The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

Have you bought the Doctor Who Magazine: The Missing Episodes special edition yet? I hope so. It turned out very well after all our hard work, with the teeny-tiny photos presented in hitherto undreamed-of glossiness and clarity.

The magazine includes a long introduction by yours truly about the missing episodes, why they are missing, how much we know about what they were like and how much we don’t (and how world-shatteringly-joyous any future episode recoveries would be). So I won’t bother repeating all that here. Instead, I’m going to talk about a single scene from Marco Polo part four.

Marco Polo part four is, sadly, the only episode of that stories for which telesnaps have yet to be discovered, making it doubling missing, in a way. For the magazine I wrote a little guide to what happened in this most enigmatic of episodes, based upon two things; the existing audio soundtrack, recorded by enterprising and far-sighted fans David Holman and Richard Landen, and the camera script for the episode included in the first Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes Box Set.

For much of the episode (properly known as The Wall of Lies), events were clear; the audio followed the camera script unambiguously. Except at one point near the beginning. As I’m sure all Doctor Who devotees know, the episode opens with the Doctor, Ian and Susan searching for Barbara in the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes. They are aided in their search by the heroic Marco Polo and the winsome Ping-Cho and hindered by the scheming Tegana. Based on the fact that Susan claims to have seen the eyes in a sinister wall-carving move, Ian starts searching the walls. He finds the edge of a hidden door, and Marco says, ‘All we need now is to find out how to open it.’

And then the door opens to reveal Barbara being held captive by some vile Mongol warriors.

But in writing my guide, this scene worried me. Why did the door open? Did Ian open it? Was it Marco? Was it the Doctor? Was it the Mongols? Or did it mysteriously open of its own accord? The camera script doesn’t help. It just says


The description on the audio CD smartly fudges the issue by saying, ‘But as they search, the door swings open’ while the novelisation cuts that section and has Polo opening the room to the secret cave (which he conveniently and suspiciously knows all about) by twisting a stalactite.

So that is the great unsolved mystery of part four of Marco Polo. The mystery of the hidden door. A mystery that can never be solved unless the episode is miraculously discovered. But even then, maybe we will still never know. Maybe it was as unclear on screen as it was in the script.

After all, there’s the Voord that gets stabbed in the back in part one of The Keys Of Marinus. I’ve been through that scene frame by frame (and through the camera script line by line) and I still don’t know how that’s supposed to have happened.

Oh, and how did I write it up in my guide? "[Ian] locates the edge of the door and it swings open."

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