Book Review. Marco Polo. Written by John Lucarotti.

The young Venetian Marco Polo is on his way to the emperor’s court in Peking when he meets four intrepid time travellers: the elderly Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and their companions Ian and Barbara. 

The TARDIS has broken down whilst on Earth, in the year 1289. Marco Polo recognises in it a means of winning favour with the emperor, and he insists that the travellers accompany his caravan to Cathay. 

The journey is fraught with sandstorms, drought, bandits, would-be assassins and many other hidden dangers. Even if they do arrive safely at the court of Kublai Khan, the Doctor and his friends have no guarantee of ever seeing the inside of the TARDIS again…. 

We don’t have a lot to go on with this story, as none of it exists anymore. Will they get round to animating it any time soon – fingers crossed. It was announced Galaxy 4 is perhaps getting animated, maybe not a story that us fans are crying out to be animated, but they all have got to be animated at some point.

The TARDIS is broken (again) and the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara find themselves in the Pamir Mountains of the Himalayas. And who do they meet, none other than Marco Polo. Who is a very gracious host, although as it turns out – he has ulterior motives.

Susan strikes up a friendship with Ping-Cho, the young girl travelling with Polo. Something that hadn’t occurred to me before reading Marco Polo is how quickly Susan bonds with Ping-Cho and that’s likely to be because she is travelling with her 2 teachers and grandfather. She is supposed to be 15, so nobody her own age, and that could be lonely. It also makes it very strange that a year later, the Doctor abandons his granddaughter. Leaving her with a young man called David, in a time period where Earth needed to be rebuilt after a Dalek invasion. That also draws parallels with the fact Ping-Cho, also 15, is engaged to be married with a 75-year-old man. Something that Susan balked at. So too did the Doctor. Did the Who production team conveniently forget this at the time? Is Time Lord years like Dog years or Leap years? Who knows, but whew. Archaic. I am warming to Susan, in that say she is 15, that might be why she is immature, and is quick to panic. I don’t think that was because Carole Ann Ford was a bad actor. I think some of the writing for her character was bad. She was terrific in the Sensorites. 15, and they allow Terry Nation to write her out of the show via staying behind with a man. Good Lord.

The two girls get caught up in a sandstorm and that’s where this story starts to pick up. They are travelling in real time, travel vlogging. Events do occur twice sometimes and reading about repeated bids for freedom is frustrating after a while. I liked the growing mistrust between Polo and the TARDIS crew. Mistrust that Tegana, Polo’s other companion, tries to accuse the TARDIS crew of generating. Polo’s faith in Tegana seems to be forged from steel. Every time I saw the word Tegana, I saw Tegan instead. The Doctor came up against another historical figure, Kublai Khan – later on in the story. It’s usually good when this happens, and I wish I could actually see the story with my own eyes.

Ian didn’t have much to do in Marco Polo, Barbara had a little more to do. There were descriptions of food in this story, not sure I could remember them being there in the audios I have heard and for this novelisation it seems there have been some changes to the ending? It didn’t seem to be what I can remember from what I have heard.

Marco Polo is a story made much more intriguing by the fact we cannot see it with our own eyes, we have audio and photographs. What we have I liked. Could they not have come up with a better title than Marco Polo?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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