Monday, March 30, 2009

A welcome and a scheduling note

First of all, a hearty welcome to any and all new readers who may have come here via links at The Tardis Newsroom! (And a personal thank you to the Newsroom from Ketina and myself for the plugs!) For those who might find it easier to follow that way, we also have a Livejournal feed for the Project. We'd love new readers, so if you like what you see, feel free to spread the news far and wide.

Secondly, a note on this week's schedule for those who only occasionally look in. Due to various circumstances, our viewing/blogging of the next episode won't be in our normal Friday timeslot. Instead, we'll be taking a look at episode five of Loose Cannon's "Marco Polo" reconstruction on Sunday afternoon. Look for the post on Sunday evening!

Until then, as always, I remain


Friday, March 27, 2009

"The Wall of Lies"

The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Kroroboros, who seem to have become our regular crew! A lot happened in this episode, so let's get to it!

Episode summary: First aired 14 March, 1964. The Doctor, Susan and Ping Cho have gone to the Cave of 500 Eyes in search of Barbara, and they have found her kerchief in a passageway. Susan sees a pair of the eyes move and screams... Tegana enters the cave, asking why they are there and warns them of evil spirits. Marco, furious that the three had left, takes Ian and goes to find them, after which Tegana leaves. Ian, believing Susan, looks at the wall and discovers a door set into it. He and Marco open it and overpower the guard who is about to kill Barbara! Back at the camp, Tegana takes Marco aside and warns him not to trust the strange travelers--they will discredit anyone to get back their caravan. Thus, when Barbara reveals that she had followed Tegana to the cave and he claims never to have been there before coming upon the Doctor and company while looking for Barbara, she seems to have played right into Tegana's hands. Suspicious, Marco orders Ping Cho and Susan seperated. The journey continues, and the Doctor uses his key to secretly enter the TARDIS each night to complete the circuit. Finally, the caravan arrives at a small town. Tegana goes to a local tea shop and meets his confederate, to whom he reveals his plans: the caravan will soon enter the Bamboo Jungle. On the second night, Tegana will kill the guard and he tells his underling to take his men, swoop down on the caravan and kill everyone! Meanwhile, the Doctor tells his friends that the circuit is almost finished, but he worries that Ping Cho knows he has a key to the TARDIS. Shortly thereafter, Ping Cho tells Susan she knows they will be leaving soon and makes Susan promise to say goodbye before she goes. Tegana overhears the girls mention the key. That night, the Doctor goes to finish the circuit as Barbara watches. She sees Tegana enter the courtyard and goes to get Ian and Susan. Ian decides to delay Marco while the women get the Doctor out of the ship. Ian attempts to defend the crew against Tegana's accusations to no avail, when the man himself enters and swears he has seen the Doctor enter his caravan! Ian, who believes that the women have gotten the Doctor out safely, agrees to go with the two and see proof...but Tegana has had Barbara and Susan detained somehow (we think; it's not totally clear) and the Doctor is caught leaving the ship! Marco is now convinced of their perfidy and confines them to one tent as the group moves into the jungle. On the second night, the Doctor is desperate; the ship is fixed and they just need to get the key! Ian suggests simply taking Marco hostage, as there's only one guard to overpower. He cuts a hole in the back of their tent and slips out to deal with the guard. But when he goes to knock the guard out, he finds that the poor man has already been killed....! Episode transcription

The clear highlight of this episode for me, and, I think, most of the others, was Tegana. His plan to divide and conquer by sowing distrust between the TARDIS crew and Marco is note perfect. It is, of course, dependant on his status as an honorable ambassador, as Marco points out to Ian, versus the others' non-status as strangers. We, of course, know he's not honorable at all, but he still maintains a perfect front for Polo. (Still, even Ping Cho suspects him by now; hopefully Marco will wake up soon.) It is Tegana who is the prime weaver of the "Wall of Lies" of the title, though the crew is also practising deception; they fully and joyfully plan to give Marco the slip. Well, Susan isn't joyful; this was an episode where I really did believe in her friendship with Ping Cho. The actresses really sold it well. Honestly, everyone was excellent throughout (and Barbara's scream made sense, given she was about to get her throat cut when Marco burst in!); I only wish we could have seen their acting, rather than simply heard it, with stills, of course. I was also interested to see Hartnell's Doctor regressing slightly; recently, he's been warm, human, but here we had two instances of his, well, alienness, both born of his understandable dislike of Polo. (Who has, after all, stolen his ship!) We'll see less and less of this side of the character from now on, but it's worth noting that his ire is reserved for Marco, whereas Ian and Barbara have his every confidence. They've won him over completely, and vice versa; I really think this is the first story where we have a truly solidified team.

