March 7th, 2008


Doctor Who Original Series 04 - Marco Polo (1.14 - 1.20)

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Marco Polo 10/10

Worked out on the basis of the score for each episode, Marco Polo would rate 9 out of 10. However, I think it's a tale where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The story flows beautifully and never seems forced. The characters act and react in ways that make sense given the nature of the people and the situations they're in.

I have other Doctor Who stories that I would place ahead of this as favourites, but that doesn't mean they are better stories. This rates as highly as it does mostly from great writing, as well as excellent pacing and acting. Every episode adds to the story, to the setting, to the characters' motivations and actions. There are three and four part stories where entire episodes end up running on the spot - for all that happens within the episode, it fails in terms of forwarding story or character - Marco Polo always manages to keep at least one of its story or character threads progressing in every episode.

Most importantly, for me the story has probably the greatest sense of verisimilitude of any of the historicals - there are always hints and clues at the larger world of which this tale is just a part. For many historicals the setting is established at the beginning and then largely ignored, apart from the occasional bit of rather obvious exposition. But in Marco Polo we are given constant small references to the world and its attitudes as we go. The information doesn't seem forced or shoehorned in, this is Cathay at the time of Kublai Khan and we're learning about it as the travellers do.