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Marco Polo

Serial Code


First Transmitted

22 February 1964

Final ratings







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Regular Casts

William Hartnell (Dr Who), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), William Russell (Ian)

Guest Cast

Mark Eden (Marco Polo), Derren Nesbitt (Tegana), Zienia Merton (Ping Cho), Martin Miller (Kublai Khan), Jimmy Gardner (Chenchu), Leslie Bates (Man at Lop), Michael Guest (Mongol Bandit), Charles Wade (Malik), Philip Voss (Acomat), Paul Carson (Ling-Tau), Gabor Baraker (Wang-Lo), Tutte Lemkow (Kuiju), Claire Davenport (Empress), Peter Lawrence (Vizier), Basil Tang (Foreman), O. Ikeda (Yeng)


Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Waris Hussein/John Crockett
Produced by Verity Lambert


The TARDIS lands in 1289 on the plateau of the Pamir. The time-travellers meet Marco Polo, a young Venetian emissary of Kublai Khan, who is on his way to Kublai’s court in Peking, accompanied by a Tartar war lord named Tegana, a peace ambassador from the rival Mongul ruler, and a Chinese girl called Ping-Cho. Marco Polo forces the Doctor to join his caravan – he wants to present the TARDIS to Kublai Khan in the hope he will be allowed to return to Venice. But Tegana also wants the TARDIS and attempts to steal the ship; hes tries to poison the party’s water supply and drills holes in their water barrels as they cross the Gobi desert, then escapes on the last horse. Because of the intense night cold, condensation forms on the TARDIS so they survive. The party arrive in Peking; the Doctor meets Kublai Khan and they play backgammon. The Doctor gambles the TARDIS and loses, but when he exposes Tegana and saves Kublai’s life the TARDIS’ key is return to him.


  1. This was the first true Doctor Who historical story.
  2. This was the first story to feature live animals (the Mongol horses).
  3. This was the first and only television story to feature a narrative and a NavMap tracking the journey of the main characters (although character voice-over narratives have been featured in part during other stories, such as The Deadly Assassin, Army of Ghosts,Doomsday, The Family of Blood, and Forest of the Dead).
  4. Many colour and black and white photographs of this story remain. Along with the soundtrack these were used by Loose Cannon Productions to make a reconstruction of this story. (see external links).
  5. The working title for this story was A Journey to Cathay.
  6. Episode 3 was made under the working title The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes and this name even appeared at the end of Episode 2.
  7. No footage of this story now exists having been lost in the purges of the 1970s.
  8. Although originally planned to be the third story in the series it was delayed, with that place being filled by The Edge of Destruction.
  9. Although Telesnaps of this story were made all of these were lost. However in 2004 telesnaps of episodes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 were found by Derek Handley in the private collection of Waris Hussein who directed these episodes. These telesnaps were reproduced in Doctor Who Magazine.
  10. Kuiju the mercenary bandit is never named in the story and is only included in closing credits.
  11. As Lance Parkin notes in A History of the Universe, some historians now question the veracity of Marco Polo’s accounts, particularly his friendship with Kublai Khan.
  12. John Lucarotti also wrote a Canadian TV series about Marco Polo.
  13. BBC Audio Marco Polo CD