20 January 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day Twenty - Assassin at Peking (Marco Polo, Episode Seven)

Dear diary,

The downside to a seven part story is that… well… it's very easy to run out of things to say on the whole. Across the last week, I've praised the sets, the performances, the dialogue…

I've listed several reasons why I think this story is so high up people's lists of tales they want returned to the archive, and I've voiced constant surprise that I'm not bored by the fact that not an awful lot seems to be happening.

So forgive me if I'm reaching for new things to add here. In short; I've enjoyed this episode, too, but I'm looking forward to moving on with a new story.

What? You want more? Oh, go on then…

He's a late addition to the cast, but Kublai Kahn is a great character. he was used comically yesterday, puncturing a lot of bureaucratic and ceremonial nonsense with simply being rather down-to-earth. It's great to see him at the start of this episode, playing Backgammon with the Doctor, and the stakes being so high - yet so relatively small to him!

I've mused on the fact that the Doctor has been mellowing a lot over the last few episodes, and I think it's very much on show here, now. I can't imagine the Doctor of three weeks ago sitting down to casually play for the return of his TARDIS. The way he laughs about it as he leaves the room is just as great.

One thing that has bugged me a little, though, and this has been rumbling for a few days now… Marco really can't decide which side he's on, can he? It's used to great effect in a couple of places, almost painting Marco as the bad guy. In this last episode, though, it just feels muddled as he swings from wanting to help our regulars, to being against them, to feeling sorry for them, to wanting them kept locked up, to setting them free with a key to the TARDIS…

It's a shame, as he's a really interesting character, and his final thoughts in the story, wondering where the Doctor and Co might be are lovely, and a nice end to the tale. In all honesty, though, that's all I have to add, so I'll rate the episode and move onto my thoughts on Marco Polo as a whole…

I'd never really 'seen' Marco Polo before this viewing. I'd listened to the first episode a few times over the years, usually when I'm trying to complete a marathon, but I've never made it right the way to the end. As a result of this, I've always been a bit unsure of it when people list it among the stories they really lament the loss off.

Actually, though, it's really rather good. I still can't get my head around it - by all rights, I should have been bored out of my mind. I've complained on more than one occasion that the story is just a lot of walking and talking with the occasional 'event' to spice things up a little. Added to that, I've had to watch the whole thing as still images. Not a single clip to break it up!

But it's never let my attention slip. I won't go into the reasons all over again (they're listed at the top of today's post if you need a refresher). I've enjoyed all seven episodes to some degree, and it's my highest rated story so far.

What's odd, though, is that like The Daleks, I've reached the end of seven episodes and feel like I could do with a bit more time in this location. There's an awful lot packed into these last 25 minutes; the resolution to the cliff hanger, the Doctor's game with Kublai Kahn, Tegana trying to win on all sides, an army marching on the city, Tegana's death, the escape from the era…

The problem this causes is that some things aren't given enough room to breathe. The death of Ping-Cho's proposed husband comes out of nowhere and is glossed over in about a minute. It feels like a sad resolution to a story that's been bubbling under throughout these seven episodes.

On the whole, though, the average of my scores gives this episode a solid

Next Episode: The Sea of Death

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