Tag Archives: Marco Polo

Is Marco Polo the Latest Recovered Missing Serial?

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On 24 October The Doctor Who Mind Robber pondered if Marco Polo had been recovered. It was around that date that it was first revealed that a reconstruction of part of the much sought after serial would appear in Mark Gatiss’ docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time. Given the amazing coincidence of the Great Intelligence’s return in Series 7 after a 44 year hiatus and the recovery of The Web of Fear, a BBC marketing missing episodes programme could not be ruled out. Was Marco Polo yet another example of the Beeb self promoting its recovered monochrome product?

The Great Intelligence's return heralded the recovery of The Web of Fear. The Eleventh Doctor )(Matt Smith) with the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) in The Name of the Doctor

The Great Intelligence’s return heralded the recovery of The Web of Fear. The Eleventh Doctor )(Matt Smith) with the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) in The Name of the Doctor

On the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and riding on the extraordinarily positive reviews of An Adventure in Space and Time, now would be the perfect occasion to announce the recovery. Certain external signs are very reminiscent of the days prior to the announced recovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear. Two UK newspapers, the Mirror and The Telegraph, are both reporting the recovery of the seven part serial. The Mirror is claiming the recovery of a fan recorded 16mm cine recording of all the episodes. The silent recording is said to have been made by recording direct from the television screen using then commercially available equipment.  As the BBC already holds fan recorded audio of all missing episodes, restoration has involved dubbing this sound to the audio free film.

The Radio Times cover for the missing Doctor Who serial Marco Polo

The Radio Times cover for the missing Doctor Who serial Marco Polo

It was the Mirror which was the first mainstream newspaper to announce the October recovery. Although their facts were wildly incorrect, within a week the BBC had officially announced the recovery of two serials. Is their a kernel of truth in the Mirror’s claims?

Moreover, several prominent Doctor Who fan forums have closed their missing episode threads. This is exactly what happened in the days preceding the October announcement.

The Doctor Who Mind Robber posted this cartoon last time the Missing Episode threads were closed

The Doctor Who Mind Robber posted this cartoon last time the Missing Episode threads were closed

Will a recovery of  Marco Polo be announced on tonight’s BBC3 Doctor Who Live: The Afterparty? Or perhaps it may wait until the British Film Institute’s Missing Believed Wiped event on 21 December?  Only time will tell!

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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Day 30 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The Top 5 First Doctor Stories

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5. The Aztecs

A Special Edition of The Aztecs was released earlier this year which included an abridged reconstruction of Galaxy 4, together with episode three which was recovered in 2011. The Aztecs has long been held in high esteem by fandom and is a superb example of the historical dramas that the BBC has always brilliantly produced. Set in South America during the time prior to Spanish settlement, the serial tells the story of Barbara’s determination to change history. In a quest to satisfy her penchant for bracelets, Barbara donned a snake bangle discovered not long after the party disembarked from the TARDIS.  Mistaken by the locals as the reincarnation of the high priest Yetaxa, her extraordinary knowledge of history and modern sense of morality naturally saw her rile against human sacrifice. From the beginning the Doctor’s objective was to ensure that history was not rewritten.  This was the first serial in which the parameters of “fiddling” with time and space were examined.  Barbara’s refusal to conform to the Doctor’s direction that “time can’t be rewritten.  Not one line” very nearly had fatal consequences for the Crew. Henceforth there would be limits on the TARDIS Crew’s actions.

Ian was lucky to escape with his life in The Aztecs

Ian was lucky to escape with his life in The Aztecs

4. The Tenth Planet

The First Doctor’s final story, The Tenth Planet heralded a number of firsts – Doctor Who’s first regeneration, the introduction of the Cybermen and the prototype for the Second Doctor’s “base under siege” formula. Rumours abound that the missing fourth episode, which features William Hartnell’s regeneration, has been recovered.  The DVD of the story has recently been released featuring an animation of episode four.  I wonder if a Special Edition, with the (alleged) recovered episode four, should be expected soon?

The DVD cover art for The Tenth Planet

The DVD cover art for The Tenth Planet

3. The Massacre

The Massacre is completely missing from the BBC Archives, although some of the current missing episode rumours suggest that it has been recovered.  Set in 1572 France, the serial chronicles the Doctor and Steven’s adventures during the Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy (the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) in which thousands of protestant Huguenots were massacred in a religious war lead by Roman Catholics. William Hartnell plays two roles in The Massacre – both the Doctor and the Doctor’s evil doppelganger, the Abbot of Amboise. As this is a historical drama it can almost be assured that the set design and costuming was brilliant.  The story is the only example in monochrome Doctor Who of a single companion accompanying the Doctor.  It also introduces new companion, Dodo Chaplet, in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

The Doctor and Steven in The Massacre

The Doctor and Steven in The Massacre

2. An Unearthly Child

The first Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child introduced the strange adventures of a belligerent old man, the Doctor, and his grand-daughter, Susan Foreman. Possessed of a time machine which externally resembled a Police Call Box, the Doctor’s Ship was larger on the inside and capable of both time and space travel.  Coal Hill school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, barged their way into the TARDIS (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) whilst looking for their student, Susan.  Fearful that the teachers would reveal his secret, the Doctor kidnapped the pair as the TARDIS was seen to dematerialize for the first time.

