Doctor Who: 2021 Annual, He Kills Me He Kills me Not, Marco Polo

Third section of 2021 Doctor Who annual (click to embiggen):

Well, I've complained bitterly about the inadequacy of the first two annuals of the Thirteenth Doctor era; I'm glad to say that this winter's offering is a step up. The bulk of it consists of summaries of this year's episodes from Season 12 (or 38), but they are nicely done in the form of diary entries from the regulars, and there's also some exploration of how the stories link back to the rest of the show's history. There are also seven pages at the end looking forward to the Time Lord Victorious stories, promising us not only Brian the Ood and the Kotturuh, who have already shown up, but also the Eternals, the Racnoss, the Osirans, the Great Vampires, the Dæmons and the Dalek Empire. No original fiction apart from that, which is a bit of a shame, and some fairly pointless games and quizzes, but I would feel less embarrassed giving this to a young Whovian this year than I would have last year or the year before. You can get it here.

And, speaking of Time Lord Victorious, I hugely enjoyed the first Big Finish audio play in this continuity, He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, set in a desert world that is basically a Western setting; the Eighth Doctor encounters Brian the Ood, who is in fact engaged on an assassination mission; they get tangled up with the local sheriff, played with great energy but uncertain accent by Pauline Eyre; and the end resolved the basic plot, but leaves a number of open questions about the actual setting. More please. You can get it here.

The first in a long series of real historical people to be portrayed on Doctor Who, a sequence which currently ends with the Villa Diodati in 1816, was Marco Polo, the 13th-century Venetian traveller. The video of the story has been lost (the first and longest story to be completely wiped); you can experience it via Loose Cannon's reconstruction, or via the audios with linking narration by William Russell, which you can get here. When I first listened to it in 2007, I wrote:

It's generally pretty good though the fifth episode sound quality is rather lousy. […] Seven episodes is about right for a leisurely plot, with Susan bonding with the maiden Ping-Cho, and the others dealing with the treacherous warlord Tegana and with Marco Polo himself, who decides to seize the Tardis and offer it to the Khan as his ticket home to Venice. (Or, as Croatian lore would have it, Korcula.)

It builds to a satisfying conclusion with the Doctor playing the Great Khan at backgammon, with the Tardis as the stake. Marco Polo himself, weighing in the balance his honour, his liking and respect for Ian and the others, and his desire to get home, is an interesting character study.

A shame, but I guess understandable, that they stopped making stories like this one after a while.

NB that three of the guest cast were reunited for an episode of The Prisoner not long after.

Listening to it again – the 25-minute episodes are just right for timing a lunchtime walk under lockdown – I still found it enjoyable. The dynamic between Polo and the Tardis crew is a little odd – I thought that they gave in to Polo a bit too quickly, and also for someone who has not actually looked inside the Tardis he seems pretty sure that it will transform his relationship with the Khan. But that aside, it's well written and well executed. And as I've said tbefore, the recons make it look gorgeous.

I did wonder, however, if anyone seriously thought that this was educational. The original remit for the show was supposedly that the historical stories would get kids interested in history. Well, I fear you'll scan the history books in vain to find out any more about Ping-Cho, the warlord Tegana, or the very camp innkeeper at Sheng-Ting. But maybe it's better to scan the history books for something that's not there, than not to look into them at all.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Doctor Who: 2021 Annual, He Kills Me He Kills me Not, Marco Polo

Comments are closed.