Undoubtedly, there's more to say, but I'm at a bit of a loss, so I'll turn things over to Ketina. Until next week, I remain



Ketina here,

I don't have too much to say this week. Let's see...

The silly - less the episode than the viewers, but there were several "Marco!" "Polo!" jokes going around as we watched people shouting in the caves looking for each other. It couldn't be helped, really. :)
Also the town looked exactly the same as the previous town, but we couldn't tell if it really did, or if the reconstructionist just didn't have that many pictures, so reuse them.
I was amused by The Doctor's "savage!" reaction to Marco Polo when the group was officially captured and put under guard, but it was pretty over the top.

The good - yes, Tegana does continue to be quite the villian. I agree with The Historian that is manipulation of Marco Polo is quite clever, although it is amusing to see plan after plan foiled by The Doctor and crew, either intentionally or not.

So, I wouldn't describe this particular episode as outstanding, but it was still pretty good. Certainly entertaining and the story flows quite well.

Until next time,


Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Five Hundred Eyes"

Hello everyone and welcome back. The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Kroroboros for this third episode of the reconstructed "Marco Polo." Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 7 March, 1964. Tegana laughs as he pours water from the oasis onto the sands! Meanwhile, Marco and the caravan languish in the desert. There is no water and they will die soon without it! The Doctor and Susan, inside the still non-functional TARDIS, are awakened by drops on their faces. Thanks to the cold night and the hot morning, condensation has created water, running down the ship's walls! They gather as much of it as they can and take it to the rest of the caravan. Marco, angered that they might have been concealing water from him, grudgingly accepts the scientific explanation, having seen it before. The caravan makes it to the oasis where Tegana tells them bandits kept him there over night...but Barbara sees no signs of any bandits. After reaching the city of Tun-Huang, Barbara confides her suspicion of Tegana to Ian, who brushes her off. The Doctor then confides to Ian that he gave Marco a fake key to the TARDIS and still retains the real thing! Marco tells the crew of the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, an old hideout of the Hashishans, who had been cleared out ages ago when their headquarters in Persia was destroyed by the Mongol warlord Hulagu. After a short time, Ping Cho gives a public recital of the story of the Hashishans. After this, Tegana slips away and Barbara follows. He goes to the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, meeting a servant who takes him to a secret chamber. Here he meets an agent of his khan, who tells him all is ready for their army's march--they mean to break their treaty with Kublai. Tegana tells them of the "flying caravan," as the servant discovers Barbara outside and captures her! Later, Ian and Marco go out to search for her with Tegana "assisting." Marco tells the rest to stay put. The Doctor slips out to enter the TARDIS and work on the broken circuit when Susan and Ping Cho appear (thus revealing the fact the Doctor has a key to Ping Cho) and say they believe Barbara might have gone to the famous cave. They interrogate a servant about how to get there and set off. Meanwhile, Barbara's Mongol captors dice to see who will get the honor of killing her! The servant goes to Tegana, revealing that the Doctor and friends have set off for the cave. They arrive, looking around and making noise. The hidden Mongols hear Susan and Ping Cho calling for Barbara and look out through peepholes...which happen to be located in a pair of eyes in one of the carvings. Susan looks up just in time to notice that the eyes of the carving are moving and she screams.... Episode transcription

