Doctor Who #17: The Wall of Lies

"Tegana is a special emissary of Noghai on his way to talk peace with Kublai Khan. He's a very important man. You are mysterious travelers from some far off land I know nothing about. Now, if you were in my position, a servant of Kublai Khan, whose word would you take?"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of Marco Polo, a story that has been entirely lost. For these reviews, I've looked at the Loose Cannon reconstruction (part 1, part 2, part 3). First aired Mar.14 1964.

IN THIS ONE... Barbara is rescued in the Cave of 500 Eyes and the caravan continues its journey. Tegana proves to Marco that the Doctor has been going into the TARDIS and the ship's crew are all arrested.

REVIEW: This is Tegana's best episode to date, even though his plans are once again foiled and Barbara is rescued from the Cave of 500 Eyes through a combination of Susan's intuition and Ian's scientific method. Yet even with an accusatory finger pointed at him, the Mongol thrives. He's the snake whispering things into Marco Polo's ear, while the TARDISeers are, frankly, deceiving him with nightly visits to the ship in preparation for a secret take-off. This could almost be its own show. Time travelers join Marco Polo's caravan and every week must foil the treacherous Tegana's schemes. The leisurely pace doesn't really give away any kind of act structure that would tell you when it's supposed to end. Either it never ends or it seems about to end at the close of this episode. But no, this isn't a 4-parter.

We're really at the mid-point, which is where Tegana is allowed to win. Susan is cut off from Ping-Cho and the Doctor is discovered and his key taken away from him (good thing they believe his melty lock story). Marco Polo trusts Tegana, but not our heroes. And the Mongol has commanded the massacre of the entire caravan by bandit hands (including the Euro-bandit, not as anachronistic as it might at first seem... except maybe the haircut). The Doctor's fate is to be a stake through the heart. I guess Tegana sees him as an old vampire. Must be the teeth. Even if the guest stars take center stage, there are still some character moments for the regular cast. Of particular interest is how the Doctor mistrusts Ping-Cho and sees her as a threat. Having gotten close to Susan, she knows about the extra TARDIS key. Of course, Susan's taste in friends is impeccable (again, she represents the team's intuition). The other examples are Barbara and Ian! If the Doctor's plans are ruined, it's not because Ping-Cho betrayed Susan's trust, but because Tegana is dirty spy. The Doctor still has the over-protective attitude he showed in An Unearthly Child. If there's an arc between grandfather and granddaughter, it'll be how he manages to let go of her.

As for the look (such as it is from what pictures survive), Sinju looks a lot like the other Chinese towns we've seen even though it's nestled against the Great Wall (an excuse to use a studio wall instead of a fake sky), but there is some variety to the exteriors thanks to a bamboo forest. And the interiors are excellent, benefiting from the BBC's expertise with period set dressing and costuming.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Marco Polo is an the center of a web of intrigue, caught between the schemes of both Tegana and the Doctor, as the jeopardy finally ramps up in more than cliffhanger terms. Marco's seduction by Tegana is riveting, uhm, radio.

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