Doctor Who and the Never Ending Story
The writers of Doctor Who and History focus on a different aspect of history as it expressed thematically in the show. Dene October looks at the programme’s depiction of thirteenth century explorer, Marco Polo.
Marco Polo is in the fourth serial of the show, and not only the first historical proper, it is sadly the first ‘lost’ story. Dene explores the decision to present the story of the Doctor and his companions, whose characters we as viewers are still learning about, through the observation and narrative focus of the renowned Venetian explorer.
“That decision has implications not only for how the camera treats its subjects, but also for the how the travelogue situates the audience as fellow travellers and historians,” he says.
The serial’s quirky narrative style also mirrors the Polo’s journey across Asia.
“The stories have always reflected the odd process of re-writing Marco’s recollections, firstly in the hand of his co-writer Rustichello de Pisa, and subsequently re-written by editors of countless publishing cultures”.
“There is great debate about Rustichello’s contribution to the book we know of as Marco Polo’s Travels. His skill as a stylist complimented Marco’s knowledge of the world, so what we do have is clear evidence of an unusual and uneven writing style. This effects the depiction of Marco, the character. One moment he is right there, leading the reader into a town, or becoming excited about the sexual proclivities of its inhabitants. Then, suddenly, there is a switch from the intimacy of first person account into a much drier narrative, where we meet a third person Marco”.
Even John Lucarotti’s version for Doctor Who is just one in a long tradition of retelling the tales. He wrote his radio drama for the Canada Broadcasting Corporation in 1955.
“Lucarotti adapted from his own adaptation for CBC, added historical research, and read one of several editions of Marco Polo’s Travels – the exact edition is a subject of speculation – which are all cultural translations that promote specific interpretations. When you add in designer Barry Newbery’s visual research, you end up one of so many versions of Marco’s story.”
The Doctor Who tapes are missing for this serial.
“The story is missing, but even that isn’t the end of the story,” Dene says. “On the contrary, losing the original has been the spark to an amazing burst of creativity from fans who are ever using the latest media and technology to reconstruct the story.”
“There’s something special about Marco’s story. It’s generative. It hooks the reader not just as a fellow traveller on the journey, but intrigues them enough to repeat the story, with personal touches.”
“Like Doctor Who, Marco’s Travels are always familiar, yet strangely different”.
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ABOUT DOCTOR WHO AND HISTORY
When Sydney Newman conceived the idea for Doctor Who in 1963, he envisioned a show that would entertain as well as educate. Historical adventures were part of his vision-the Doctor and his companions would visit and observe, but not interfere with, events in history. That plan was dropped early on. Not only has the Doctor happily meddled with historical events for decades, his adventures-on television, in films, novels, comics, books and games-reflect how we regard our own place in history. This collection of new essays examines how the Doctor engages with history and inspires reflections upon it history. Topics includes reconstruction of lost historical serials, reflections on Britain’s colonial past, the subversion of nostalgia for village life, the depiction of Norse myths, alternate history, and the impact of historical decisions on the present.
|Number of Pages||193|
|Author||Fleiner, Carey, October, Dene|
|Publisher||McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers|
|Publication Date||August, 2017|