The overall reaction to this episode was favorable with some caveats, most due to the quality of the sound recording, what it is. There are also a number of sequences (like Ping Cho's recital) that felt like they would be better seen as moving images, rather than stills, but there's nothing anyone can do about that, alas. Everyone agreed that the condensation and accompanying scientific explanation worked really well--obviously part of the "educational" content for this week--and Marco's judgement of character after Tegana asked him how he could believe the crew's story ("I know it to be true") was a really good example of his strength of character (and the actor's ability, because we completely bought it). Tegana continues to be a fantastic villain--we're three episodes in and, although Marco obviously doesn't entirely trust him, only Barbara has any inkling he might be a baddie. The acting in general is very strong; this was Ping Cho's episode to shine, finally, although some members of our crew found the recital of the full story of the Hashishans--obviously the rest of the educational bits for this week--to be kind of distracting and a bit beside the point, tie in to the Cave or not. The regulars are in great form, with Ian using his science teacher personna to explain condensation to Marco (and the kids out there), Barbara following on from the last story to continue to establish herself as an observant and thoughtful person (yay, social sciences!) and Susan...being Susan, I suppose. Some of us continue to be a bit...less than enamoured of her occasional hysterics, but I think it generally worked here. The pace of the story continues to work well. It's not hurtling along, but not meandering aimlessly (like that episode of "The Daleks") either. Events seem to be unfolding at a steady pace. The sets, from what we can tell, look pretty fantastic, especially for the time. Sure, it's "TV studio China," but it looks pretty darn good.

I'm sure there's more we discussed, but hopefully Ketina will cover some of it below. I know I keep saying this, but I'm enjoying this reconstruction so much, I can't wait until next week! But, until then, I remain



Ketina here,

I personally found this episode rather disappointing. Likely this is likely mostly due to poor audio quality and viewing stills, but I can't entirely be sure due to the poor audio quality and lack of moving visuals. :)
The story presented by Ping Cho took up a significant chunk of the story and was difficult for me to follow. And most of the remaining plot seemed to involve running around between creepy caves and searching for people, I think. I required an explanation from The Historian after we finished watching it to explain to me about a third of what had happened.

So, the good - from what little I could tell the costumes and most of the sets looked pretty good. The scene where Ping Cho tells her story reminded me the China pavillion in Walt Disney World's Epcot (c). I kept waiting for Mulan and Mushu to show up, or someone to try and sell me a hat or something at the end. (Coming from me this is a good, really). I also liked in the images where they showed Susan curled up in front of her grandfather while listening to Ping Cho's story. Very cute.

The less good - Can we get through at least one episode where neither Susan or Barbara screams in terror? Please? Susan just screams ALL THE TIME! I was also less than impressed with the cave set. The artwork looked really cool, but the cave walls themselves looked pretty fake - more like cloth backdrops than stone.

Well, that's all I got this week.



Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Singing Sands"

Hello all, the Historian here. Before we begin, a small announcement: we will be skipping next week, as I have been unavoidably summoned and must journey to the planet of Hilarus Solum. Have no fear, though, we will return the week following with our next episode!

Tonight, though, we watched "The Singing Sands," episode two of the "Marco Polo" serial. We being myself, Ketina, Ronelyn, Kroroboros and Schmallturm. So, let's get to it!

