The Making of Marco Polo
By Derek Handley


Part 5 - Map / Journal Entries





The map sequences were another source of debate. The camera scripts gave details of a few of the journal entries, but most simply said 'the parchment map'. Richard Landen described to me his memories of the maps from the original transmission of the story; few other people could remember them at all.

Dean and I had for some time been researching the route mentioned in these sequences and Dean had scanned maps of Asia so that we could get the relative positioning of the place names on the maps as accurate as possible. We had trouble finding a few of the places mentioned because the English translation and spelling variations of some of the Chinese towns tends to differ considerably, for example Tung-Huang is often spelt Dunhuang.

We had lengthy debates over the appearance and format of the map sequences. I recall at this time my wife was expecting my third son. To constructively pass the waiting time I would usually take copies of the camera script into the maternity ward. I was then able to telephone Dean to discuss how certain map sequences should be shot - a scenario which Dean found extremely amusing.

Dean was responsible for all the maps as they appear in the recon. He found a suitable 'parchment' texture for the background and traced out the places mentioned in each sequence and the course of any rivers in the vicinity. The addition of some clip art and scans from an ancient Chinese map gave these sequences an oriental feel. The inclusion of the 'Great Wall' artwork was particularly effective. Two slides were prepared for each entry - one blank version and one with the white line route. These were then imported in to the video editing software and a wipe effect applied which gave the impression of the line moving across the map. This was in line with Richard Landen's recollections of the map.






The BBC documentation for Marco Polo has a man called John Woodcock listed as a "double for Marco's hand" for film inserts for episodes 1-6. This implied that during transmission a hand must have been seen writing in the journal as well as the parchment map sequences. Dean actually managed to track down John Woodcock through the Society of Calligraphers and Illustrators. He has written several books on the art of calligraphy and has even drawn maps for other publications. He replied with a handwritten letter that was a work of art. He also told us that he remembered working on Doctor Who and had even drawn up the maps used for these sequences. He also said that this was his first piece of TV work but unfortunately he kept no copies of the material used. This was rather a pity because he did keep most of the work he did after this either as original artwork or at least a copy.

We decided that the journal entries on screen must have often included these filmed hand shots and so we filmed our own journal writing sequences for each entry to be used in conjunction with the animated map. Without access to experienced calligraphers we decided to use a suitable handwriting style font and to print out partial journal entries on textured yellowed paper. This gave the impression that the entries were in the process of being written. A suitable quill and ink prop was made up and we also ensured that the cuffs seen in shot were consistent with the costume being worn by Marco for that episode.

The camera script also detailed that several of the map entries had, superimposed over them, film footage of the Mongol bearers accompanying the TARDIS on a horse-drawn wagon. Fortunately there are numerous photos from these film inserts, so it was relatively easy to duplicate these effects.