Episodes two, three and four of the serial are more properly known as The Cave of Skulls, The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker. The Doctor, Susan and their two unwilling companions find themselves in pre-historic times and at the mercy of a tribe of cavemen who have lost their knowledge of fire making.

The first TARDIS Crew in An Unearthly Child

The first TARDIS Crew in An Unearthly Child

1.  Marco Polo

I’m going out on a limb here nominating a completely lost seven part serial as the Top First Doctor story.  As outlined in our post Missing Episodes – Has Marco Polo Been Recovered?  last week, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this classic serial has been recovered and restored, and finds its way onto the iTunes playlists before Christmas.

The fourth Doctor Who story, Marco Polo was directed by Waris Hussein who was also responsible for the first serial, An Unearthly Child. As far as the BBC is presently letting on, all that remains of Marco Polo are some stunning colour photographs taken on set and the fan recorded soundtrack.  In the days prior to home video recording and commercial VHS releases, the only way that a fan could re-live a Doctor Who episode was to listen to the reel-to-reel audio recording which they’d made during the episode’s original transmission. Incredibly, around half a dozen fan recorded collections remained extant and were located during the 1980s and 1990s. It was during those decades that fans became cognisant of the BBC’s destruction of its television heritage and went searching for what remained.  Thanks to the endeavours of a small group of hard-core fans who religiously recorded Doctor Who each Saturday evening, aficionados of Who were now able to listen to long lost episodes.

Is Marco Polo really as good as fans who watched the original and only transmission remember?  Certainly the audio suggests something very special.  Hopefully we’ll all be able to soon judge for ourselves.

Marco Polo is the earliest missing Doctor Who serial

Marco Polo is the earliest missing Doctor Who serial

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Daleks’ Master Plan

Sara Kingdom in combat mode in The Daleks' Master Plan

Sara Kingdom in combat mode in The Daleks’ Master Plan

The Myth Makers

Vicki and Troilus in The Myth Makers

Vicki and Troilus in The Myth Makers

The image at the top of this post is a painting by Francois Dobois depicting the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. No copyright infringement is intended.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Day 35 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – 5 Serials You’d Swap for Missing Episodes

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The success on iTunes of the recently recovered Troughton era serials, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, has conclusively shown that 45 year old monochrome Doctor Who can successfully compete against the best current release TV shows.  An article in the UK’s Mirror newspaper states that in the first three days after the release of the two stories 10,000 series pass downloads were sold.  Presumably this figure is for sales in the UK only. The article goes on to state that to date there have been 73,000 episode downloads.

The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear have only been released on iTunes in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Enemy is due for release on DVD in late November and Web is due sometime in the New Year. Rumours continue to surface that Marco Polo may have been recovered and is soon to be released.

Doctor Who retro posters courtesy of Radio Times designer Stuart Manning - http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-10-11/doctor-who-missing-episodes-retro-poster-designs

Doctor Who retro posters courtesy of Radio Times designer Stuart Manning – http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-10-11/doctor-who-missing-episodes-retro-poster-designs

In the light of Doctor Who’s missing episodes hysteria the Doctor Who Mind Robber today looks at 5 Serials that you’d swap for missing episodes. Even the most rabid of fans acknowledge that the output of Doctor Who has never been consistent.  Some stories are brilliant whilst others would have been best left unmade. As 97 episodes are still claimed by the BBC to be missing from their archives, which extant episodes would you willingly ditch for a recovered one?

5. The Sensorites

The Sensorites is the most unloved serial of Season One Doctor Who.  In a documentary included in the Special Features of the DVD release comedian Toby Hadoke described the serial in the following way:

The Sensorites.  Poor, unloved, The Sensorites.  Nestling, lost somewhere, down the back of the fans’ collective sofa.  There it lies at number 7 in the first heady year of Doctor Who.  It didn’t even have the decency to be wiped so we could all mourn its loss, and imagine how brilliant it must have been.  It’s not a story anyone really talks about.  We certainly don’t know that much about it …

Little more needs to be said.