Episode summary: First aired 29 February, 1964. Tegana and a retainer plan to poison all but the first gourd of water Marco and his caravan bring into the desert! The journey into the Gobi begins, with the Doctor sulking and remaining in his tent when they camp. Marco challenges Ian to a game of chess, while Susan and Barbara go out to view the desert in evening. Later, when all are asleep (or so he thinks), Tegana steals from the tent and poisons all but the first container of water. Susan and Ping Cho also leave their tent to see the night desert (which Susan "digs"). They see Tegana leave the camp and decide to follow him. Marco and Ian, finishing their game, realize all is too quiet--a sign a sandstorm is coming! The girls lose sight of Tegana and Susan convinces Ping Cho to return to camp when the storm descends on them! They hide behind a sand dune, terrified. Meanwhile, Barbara is roused by the horrible noise of the wind, which Marco tells them has been known to sound like howling, musical instruments, drums, even voices calling names. They discover Tegana's absence and Marco determines the Mongol can take care of himself, but them the girls' absence is discovered. The teachers are prevented by Marco from searching until the storm stops and morning comes. Back in the desert, Susan thinks she hears Ian calling to her and tries to move towards the voice...only to see Tegana coming at them! He brings the girls back to the caravan, having realized he would not be able to make it back to Lop thanks to the storm. However, before morning, he steals out and slashes all the poisoned water containers, realizing he would only poison himself if he allowed them to be drunk. The loss of water is discovered the next day; Marco attributes it to bandits. The caravan has a choice: either return to Lop or press on, rationing water, to an oasis some five to seven days away. At Ian's urging, they decide for the oasis. After several days of hard travel, the last of the water is gone with at least a day's travel left to go. Tegana offers to ride on ahead to bring back water; Marco agrees. Just as he is leaving, the Doctor collapses. Ian convinces Marco that the Doctor must rest inside the TARDIS. Marco relents, but says that Ian and Barbara must remain outside. Meanwhile, Tegana reaches the oasis, drinks his fill and laughs. He will leave Marco's caravan to die in the desert.... Scripts Project transcription of episode

Another thoroughly enjoyable episode, though nowhere near as eventful as the last. In some ways, this was more of what I call a "from here to there" episode, though there was a certain amount of character development, especially for Tegana. He is definitely a favorite for us, a truly nuanced character. He isn't evil per se, he is doing what he's doing to advance the cause of his khan against Kublai. I will admit, we had to discuss his plan a bit; the static nature of the reconstruction made the whole "why is he slashing the containers if he was going to poison them? Oh wait, he did poison them, but he's stuck" part less obvious. (To be fair, it's not clear how simple it would have been to see in the original episode either.) Again, though, his actions, when examined for a moment, make sense...which still gives him a leg up on most other Doctor Who villains! Another point where the recon made things difficult was during the sandstorm; the sound of the wind on the recording (which, to be fair, couldn't have been done on fantastic equipment in 1964!) made some of the dialogue a bit hard to hear. I could get it, but some of the others had some problems. And, to be honest, it's probably not quite fair to judge the episode on the (absolutely unavoidable) limitations of the recon, which was still excellent, if a little more static than last week's.

Although Marco and the regulars were uniformly excellent (I loved the entire chess scene, especially Tegana's observations on the game), I think the episode did suffer a bit from the Doctor's absence. William Hartnell was apparently ill during the week, so the script for this episode was rewritten slightly to minimize his involvement; indeed, he only appears (and does not speak) in the last sequence. Still, they cover his absence in the script nicely; one can easily imagine the Doctor, like Achilles, sulking in his tent after Marco's plan was revealed! And the pacing, which was so erratic in other stories, feels just right for this story of a journey; Schmallturm remarked several times how refreshing and different the story was from what he expected from Doctor Who. Indeed, this is very different to one more used to the show as it developed later. The series has found its feet (the regular cast has certainly solidified), but this first Historical story is a new and different world for them to react in--both familiar (it is, after all, known history of Earth) and yet still somewhat alien (Ian's "checkmate" vs. Tegana's "Shah Mat," for example). I think I can say, without doubt, that we're all thoroughly enjoying ourselves; we certainly can't wait until our next episode!

And now, it's time to turn things over to Ketina. See you back here in two weeks! Until then, I remain



Hey, Ketina here.

Well, it looks like The Historian covered most of what I would have talked about this week. I personally didn't like this episode as well as last week's, but it's very possible that's due to the reconstruction aspect and not the episode itself. This format makes a fair critique rather difficult. For example, the sand storm scene got very silly, but that could have been just due to weird sound effects over still images with sand bits being thrown in front of the pictures. I thought the idea of the sound effects was interesting - music and cries intermingled the wind, which is apparently what the wind storms in the Gobi really sound like - but I think they went over the top with some of it.

I suggested Tegana's motive for slashing the water jugs - being caught in the sand storm while trying to sneak out spoiling his original plan. However I think they could have explained that plan change better. And why did he rescue Susan and Ping Cho? Again, I feel that we're missing a lot by not seeing the actual visuals.

Anyway, I feel like I'm just repeating The Historian here. :P