Written by John Lucarotti
From the Back: The young Venetian Marco Polo is on his way to the Emperor’s court in Peking when he meets the intrepid time-travellers, for the TARDIS has landed on Earth in the year 1289.
Marco Polo recognises in the TARDIS a means of winning favour with the Emperor. But in the end the Doctor has no one but himself to blame for the loss of his wondrous travelling machine – which he gambles away to Kublai Khan…
Opening Line: “‘It’s freezing cold outside,’ Susan said, looking at the external temperature thermometer in the TARDIS, ‘minus twenty.’”
I make no attempt to hide that I love the televised version of Marco Polo, well, the audio that exists of it. So obviously, my standards were high going in to this novelization. Thankfully, Lucarotti adapted his own material, and he did so exceptionally.
This novelization was written in 1985, a full 21 years after the final episode of the serial aired. I’m not sure how much Lucarotti drew from his script or memory, but he does an excellent job of adapting it. Yes, there are a few changes, in particular the ending in which Tegana is shot by arrow rather than engaging in combat with Polo. Some of the changes work better than others and I think I prefer the combat from the serial to the quick dispatching of Tegana. But the relationship between Ping-Cho and Ling-Tau is more believable and satisfying. In fact, because many of these changes work well, I think I prefer the novel to the TV version.
This is yet another great historical adventure. Lucarotti provides plenty of details and flavors of Cathay. The novel flows quickly, as many of the TARGET books do, and is a wonderful way to enjoy this lost story. In fact, it was this novel that really gave me a glimpse into how important the TARGET books were to children. I felt like a child again as I read this. I wonder if my nieces and nephew would be interested in a copy once they are old enough to read . . . .
Final Verdict: Do I really have to repeat it? I loved it. Recommended for a warm, sunny day.
A Misery Shared: “‘What a burden old age is,’ Kublai sighed.
‘A trial to be borne with dignity, Sire,’ the Doctor observed.
‘You are right, our friend. With dignity,’ Kublai replied and with little ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’ and ‘ouches’, the two of them hobbled out of the throne room.”