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Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lost Masterpiece, 17 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Doctor Who - 4 - Marco Polo (BBC Original Television Soundtrack) (Audio CD)
William Hartnell's Doctor is sadly forgotten by many people these days, which is a crying shame because without the charm and conviction he brought to the role, we could not have had Messrs Pertwee, Baker (Tom and Colin) and all the other actors whose names spring more readily to mind in connection with DR WHO.
MARCO POLO was in fact, the 4th full length serial for the fledgling programme back in 1964. It places the Dr and his 3 companions in the unusual position of being forced to accompany Venetian explorer Marco Polo on his months-long journey across 13th century China (then known as Cathay). Polo is working in the service of Kublai Khan and is hoping that by giving the Doctor's TARDIS to him as a gift he will be permitted to return to his native land.
Those expecting the usual run-ins with alien beasties or robotic terrorizers will doubtless be disappointed with the lack of sci-fi elements to this tale. This is not to say that there isn't a great deal of drama and incident -there's a splendidly devious Mongol Warlord contributing most of the problems which our heroes encounter. But this is one of the purely historical tales which were a staple of DR WHO's early years, then later abandoned.
What surprises one about this 40 year old soundtrack is the pace, intelligence and subtlety of the script. All the characters are interesting and credible. Moreover, you get a free history lesson while you're enjoying the plot - this is done beautifully, no boring info-dumps from this script; instead a magical evocation of an ancient culture which is every bit as fascinating as any luridly imagined alien world.
The acting, the music, the situations all lead one to visualise a sumptuous production in the mind's eye. It is simply criminal that the BBC destroyed this and many other "lost" DR WHO serials later on in the mid 1970s. In my view MARCO POLO represents one of the best stories in the whole TV canon of the show. We're lucky to have this cleaned up soundtrack even if we may never get to see Barry Newberry's set designs as they were meant to be appreciated.
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