we really need as they don’t really move the plot forward. marco polo five hundred eyes That cave full of eyes is another matter, though. There’s no way to cut around Pingu knowing about the Doctor’s second Tardis key as she finds out about it in the middle of Barbara’s disappearance. That means that the cave sequence has to stay, just cut right back to the bare minimum. As for Pingu’s party piece, well that’s so yawnsville that we join it just as it’s ending, meaning we cover this one in eight minutes. marco polo wall lies The only ep with no telesnaps, there’s not a lot that you can cut from this ep, making this a case of tightening up the pace instead, just as we did with part one, with the result that we get through this in fourteen minutes. marco polo rider shang tu The biggest cut from part five is the attack by the bandits. For a start it’s an action sequence, which always work well on audio, and it doesn’t really move the plot along enough to warrant its retention since we already know Tegan is a bad ‘un. What really matters is Pingu giving the Tardis keys to Susan. Since that’s all we really need from this ep, it lasts just seven minutes. marco polo mighty kublai khan In part six the main incident is Pingu legging it and Ian going to fetch her, while the rest of them catch up the canny old Kahn. Keeping all of Ian’s scenes with Pingu offstage helps us to both keep the pace moving and avoid that terrible Wan Hung Lo bloke back at the way station, meaning this lasts thirteen minutes. marco polo assassin pekingThe old boy who plays the Kahn takes forever to deliver his lines, and the swordfight goes on way too long. And again, since the remainder of Ian’s encounter with Tegan takes place offstage, we get through this final episode in sixteen minutes. That gives us a final duration for the whole thing of over one hour instead of nearly three! All in all, fan editing this adventure took me three whole days, not quite as long as the time covered by the story itself, but at times it certainly felt like it.

As a result of having to listen to it all again, I haven’t really changed my opinion of it, I still think it’s a bit dull, but this rather pacier fan edit is packed with enough incident to make it a much more enjoyable, if slightly less epic, listen than the original!

Marco Polo Travels Map


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