Monday, 30 March 2009

An Unearthly Child - Marco Polo


Well, one down, 158 to go. I've just started my quest to watch one episode of Dr Who a day, right from the start.An Unearthly Child started on Sunday. Daleks starts tonight.Thoughts on the first serial - well, it's very good. It's suprising that the Dr doesn't really feel like the lead, more one of an ensemble, and that he's grumpy, selfish and decidedly unheroic.A genuine wit shines through - count the great lines across the four episodes. Episodes two to four get overlooked, but they've got wordy, theatrical dialogue. The episodes are slow but fun and well written with real depth. More thoughts later...

Good luck on your attempt. I watched every episode, in order, between January and September this year! Didn't intend to at the start but watched Unearthly Child and Daleks and just kept going. Even finally watched reconstructions I've had sitting around for ages. (Nearly packed the idea in during Web Planet, felt like about 10 episodes).At the end of it all, there were two over-riding impressions in my mind: Colin Baker was really not up to the job. I didn't like his era first time round but was prepared to give it another chance. He's an engaging guy in real life (I met him several times in the 80's) but his Doctor is so forced and phony;andWilliam Russell was *very* important to the success of the early series. As you say, the Doctor was not exactly the lead character back then. Ian was a very important part of the show and William Russell played it superbly, I found him very convincing even in the face of the awful sets and monsters he often appeared with.Perhaps the most under-rated companion among fans, I don't know.

Bit behind, but up to part two of The Daleks later today. Thoughts on the Dead Planet - very much more menacing in the context. The cliffhanger is superb, and has more impact, for me at least, when viewed as a sort of end of part five. The sense of an ongoing story arc is strong though, with the food machine, etc. turning up. Still introducing the main points. Amazing.

One a day is quite a challange I wish you the best of luck. I want to try and watch them all in order before the new series. Hopefully if im lucky I can time it so I finish survival just before the new series starts.

OK, I'm now up to episode one of Marco Polo, a story I've never seen before.It's a really weird experience, frankly. The sense of ongoing narrative is very clear. It's hard to get a sense of the characters coming together without preconceptions of the rest of the canon. However, a few things stick out - Hartnell's distrust of Ian and Barbara in Edge of Destruction after the events of the first two stories seems barking mad. And that story itself never seemed so strange as when viewed in context. It's like a totally different show.It's all rather striking and serious though. The light-hearted fun drama hasn't really materialised yet. Not to say that's a bad thing though.

Q Enigma 2:
if you'd stayed here in Oz, my dear Dorney, you would be seing one a day on ABC TV!*gloat gloat gloat*Hope you're well, mate.I'm vaguely doing the same thing, except I'm not taping the ones I already have on tape or DVD. The Web Planet finale is showing tonight...brendan

Dammit, the amount of stuff I could still have done - Into Marco Polo now, so to speak, and it's fab. Nothing happens, but nothing happens beautifully. It's about exploring places and people rather than being concerned with plot. The series being properly epic, rather than just long.The second episode is weird. I assumed it was a Hartnell holiday until he says one line about twenty minutes in. Then doesn't say another. What the hell's going on?

Then the Pen:
Sometimes cast members on holiday for an episode still appeared via film inserts shot previously. I'm not sure if that is the case here, but you may spot it happening as you watch subsequent stories.

True - but it's hardly worth the expense for one line!And the tv companion does say that he wasn't on holiday. Just shows how he wasn't the lead character yet within the show proper.

Bohemian 2003:
Er. I know I've harped on about this before - perhaps even about the same story - but how could you possibly have experienced Marco Polo in the same way as the rest of the Season One stories so far??? Are we talking audios here? Telesnaps? Scripts? I mean, that's all good and well, but you can't possibly claim to give a studied opinion on Marco Polo in comparison to your opinions on the stories you can actually see. I mean, I wish we could all sit down and watch Marco Polo in all its glory, but the fact is, we can't. The same thing vaguely annoyed me about the missing stories' entries in "The Television Companion". It was nice to see these stories spoken about in the same way as the ones that are still with us, but really, it's not the same, is it? Why pretend it is?

Was I pretending anything?I'm listening to the story on CD. But I don't think I have treated it as the same as the others.I am talking about how I'm enjoying it as a story - not as a piece of television. I have no visual stimuli for this story at all, bar a couple of vaguely remembered photos.I'm not sure I am treating it as anything other than an audio (my suprise at the Doctor having one line would probably be lesser if I saw it - I imagine he's more visible in the episode as it was, whereas when his voice comes out of nowhere about twenty minutes in you are suprised).All I'm claiming is an opinion of how Marco Polo works as it is now. Not as it was then. And one can have an opinion about an audio as much as one can have one about a book or a tv show. No comparison is implied. I challenge you to find a place in this thread where I make a comparison, or have stated any opinion on the story outside how it sounds.My interests are how it works as a story in it's current form - yeah, sure that's not how it was originally, but then none of the episodes are, and we are watching them all out of context (it's impossible to tell how well any tv episodes work when they are from a bygone age - The Daleks may seem slow to me now, but maybe it was fast paced compared to what else was on).To put it simply, I can give a studied opinion on Marco Polo. As it is now. I can't judge its sets or costumes, but then I haven't tried to. I can judge it's effectiveness as a story purely in the only form it now exists. I can give a studied response to Marco Polo - the audio, and how well that works as a piece of audio drama, whilst simultaneously allowing that this opinion is different to what it would have been if I'd been able to see it.What I'm not going to say is that it's the greatest story ever, or some such nonsense. I might say that it's a better story in audio form than a number of the other bbc audios. Or to put it another way - Marco Polo started as TV, and is now audio and we have to judge it on those merits. The lack of pictures means our opinions don't match those we would have had seeing it originally, but that doesn't matter.Or are you suggesting we shouldn't review or have an opinion on a piece just because we are not experiencing it in precisely the original way?(Just finished Marco Polo by the way, and thought it was wonderful, if a little long and repetitive in the middle and without much for the regulars, especially Barbara, to do - not really influencing the action.)

Actually, having had a think about this, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with comparing a missing story audio to a non-missing story.I don't see it's any different to thinking that Chimes of Midnight is better than Timelash. Sure, Marco Polo was on tv once, 40 years ago, but that story doesn't exist any more. Marco Polo is not a tv show, it's only memories and a soundtrack. It's like saying we can't judge The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in it's own right as a movie, because it's not as the director intended. It'd be wrong to criticise the directors intentions from watching it, but the movie itself has to be judged on what it is now, not on what is once was or might have been. And that means comparing it to other works.We have to judge how the story works NOW. Today. And we can judge it as a story outside it's medium, to compare. Marco Polo (as it stands now) is a better 'tale' than Keys of Marinus (as it is now). Is it a better piece of television? I have no idea. Because that is a comparison it is impossible to make. I enjoyed the experience of listening to one more than the experience of watching the other. Much as I enjoy eating a steak more than I enjoy listening to a song by the cheeky girls. It may be an unfair comparison to make, but it is the only one we can. It is a comparison that doesn't apply to how they were originally screened, but what does in 2003?

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