This historical adventure has a reputation for being one of the best stories in the show's hsitory. Sadly, very sadly, all seven episodes have been lost. There was a recent buzz of excitement because someone found a lead to Thailand, but no joy so far.
Fandom has been very good at finding lost episodes; but as the years pass, the chances of finding others grow more unlikely. Needless to say, if you know the whereabouts of any lost episodes, the BBC would be very happy to hear from you so that they can be returned to the archive and the restoration team can work on the tapes. (And, no doubt, so the BBC can sell DVDs at £20 a shout...!)
This is one of the stories where those who didn't see it have to rely on pictures and the surviving audio, used in reconstructions, to write a review.
The TARDIS lands on the plateau of Pamir. Here the crew meet Marco Polo, who is on his way to Kublai Khan. Marco is intrigued by the caravan that can fly and wants to present the TARDIS as a gift to Khan. The Doctor and companions are not allowed to enter the ship and must join the Polo caravan. Also on the caravan are Tegana, a Mogul sent - supposedly - on a peace mission to Kublai Khan, and Ping-cho who is a teenage girl who is to meet her coming husband in Beijing. Tegana is the villain of the piece as he, too, wants the TARDIS for his master, tries to kill the caravan as they cross the Gobi desert (tampering with the water supply) and also attempts to assassinate Kublai Khan. The Doctor saves them in the Gobi because water condensates on the TARDIS and he eventually exposes Tegana, whereupon the time travellers are allowed to leave.
There are many great features to this story. The coloured photos show just how exquisite the costumes were. (The Beeb's costume department really does deserve its great reputation.) The story's parts are linked by a map showing the course of the caravan's journey, accompanied by a diary narrative overlay by Marco Polo, played well by Mark Eden; the journey is an epic one as they face many dangers (assassins, for example) from their start in Pamir and their finish in Beijing. Susan and Ping-cho develop a close and sweet friendship; whilst the Doctor gets on well, but contrives to lose the TARDIS playing backgammon, with Kublai Khan. Hartnell has a laughing fit during a scene from episode one which is infectious for the listener. The incidental music is good and has a sufficiently oriental feel to it, whilst the dialogue seeks as best it can to give a taste for 13th Century China. ******