A scene from The Sensorites

A scene from The Sensorites

4. The Ark

Although beautifully directed The Ark has undoubtedly the worst monsters in Classic Series Who, the Monoids. In my review I described the Monoids like this:

Also travelling on the spaceship are an assortment of animals and the Monoids, a peculiar mute race whose most distinctive feature is their one eye.  This single eye is in their mouths, or at least what would’ve been their mouths if they had human anatomy. These eyes are actually painted ping pong balls which the actors held in place with their mouths.  Now that’s ingenious small budget special effects for you!  On the top of their heads is a long Beatles style mop top wig, whilst the rest of their bodies are clothed in green ill fitting garb. They have webbed hands and feet and move slowly.

An unfortunate Monoid in The Ark

An unfortunate Monoid in The Ark

3. The Keys of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus is the second of two little regarded serials in Doctor Who’s first season.  The six parter was among the more expensive stories to produce as each episode took place in a different location of Marinus. Season 16’s The Key to Time is not dissimilar.  Unfortunately the variety of locations makes for a disjointed serial and the chief monsters, the Voord, are what young people today might best describe as “rubbish”. With wet suit clad bodies and swimming flipper feet their most redeeming features were their quite unusual heads.

A Voord with Susan in The  Keys of Marinus

A Voord with Susan in  The Keys of Marinus

2. The Space Museum

In my review of The Space Museum I discussed the DVD extra, Defending the Museum.  In it the writer Rob Shearman outlined his devotion to The Space Museum which rests solely upon the assumption that the story is a parody of William Hartnell era Doctor Who episodes. The aggressors, the Moroks, are little more than morons who invade a planet only to turn it into a museum for their past achievements. The rebels are excruciatingly bad.  Dressed in black polo neck jumpers, they look like students in a coffee bar.  Vicki starts a revolution only because she’s bored and the native Xerons don’t need a great revolutionary, just a locksmith! That The Space Museum can only be appreciated if it’s considered a parody says much for the low esteem in which it’s generally held. The serial is unlikely to be missed.

The Doctor hiding inside the casing of a Dalek exhibit is one of the best parts of The Space Museum

The Doctor hiding inside the casing of a Dalek exhibit is one of the best parts of The Space Museum

1. The Web Planet

I was so utterly bored by The Web Planet that I couldn’t even find the enthusiasm to review it. The best parts of the story are William Hartnell’s “Billy Fluffs” and when an extra ran slap bang into a camera and it wasn’t edited out. This fan made compilation clip, however, is brilliant.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Missing Episodes – Has Marco Polo Been Recovered?

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In an article published in the Radio Times the writer of An Adventure in Space and Time, Mark Gatiss, has indicated that “moments of lost episodes ,.. like Marco Polo” have been recreated for the drama. The 90 minute production, which dramatizes the origins of Doctor Who, will be aired in November as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. Stars of the show include David Bradley as William Hartnell (the First Doctor), Brian Cox as Sydney Newman (Doctor Who co-creator), and Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert (first producer). The two surviving members of the original cast of Doctor Who, William Russell (Ian Chesterton) and Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman) appear in small cameo roles as “Harry” and “Joyce”. Mark Eden, who played Marco Polo in the missing serial of the same name, appears in the drama as Donald Baverstock, the Controller of BBC One.

Mark Eden as Marco Polo. Pictured behind him is William Russell as Ian Chesterton.  Both Eden and Russell appear in An Adventure in Space and Time

Mark Eden as Marco Polo. Pictured behind him is William Russell as Ian Chesterton. Both Eden and Russell appear in An Adventure in Space and Time

Rumours circulating prior to the announced recovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear earlier this month speculated that Marco Polo was part of a three serial haul. So consistent were the rumours that an acronym circulated amongst fans for this alleged multiple story recovery – MEW (Marco, Enemy, Web). 

In our article on 21 October The Doctor Who Mind Robber mused upon the relationship between the revival of the Great Intelligence in Series 7 and the recovery of The Web of Fear, the second (and last) story in which the Intelligence appeared. In our humble opinion it appears that Doctor Who show runner, Steven Moffat, was aware of Web’s recovery and almost certainly resurrected the Intelligence to assist in the BBC’s marketing of the recovered episodes.

The Eleventh Doctor )(Matt Smith) with the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) in The Name of the Doctor

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) with the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) in The Name of the Doctor

Given the precedent set by the Intelligence’s return, together with the long-standing MEW rumours, it’s at least arguable that Gattis’ recreation of elements of Marco Polo is a further example of a BBC missing episode marketing campaign. Should we anticipate an announcement on the return of Marco Polo not long after the broadcast of An Adventure in Space and Time? Let’s wait and see!

