016 – The Five Hundred Eyes

In which Barbara begins to suspect Tegana and Ping-Cho tells a story

All I have to do is divine it from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own cup or his enemies. Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach or what he is given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known that I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

“Young man, you have no concept of what is happening, have you? And you still don’t seem to realise that you’re speaking to a man of superior intellect”

One of the narrative devices used in this story is Marco’s diary.  As our characters traverse the Silk Road, Marco Polo narrates via his diary so we are able to skip large chunks of travel as well as convey large passages of time.  It also serves to give flavor to Cathay in the 1200s.  It is an interesting change of pace (quite literally in some ways) from the previous stories which were rather straight forward from a narrative standpoint.  When Lucarotti later adapts Marco Polo for Target’s Doctor Who novelization line, these passages become part of the narrative voice.

Another interesting narrative device, one that is often used in epics where large portions of the story are spent traveling, is storytelling.  Canterbury Tales uses storytelling, as does The Lord of the Rings and the more contemporary Hyperion novel by Dan Simmons. In this case, Ping-Cho tells the story of Hulagu and the Hashashins.  This story is an epic poem describing the drugging of bandits to serve a warlord, and their eventual defeat at the hands of the Mongul Hulagu.  In modern television, a scene such as this would probably be rejected for time and streamlining, but here it adds a great amount of detail and background.  The action in the later part of the story takes place in The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, the place where The Hashashins camped and were defeated, a cave that is now thought to be inhabited by the spirits of the dead.  It is the ideal place for Tegana to plot with co-conspirators, and the perfect place for Barbara to be captured.  And what better way to have a cliffhanger than our characters to see the moving eyes in a rock carving of a Hashashin.

Yes, Tegana is still plotting to steal the TARDIS, having seen his water plan fail.  He was beaten by condensation, of all things.  Water droplets began to condense on the interior walls of the TARDIS, and The Doctor and Susan collected the water and shared it with the rest of the caravan.  Tegana wove a tale of bandits camping at the oasis to cover his delay.  Barbara begins to suspect him at this point.  The desert night was bitterly cold, and if there were bandits at the oasis, why is there no evidence of campfire?  But the party must journey onward, arriving at a way station at Tun-Huang.  There we get Ping-Cho’s story, and see Tegana’s next plan–an all out attack scheduled for the next leg of the journey.  While Barbara doesn’t overhear the plan, she did follow Tegana into the cave and is captured by the other Monguls. Another plan, about to be thwarted.  Let’s see how Tegana gets out of this one.

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