Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: Marco Polo – Part 2

Marco Polo: The Singing Sands

Marco Polo Singing Sands

If the last episode was predominately about seeing our regulars in the new situation and how they are reflected in the members of Marco Polo’s caravan, The Singing Sands is much more about the original members of the caravan themselves (with one exception I will get to at the end). As such it makes sense to go through them each in turn. And also start with the eponymous Marco Polo.

Whilst we are once again called to see Ian in Marco Polo as the action hero (perhaps most notably having them face off in the chess scene) we also see his total obliviousness to what is really happening around him. Whilst he is willing to accept advanced technology as possible, he cannot seem to really fathom why stealing someone else’s home for his own ends would upset them so much. The journal entries1 help us to understand him better and it is not a flattering portrait in the slightest.

This is most particularly not helped by what we see of Tegana. Now, we have to accept that Marco does not see the scheming we see so he cannot be familiar to us as an audience. However, I think we are supposed to hear him declaring himself in Tegana’s debt as a sign of his lack of awareness of the true motivations of those around him. Marco certainly appears less as the desperate schemer he first appeared as in The Roof of The World, and instead more of a self-deluded fool.2

Tegana, however, continues to be a clever schemer. Whilst his hints to us as the audience may be rather on the nose3, we cannot deny his work appears to be rather effective. The caravan does indeed appear to be slowing down from the poison. The water stores are gone and there does not appear to be hope of reaching them. And, whilst I presume The Doctor is not actually going to die at this moment , the fact that the Doctor has now collapsed shows what dire straits they are in. Even the scenery for the oasis looks so desolate and hopeless. Rather than the violent immediate death all around the travellers we have seen in the previous stories, slow creeping death from thirst looks to be their fate at this moment.

Kököchin, Polo escorted before returning to Europe. However, this appears to only be a jumping on point for the narrative which means we should really be considering her as an independent character.

That then leads us to Susan who gets some real highlights. Whilst the rest of the travellers get little to do Susan is really able to articulate the sense of loss with the theft of the TARDIS. She is so frustrated that no one is doing anything to solve it. It takes Barbara to console her but even then you can sense the sadness in her.

Yet it seems not to be Barbara that really helps her as much, it seems to be her friendship with Ping-Cho. They stay up all night and continue to realise how similar they are in their loneliness. Susan is able to tell Ping-Cho about the seas of Venus, whilst Susan has never seen a moonlit night. They are able to introduce these new things to each other. Even Susan telling her 1960s slang and getting enjoyment out of being able to share almost this secret language with each other.

So we have here our allies and enemies forming on the road. Susan and The Doctor getting into the TARDIS at the end but also The Doctor has collapsed so does not seem well enough to repair or operate it. Where this road is going we cannot know but it continues to be one worth taking.

1These are interesting choices in and of themselves as they are so different from the actual entries in the eventual travels. A standard entry goes:

Travelling X miles you reach the city of Y under the rule of Z and which currency they use. In this place there are these religious groups. The items they have to trade are as follows…. There is nothing else of note here.

The actual thoughts and feelings of Marco Polo remain largely absent (other than his amazement at things we now take for granted like coal or tattoos).

2The only time we have got this previously was with Susan in Time and Relative and we can definitely contrast her lack of confidence with Marco’s self importance.

3“Marco, can you save your King?” Now what possible double meaning could that have? I can’t possibly imagine!

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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