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Animating Doctor Who: Why Marco Polo Should be the Next Animated Missing Story

The BBC occasionally has a good idea here and there. Committing to animating some of the 1960s missing episodes of Doctor Who is one of them. 

They started out small, animating certain missing episodes to compliment the existing ones of certain stories.

The Invasion. The Ice Warriors. Reign of Terror. The Tenth Planet. The Moonbase. This enabled them to get these “completed” stories out on DVD. Okay, fair enough.

Then, for whatever reasons, they leveled up. They animated the never transmitted Shada from the Tom Baker era.

They began targeting completely missing stories to animate. All six parts of The Power of the Daleks, Patrick Troughton’s first adventure, animated in both colour and black and white. This was quite a leap in budget and commitment, going all or nothing. But factions within BBC Worldwide that included BBC America probably wanted more Doctor Who stories both complete and available in colour. The Macra Terror, Fury from the Deep, and even more telling, all six parts of The Faceless Ones, even though two episodes exist on film! This was a huge turnaround — the BBC animating something they don’t have to?!

It does make sense from a financial perspective, that it’s worth the extra money to go the extra mile. And it’s even better for DVD sales.

It’s in this spirit that I feel I have to once again pledge my devotion to the notion of animating Marco Polo.

Yes, it’s seven parts. Yes, animators and budgets are screaming that it’s too much work and cost prohibitive to animate so many characters in period piece costumes. But hold on. 

I’m not just suggesting that you spend a lot of money on animating the seven parts in both colour and black and white. You’ve already been doing that. 

No, I’m suggesting you spend a lot more money doing even more than that. 

Bring back Waris Hussein, the original director — who still seems to be active in the industry. Have him participate.

Waris directed both the first story, An Unearthly Child, and Marco Polo. And he usually had to do so under less than favourable conditions and circumstances. 

Originally, my idea was that he come back and, in looking over the production stills, sets, listening to the existing audio track, he might have some fun reimagining certain camera shots, angles, etc. – a slightly different vision, enabled by the freedom of animation.

Remember, back then, directors had almost no budget, nothing to work with, yet quite often still managed to wow the audience with their ingenuity. Waris, especially. This would be an opportunity to let Mr. Hussein have the fun he was perhaps denied before. 

And lest we forget, this was a story as told from Polo’s point of view, narrating the adventure as he wrote in his journal, and we were even treated to map graphics showing the progress on their long journey. This was not only a well written story; it was unique and inventive. 

This reimagining of the story would be an event. Being able to see Marco Polo in all its glory. 

And beyond that, even more options. Yes, you’d have the standard adventure in seven parts, in both colour and black and white. But I think there’d be an opportunity for Waris to cut together a complete movie version of the serial. No, not one of those annoying cut down versions to save time. Bah.

No, though some padding would be cut out, an interesting option be Waris presenting it as a movie in its own right. It still might two hours or more, just without unnecessary bits and cliffhanger gaps.

And, I think if these suggestions find their way to the BBC, the long term financial benefits would become clear.

Firstly, you’d have the event and publicity: this story once again coming to life with the return of Waris Hussein. 

You’d have the DVD and Blu-ray sales with this adventure. I know I (and many others) would buy it.

Then, you’d also have the entirety of William Hartnell’s first season to solicit for sale on Blu-ray. Again, I and many others would buy Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 1 as well. 

So yes, the down side would be the animation team charging extra for animating the extras, the costumes, and the animals. But…

Worth it though, don’t you think?

Rick Lundeen

Animating Doctor Who: Why Marco Polo Should be the Next Animated Missing Story

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 3 min
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