The Making of Marco Polo
By Derek Handley

 
 

Part 7 - Extra Material

 

 

The sandstorm sequences in episode 2 were real problematic scenes. The type of effect we were trying to simulate can be seen at the end of 'The Executioners' (the first episode of 'The Chase'), where the Doctor and Barbara are caught in a sandstorm on Aridius. Still pictures simply couldn't convey the right effect - they just looked grainy. Other types of 'wind effect' software filters were tried in the video editing software, but these just looked too artificial. After months of searching we could not find any films featuring sandstorms that had clear enough sequences to use and which ran for long enough to use as a sandstorm effect. In the end we decided to film our own sandstorm effect. This was achieved by filling a large box with sawdust and filming it being blown about with a hair dryer. Apparently this is not unlike the way the original sandstorm had been filmed using sawdust and a wind machine in the studio. To get the right effect we had to film in a dark room with a light positioned so that only the sawdust was illuminated. This footage was then overlaid on the still pictures of Susan and Ping-Cho. Although not ideal this final effect was far better than anything else we had.

 

 


Within each scene I tried hard to keep the costumes worn by the actors true to the original production. The costumes worn by many of the characters change between episodes. This was especially true for Marco, who wore 4 different costumes (plus a cloak and hat) throughout the story. Even Kublai Khan wore a different costume in episode 7 compared to that which he wore in episode 6!

For extra variety I used a number of screen grabs and photos of the Doctor and the companions from different stories. These were colourised as appropriate and really helped in the episodes for which there were very few 'real' photos. As this was the first colour recon it seemed a good opportunity to use other colour Dr Who photos too. I ploughed through my photo collection looking for colour photographs that could potentially be used. There are a few of these dispersed throughout the recon.

 


 


There were only a few characters for which we had no pictures, most notably Malik and Acomat.

Malik, played by actor Charles Wade, appears as the old Mongol that shows Tegana into the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes. However, Mr Wade has a very limited filmography, which only includes one other film plus an early Avengers episode (which ironically is also missing). Dean eventually tracked down a copy of the film from a film collectors club in the US and had it shipped to the UK. As always, searching for actor likenesses can be a risky business. It can work out quite expensive to have tapes shipped over from other countries only to find that the actor can hardly been seen. Luckily there were some very useful close ups of Mr Wade and we were then able to get some screen grabs of him to allow us to use the correct face on a composite photo for the part.


 
Acomat is Tegana's Mongol ally that plots with Tegana to attack Marco's caravan. He was played by actor Philip Voss and despite being in three episodes of Marco Polo, there are no known photos in existence of him in character. Philip Voss does appear in 'The Dominators', but the quality of the Dominators video meant that we couldn't get clear enough screen captures of him from this story. After another search of available material from his filmography we found film he had appeared in during the 60's to get pictures of him.


 
The last actor's likeness to be found was that of Michael Guest who has a minor speaking role as a Mongol bandit. Although he has appeared in several Dr Who stories we had trouble finding a clear likeness of him. In the end we managed to obtain a tape of one of his other TV roles and were able to capture his likeness. We could have probably got away with using a substitute actor for this part but as with most of our recent recons wherever possible we strive to obtain correct visual references of the actors involved. For use in the composite images these characters were found suitable bodies from a variety of sources.

 

 

 

 


After many months of searching for appropriate pictures or footage, there were still a few sequences that we couldn't find any suitable pictures for: Ian cutting his way out of the tent with a broken plate; the characters collecting bundles of bamboo just before the bandit attack; the goldfish at Cheng-Ting; the Mongol's dice game that is played in the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes; Marco's ornate chess pieces; the backgammon board that the Doctor and the Khan play; the TARDIS key being hidden in Marco's journal and, of course, the shots showing Marco writing in his journal. These all had to be specially filmed. Dean was mostly responsible for arranging these sequences. The chess pieces were probably the most difficult to do. Research had showed that 13th century chess pieces were quite unlike the conventional shaped pieces found today. We guessed that the chess pieces must have been quite ornate as Barbara refers to them in the dialogue. Obtaining elaborate enough looking chess pieces was going to be very tricky without spending huge amounts of money. In the end, Dean found some collectable chess pieces advertised on the Internet, printed off pictures of them and made up three-dimensional cardboard pieces to film. This seemed to work adequately for these sequences. Amusingly, the shots of the bundles of bamboo being carried to the fire were made up of composites which included camcorder screen captures of Dean holding bamboo at a local garden centre.