Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Nineteen: Mighty Kublai Kahn (Marco Polo, Episode Six)
I can't quite get my head around this story. Let's recap; I've stated a few times over the past couple of days that I worry I'll get bored of it. I've mentioned that it's a lot of back-and-forth between the TARDIS crew and Marco Polo, with the occasional 'set piece' to keep the attention going.
I've also mused on more than one occasion that there's only so long it can go on for, before it gets boring. During yesterday's entry, I hoped that the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara getting back to the TARDIS would signal a turning point for the narrative, but it was very quickly put back to the status quo in this episode.
And yet, and yet… I just can't stop enjoying it. Much of what we have here, we've seen before - Marco is angry at the travellers for defying him, but he forgives them. Tegana convinces him that he should be more suspicious of them. William Russell gets plenty of opportunities to shine. The Doctor is more fun that he's been at any previous point in the series (his complaining of a bad back when being forced to kneel before the Kahn is especially well done).
We're given several new locations, but it all still feels like the same old caravan. Tegana is up to something evil and making dodgy deals… It's all very much same-old-same-old.
But it's not boring. Every bit of this episode has been just as entertaining as the last one, or the one before that. By all rights, I should have had enough of this story by now. Really, I should! Heck, but the fourth episode of An Unearthly Child, I was ready to run a hundred miles from another 25 minutes.
Another thing I commented on recently was the fact that the visual appeal of this story helps to make it a prime candidate for discovery. I wonder if the fact that it's also a very dialogue-heavy story means it's better suited to be left lost? By removing much of the visual element to the story, I'm left being able to focus on other areas.
I've praised William Russell already, but I have to say good things about everyone, really. Jackie Hill, Bill Hartnell, Carole Ann Ford… And it's not just the regulars, our guest cast are engaging, too. Even Tegana isn't as pantomime as he was being to start off with. There's a very real chance that because - for the most part - I'm having to rely on the performances to enjoy the story, I'm enjoying it far more.
It helps that there's some lovely dialogue floating around in today's episode, too. There are a few lines from this era of the programme which are rightly famous ('Have you ever thought what it's like…' 'A thing that looks like a police box…'), but there's a few here that should be as instantly recognisable.
'I come from another time. Our caravan, it not only covers distance, it can cross time!', and Marco's description of time travel as being able to 'defy the passage of the sun'. They're both lovely lines, and I'm surprised I've never heard either f them before.
Then there's the fun ones, such as the one Barbara used to set up the above conversation, when she's trying to convince Ian to speak to Marco; 'Oh, Marco? Ian wants a word with you. * yawn *, I'm feeling a bit tired, I think I'll go to bed…'. It's really rather wonderful…