Doctor Who #18: Rider from Shang-Tu

"And your home Susan? You've never told me about that. Is it so very far away?" "Yes, it is. It's as far away as a night star."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 5 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.21 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The heroes save the caravans from bandits through wit and swordplay, and move on to Cheng-Ting where Ping-Cho steals the TARDIS key from Marco Polo to help the TARDISeers escape, even as Tegana plots to have the ship stolen.

REVIEW: They could have escaped before the bandit run, but our heroes are just too honorable (well, the Doctor would have bolted) and they stick around to warn Marco Polo. Strangely, there's no talk of saving history by staying, or whether history would have sorted itself out. We're a couple of serials away from any discussion of the travelers' impact on historical events, and though the characters know Marco Polo's role in history, the past is used first and foremost as an environment, a canvas against which the cast's adventures are told. We're still not sure what the rules of the world are, though they do seem to include getting out of a cliffhanger at the start of every episode. Hard to say without the video, but this one sounds like an exciting sequence - a sword fight and Ian pulling another MacGyver act by making bamboo explode in the fire to scare away the superstitious, cowardly lot. Marco rewards them by canceling their arrest and basically going back to the previous status quo. They're not prisoners anymore, but he still keeps the TARDIS keys until they reach the Khan. To his credit, Marco seems to have gotten tired of being manipulated by both Tegana and the Doctor.

It doesn't stop Tegana from playing his games though. We see how far he's ready to go when he kills one of his own men during the bandit attack to keep up appearances. He continually asks awkward questions to place doubt on the Doctor's actions. And as soon as they get to another outpost, he's soon making deals with one-eyed thieves. He's Doctor Who's first delicious villain (the Daleks are many things, but not delicious). The theft of the TARDIS that night is twinned by Ping-Cho's theft of the ship's key as she proves to be a good friend to Susan. The scenes between the two teenage girls make me wonder what the show might have been like if Ping-Cho or another teen had boarded the TARDIS with Susan. It really makes Susan shine to have someone her age to bounce off of. Like Ping-Cho, Susan is homesick, but so much farther from home. There's a very sweet sequence in which the girls look at goldfish in a pond and spot the ones that make them think of their caravan companions. It's a glimpse at how Susan sees each one: Ian is energetic, Barbara independent (and perhaps a little lonely?), Marco solemn... No Doctor in the pond, sadly. Ping-Cho thinks of Susan as "wicked".

Cheng-Ting, the latest Chinese outpost, is the most impressive yet, with its white walls, round windows and lush gardens, even though there's a sense that it's cobbled together from the same set pieces. It's symptomatic of the era that the only actor of actual Chinese origin in the episode is an extra playing a dead guard (though Doctor Who won't do much better more than 10 years later in The Talons of Weng-Chiang). The characterizations are thus necessarily variable. The eponymous rider from Shang-Tu, Ling-Tau, is played by the obviously Euro Paul Carson, for example, while Zienia Merton's half-Burmese origins help Ping-Cho look the part (and oh my God, I just realized she was a Space 1999 cast member!). The fat outpost manager Wang-Lo played by Gabor Baraker is notable for being the type of fat businessman that crops up in a lot of historicals in the Hartnell era. In fact, he plays a similar role in The Crusade.

REWATCHABILITY: High - If we could see how badly staged the sword fight was, maybe I'd drop it a rank, but the episode is saved from that potential indignity. And in any case, those lovely moments between Susan and Ping-Cho are worth the listen.

3 comments:

snell said...

"the Daleks are many things, but not delicious"

Tonight, on Iron Chef, your secret ingredient is...

Siskoid said...

...canned squid.

Randal said...

Obviously Euro. Heh. Years away from Weng Chiang, though.

