‘This is the Plain of Pamir, known to those who travel to Cathay as the Roof of the World.’
Marco Polo (1964) was broadcast during an era of cultural change, reshaping television’s role as historian, and locating the reader, not the author, at the centre of interpretation. This is crucial given how the fourth serial recruits the viewer as a fellow traveller in Marco’s caravan.
The epic journey is staged through camera-treatments and mobility, adaptive and remedial interventions, public and book history, cultural assumptions and memories. Rather than the solitary authorial figure of Marco, this book celebrates the collaborators, copyists, studio personnel and fans, whose community storytelling is in the philosophical spirit of Doctor Who.
The author investigates several threads while keeping to the rhythm of the travelogue, exploiting how the exhaustive televisual experience inverts the trope of time travel. His book is itself a wayfaring reflection on how we travel through media and memory in reconstructing this most famous and earliest of missing stories.
Dene October is editor of Doctor Who and History and is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Arts, London. He is in the possibly unique position of having seen Marco Polo not once, but twice, on broadcast.