Friday, 17 October 2014

015 Marco Polo Episode 2: The Singing Sands

EPISODE: Marco Polo Episode 2: The Singing Sands
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 29 February 1964
WRITER: John Lucarotti
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 9.4 million viewers
FORMAT: CD: Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes Collection: (1964-1965) No. 1

"I have taken charge of the travellers' unusual caravan, and set out into the Gobi Desert. The journey across this vast ocean of sand is slow and hazardous. To make matters worse, the old Doctor continually shows his disapproval of my action by being both difficult and bad-tempered. For three days now, during which time we have covered no more than thirty miles, I have had to endure his insults."

After the reprise we get the unique for Doctor Who device of some narration, given by Marco Polo over an animated map of the journey.
Ian raises the subject of how much water they need....
ooooh, what a coincidence! Terrance Dicks' quote of "If you're going to show the gun hanging on the wall, make sure you use it later" come to mind. Mind you they mentioned water last week as well: a lack of it was on the list of things that went wrong with the Tardis.
The Doctor is sulking unwilling to eat or talk to anyone
Is Hartnell on holiday this week? During the 60s Doctor Who was recorded an episode a week most of the year so every so often an actor will spend a week locked up in a prison cell so that they can have a week off. Hartnell's disappearances become more frequent as the series progresses and his health starts to decline.
Ian & Marco play chess, observed by Tegana
TEGANA: "I find it a fascinating game of strategy of war. Two equally balanced armies deployed upon a field of battle, and each commander determined to be the one who cries shah mat." IAN: "Shah mat? Check mate?" TEGANA: "It means the king is dead."

TEGANA: "Marco, can you save your King?"
POLO: "I think so, Tegana. Check."

Susan watches the desert at night with Ping Cho and sees Tegana sneaking away - they follow. The horses, agitated by a coming sandstorm, wake Ian and Marco. Susan & Ping Cho take shelter from the storm. Tegana finds the girls and bring them back but later sabotages the water gourds.
Why didn't he use the poison he bought the previous episode? I'll be charitable and assume he's seen the flaw in his plan and realises that there's a chance he might accidentally drink from one of the poisoned gourds. Slashing them severely reduces the water supply without putting him at real risk.
Marco wants to push on to an oasis while Tegana wishes to return to the way station at Lop. After several days the water runs out and Tegana is dispatched to the oasis to fetch more water. The Doctor emerges and collapses
When I first blogged this episode I wrote
the pictures are missing, is this a double for Hartnell?
assuming Hartnell was on holiday: but I've since found an online resource that says Hartnell *was* present this week and his first holiday was episodes 3 & 4 of Keys of Marinus.
Ian worries that without water the Doctor will die within 24 hours. Marco Polo allows him to rest inside the Tardis and is concerned that their fate rests with Tegana. Tegana reaches the oasis and drinks his fill but has no intention of returning to the others, defiantly pouring water onto the sand


"Here's water, Marco Polo. Come for it!"

Last time out I found this episode a bit harder going but this time it's really clicked for me. Love the foreshadowing in the dialogue during the chess game. The episode sounds fabulous especially the lovely sound effects in the middle for the storm.

So, quiz question: what's unique about this episode of Doctor Who?

Answer: It's the only episode of Doctor Who broadcast on a leap day, the 29th February! The leap days in the show's original run were in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984 & 1988 with just two so far, in 2008 & 2012, during the new series run. If the BBC can organise themselves right to get episodes showing in February it's possible this episode could loose it's obscure claim to fame in 2020!

So I debate with myself: Since 2014 isn't a leap year do I publish this on Friday 28th Feb 2014 or Saturday 1st March 2014? Wikipedia says "In the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, a person born on February 29 legally attains the age of 18 on March 1 in the relevant year." So we'll go with Saturday 1st March 2014 as being the 50th anniversary of the episode's broadcast?

Now from here on do I publish the blog on a Friday, the actual 50th anniversary, or on the Saturday, cos they were actually shown on a Saturday?

Missing Episodes 2) Film & Selling Abroad

Different broadcasting systems are used around the world for the transmission of Television, so when Doctor Who was sold abroad it was sold on film which is easy to play whatever broadcasting system you used. These films were made but pointing a film camera at a television screen. (an unforeseen and beneficial consequence of this technique emerged many years later) Film copies of Doctor Who were sold round the world with many countries being supplied films by a firm called Television International Enterprises (TIE). After five years the rights to sell the story needed to be renegotiated with the writer & their agent. If the rights were not renewed then the film was no longer able to be sold and being seen of no further value was destroyed.

Marco Polo was sold on film to Australia, Canada, Malta, Singapore, Gibraltar, Aden, Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Barbados, Hong Kong, Uganda, New Zealand, Ghana, Zambia, Jamaica, Cyprus, Kenya, Bermuda, Thailand, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Iran & Ethiopia. (Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes, second edition p440-443) However because it was sold to 24 different countries doesn't mean that 24 prints of Marco Polo have been struck over the years! In many cases prints were passed from one country to another: For example we know for certain that New Zealand sent it's episode 1 & 2 to Iran! In other cases we can speculate on the route the prints took based on the regions they were in and the dates: it's quite possible there was a single print of Marco Polo making it's way round Africa from Nigeria to Rhodesia, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Sierra Leone and finally to Ethopia (see It's also possible that there was another chain in the West Indies from Trinidad & Tobago to Bermuda, Jamaica and finally Barbados and another in the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Malta and then Cyprus. Although Australia *DID* send some of it's episodes to New Zealand the transmission dates in this case make it unlikely.

Wiped indicates that Five countries have been unable to account for what happened to their prints of this story: Ethiopia, Jamaica, Malta, Thailand, Mauritius. It also lists another four as having bought the story from TIE and speculates they may have used the same prints: Gibraltar, Aden, Trinidad & Tobago and Bermuda, but to be honest several of the other companies listed as buying Marco Polo are on TIE's lists too. Add the two lists together and you see that six of those countries feature in the middle of potential chains as mentioned above. We are certain that Ethiopia is the last known place in the world to show Marco Polo in January - March 1971. I hope that Philip Morris' little African Adventure which has so far returned nine missing episodes to the archives will reveal the fate of these prints in due course.

Despite the wide distribution of this story not a frame of footage of this story has ever been found. Only TWO other Doctor Who stories share this sorry distinction: Mission to the Unknown (episode 86) and The Massacre (episodes 103-106).

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