In the meantime, check out our gallery of brilliant promotional photographs for An Adventure in Time and Space here.

Radio Times produced retro poster for The Web of Fear

Radio Times produced retro poster for The Web of Fear

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Waris Hussein Gives Extensive Interview to Radio Times

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ImageDoctor Who’s first Director, Waris Hussein, has given an extensive interview on the genesis of Doctor Who to the Radio Times.  Hussein, who directed the debut serial An Unearthly Child, together with the missing seven part epic Marco Polo, speaks candidly about Verity Truman, Who’s first producer, Sidney Newman, the Canadian born head of BBC drama and the First Doctor, William Hartnell.  You can read the first part of this enlightening interview here.

The second part of Waris Hussein’s interview, in which he discusses Mark Gatiss’ drama, An Adventure in Time and Spacecan be found here. 

Missing Episodes Hysteria Update

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Rumours of the recovery of missing episodes of Doctor Who still continue but to date there has been no evidence produced of any finds.

The Yeti's second adventure in The Web of Fear is rumoured to have been found

The Yeti’s second adventure in The Web of Fear is rumoured to have been found

An also rumoured recovery is a television interview with the First Doctor, William Hartnell.  To date no interviews with Hartnell, out of character, are known to exist. The opportunity to hear Hartnell speak in his normal accent is widely sought after.

The Enemy of the World is one of the rumoured Missing Episodes finds.  In this serial Patrick Troughton plays the dictator Salamander who is the spitting image of him

The Enemy of the World is one of the rumoured Missing Episodes finds. In this serial Patrick Troughton plays the dictator Salamander who is the spitting image of the Doctor

Outpost Skaro has reported on its Twitter feed that a “mate of mine is saying that people are beginning to see Enemy of the World … hope it’s true!” The most commonly bandied around number for returned episodes is 17, although claims that as many of 94 of the missing 106 have been returned, have been made. The oft quoted 17 returned would probably entail all seven episodes of Marco Polo, and five each of The Enemy of the World  and The Web of Fear.  Episode three of Enemy and episode one of Web are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.

Episode 3 of The Enemy of the World and Episode 1 of The Web of Fear are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the tripe DVD set, Lost in Time

Episode 3 of The Enemy of the World and Episode 1 of The Web of Fear are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time

Given the decimated nature of the archival material of Patrick Troughton’s tenure as Doctor, it would be an incredible coup to have returned two complete and consecutive Season Five serials.  Season Five hitherto has one complete serial, The Tomb of the Cybermen, and four out of the six episodes of The Ice Warriors.  The two missing episodes of The Ice Warriors  have been animated and the complete serial is being released on DVD later this month.

The Ice Warriors is to be released in late August 2013.  Included with the four recovered episodes are two animated ones

The Ice Warriors is to be released in late August 2013. Included on the DVD release will be the four episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with two animated missing episodes

Anyone interested in an in depth analysis of 1960s Doctor Who and the missing episodes is advised to track down the updated edition of Richard Molesworth’s seminal work Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes. The revised edition was released by Telos Publishing Ltd earlier this year .  Wiped!  is presently available for purchase online through The Book Depository UK.

The updated edition of Richard Molesworth's book Wiped! was released by Telos Publications Ltd earlier this year

The updated edition of Richard Molesworth’s book Wiped! was released by Telos Publications Ltd earlier this year

You can find my first article on the Missing Episodes Hysteria here.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Marco Polo

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The novelization of Marco Polo.

The novelization of Marco Polo.

Undoubtedly the most sought after of the lost Doctor Who serials, Marco Polo has an almost mythical status.  An historical story, this seven part serial was the fourth to be broadcast and is set in 1289 Cathay (China).  Landing in the Himalayas, the Tardis Crew are picked up by the explorer Marco Polo as his caravan is making its way along  the Silk Road to meet Emperor Kublai Khan. Seeking to win the favour of Khan, Polo seizes the Tardis with the intention of giving the strange “flying caravan” to him.

The BBC made a 30 minute reconstruction of Marco Polo and it was released with The Edge of Destruction as part of the 3 disc The Beginnings box set.  Utilizing photographs from the production, the reconstruction provides a nice teaser of what clearly was an extraordinary serial.  Surprisingly, many colour photos have been preserved, a few of which I share for your viewing pleasure.

Ping ChoMarco Polo 2marco_polo_in_colourMarco Polo

The 30 minute BBC reconstruction of "Marco Polo" can be found in the 3 Disc box set "The Beginning".

The 30 minute BBC reconstruction of “Marco Polo” can be found in the 3 Disc box set “The Beginning”.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.