 

Blog Archive

Category

5 Things to Like (21) Activities (23) Advice (74) Alien Nation (34) Aliens Say the Darndest Things (8) Alpha Flight (25) Amalgam (53) Ambush Bug (46) Animal Man (17) anime (52) Aquaman (70) Archetypes (14) Archie Heroes (10) Arrowed (20) Asterix (9) Atom (30) Avengers (58) Awards (33) Babylon 5 (140) Batman (677) Battle Shovel (13) Battlestar Galactica (134) Black Canary (22) BnB 2-in1 (40) Books (60) Booster Gold (16) Buck Rogers (12) Buffy (6) Canada (70) Captain America (69) Captain Marvel (55) Cat (156) CCGs (51) Charlton (12) Circles of Hell (6) Class (11) Comics (3960) Comics Code Approved (12) Conan (15) Contest (13) Cooking (15) Crisis (77) Daredevil (33) Dating Kara Zor-El (5) Dating Lois Lane (23) Dating Lucy Lane (13) Dating Princess Diana (11) DCAU (404) Deadman (9) Dial H (128) Dice (10) Dinosaur Island (16) Dinosaurs (67) Director Profiles (9) Doctor Who (1676) Doom Patrol (22) Down the Rabbit Hole (7) Dr. Strange (17) Encyclopedia (28) Fantastic Four (56) Fashion Nightmares (19) Fiasco (14) Films Within Films (6) Flash (83) Flushpoint (86) Foldees (12) French (49) Friday Night Fights (57) Fun with Covers (56) FW Team-Up (37) Galleries (9) Game design (26) Gaming (111) Geekly roundup (762) Geeks Anonymous (47) Geekwear (13) Gimme That Star Trek (60) Godzilla (53) Golden Age (432) Grant Morrison (75) Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction (8) Green Arrow (50) Green Lantern (87) Hawkman (39) Hero Points Podcast (13) Holidays (241) House of Mystery (15) Hulk (44) Human Target (8) Improv (34) Inspiration (45) Intersect (5) Invasion Podcast (44) Iron Man (50) Jack Kirby (87) Jimmy Olsen (74) JLA (94) JSA (25) K9 the Series (30) Kirby Motivationals (18) Krypto (202) Kung Fu (98) Learning to Fly (11) Legion (129) Letters pages (6) Liveblog (12) Lonely Hearts Podcast (21) Lord of the Rings (18) Machine Man Motivationals (10) Man-Thing (6) Marquee (89) Masters of the Universe (9) Memes (39) Memorable Moments (35) Metal Men (5) Metamorpho (65) Millennium (72) Mini-Comics (5) Monday Morning Macking (7) Movies (457) Mr. Terrific (6) Music (73) Nelvana of the Northern Lights (8) Nightmare Fuel (21) Number Ones (59) Obituaries (41) oHOTmu OR NOT? (76) Old52 (11) One Panel (291) Outsiders (165) Panels from Sheena (5) Paper Dolls (7) Play (76) Podcast (488) Polls (5) Questionable Fridays (13) Radio (18) Rants (20) Reaganocomics (8) Recollected (11) Red Bee (26) Red Tornado (10) Reign (563) Retro-Comics (3) Reviews (52) Rom (116) RPGs (539) Sandman (21) Sapphire & Steel (37) Sarah Jane Adventures (70) Saturday Morning Cartoons (5) SBG for Girls (4) Seasons of DWAITAS (100) Secret Origins Podcast (8) Secret Wars (25) SF (30) Shut Up Star Boy (1) Silver Age (368) Siskoid as Editor (34) Siskoid's Mailbox (10) Space 1999 (51) Spectre (20) Spider-Man (100) Spring Cleaning (15) ST non-fiction (19) ST novels: DS9 (8) ST novels: S.C.E. (19) ST novels: The Shat (2) ST novels: TNG (9) ST novels: TOS (13) Star Trek (1712) Streaky (2) Suicide Squad (38) Supergirl (89) Superman (1060) Supershill (11) Swamp Thing (23) Tales from Earth-Prime (7) Team Horrible (4) Teen Titans (83) That Franchise I Never Talk About (53) The Orville (29) The Prisoner (5) The Thing (54) Then and Now (4) Theory (51) Thor (52) Thursdays of Two Worlds (43) Time Capsule (8) Timeslip (7) Tintin (23) Torchwood (62) Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms (5) Toys (65) Turnarounds (7) TV (193) V (6) Waking Life (1) Warehouse 13 (9) Websites (102) What If? (103) Who's This? (203) Whoniverse-B (11) Wikileaked (3) Wonder Woman (82) X-Files (246) X-Men (102) Zero Hour Strikes (26) Zine (5)