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This page is for discussing the ways in which Marco Polo doesn't fit well with other DWU narratives. You can also talk about the plot holes that render its own, internal narrative confusing.

Remember, this is a forum, so civil discussion is encouraged. However, please do not sign your posts. Also, keep all posts about the same continuity error under the same bullet point. You can add a new point by typing:

* This is point one.
::This is a counter-argument to point one.
:::This is a counter-argument to the counter-argument above
* This is point two.
::Explanation of point two.
::Further discussion and query of point two.

... and so on. 
  • Marco Polo was not a lone European traveler. Specifically, his travels were almost always family ones, and certainly would have been in 1289. No explanation is provided for why Marco's father Niccolo Polo and uncle Maffeo Polo, whom he mentions in the first episode, are not present during this journey.
Historical accounts may have gotten this fact wrong, as they often do.
With specific regards to Marco Polo, most of what we know about him comes from an account he dictated to another prisoner in a Genoese prison, and the earliest surviving copy comes from fifty years after that. All sorts of inaccuracies could have crept in through errors in transcription, translation, and Marco's own recollection.
Also, the Whoniverse is not our universe, just a very similar-looking one. Historical accounts may be right about our universe, but not theirs—or the historical accounts may be right in both universes, but not the same accounts.
While this historical information is interesting, historical "inaccuracies" can never be considered as discontinuities. Right from the very first episode, when reading a book on the French Revolution, Susan comments: "but that's not right". Basically Dr Who sets a framework in which "our historical records" can in some cases simply be "wrong"!
  • The name Peking is an anachronism and the city should properly have been referred to as Khan-balik. Furthermore, had the title of episode 7 been "Assassin at Cambuluc", it would have been an accurate nod to the way that Marco Polo was known to have spelled the name of the city.
Of course, use of the Mongol name, or its Polo variant, would have likely confused all but the tiniest fraction of the viewing audience. "Peking" was undoubtedly used simply for the audience's benefit. The TARDIS translates for the Doctor and companions, and very likely would have translated the city into an English variant that Barbara and Ian would have recognised (i.e., Peking).
Why, then, is "Cathay" not called "China" in the story?
It's pretty obvious that the writers chose to stick to familiar terms for the benefit of the viewing audience, but that isn't an error, since the TARDIS would have every reason to do the exact same thing for the companions. Most English people in 1963 knew the name 'Cathay' for China, but most did not know the word 'Khan-balik', so from both an out-of-universe and an in-universe perspective, it makes sense to use 'Cathay' but 'Peking'.
The tardis always has been a bit faulty.
  • The distance from Shang-Tu to Peking is a not inconsiderable 250km. It is extremely unlikely the distance could have been covered in the time allowed in Episode 7.
Not necessarily impossible though. They made good time.
In itself, this isn't really an error. The word "backgammon" only dates to the 17th century. Khan's confusion over the term is understandable. It's more of an error that Marco Polo calls the game "backgammon" and seems totally familiar with it. In truth, the anachronism of backgammon in this episode would have been alleviated by calling the game "nard", a Persian variant which dates to the 6th century. It's probably the only thing resembling backgammon that could possibly have travelled to Khan-balik by the 13th century. As with the use of the name "Peking", though, "backgammon" is almost certainly used here for the benefit of the audience - and again attributable to the TARDIS translation circuit.
  • William Hartnell has an odd hysterical fit in episode one, laughing his head off for a full minute at all the troubles that have befallen the travellers.
The Doctor's reactions are often unexpected or unusual compared to those of humans. He obviously found something about their predicament particularly amusing.
  • In 1289, Polo was anxious to leave China against Kublai's wishes, so what's he doing on the Pamir Plateau?
Historical accounts may have gotten this fact wrong, as they often do.
  • Not necesessarily a plot hole, it is more of a question. In episode 2, where does Tegana go? I assumed he went to see the man who gave him the poison, but why meet him if he hadn't poisoned the water yet? What was his plan?
At the start of The Singing Sands, Tegana's strategy- as set out to his poison supplier at the end of the previous instalment, is straightforward enough; poison all but the first of Marco Polo's water gourds, so that he can safely ride out with them into the Gobi desert, then quietly leave the caravan and wait for them to start on the next water gourd and die of poisoning. Thus, he had already poisoned the water at the point in the episode when he heads out into the desert- but then the sandstorm intervenes and he's forced to return to the caravan to shelter. He's fortunate in that he finds the absconded Ping-Cho and Susan and all the fuss over their rescue somewhat distracts Polo from pressing the question too hard of just what Tegana was doing, but, nevertheless, he is now stuck with a caravan who will be starting on a ration of poisoned water in a couple of days- hence him weighing the vial of poison in his hands in a worried way after Polo blocks his attempt to sneak off again the next night. He then goes with the new plan of emptying the water into the desert, both saving himself (and the rest of the caravan) from drinking it, and concealing the evidence that it was poisoned, and trying to use this to arrange another way to get the caravan to turn back to Lop.
  • We’ve seen the TARDIS has a machine that vends food and water, so why don’t they just grab some when the whole caravan is going thirsty in episode 2?
The Doctor actually specifically notes in The Roof of the World, apropos of the broken 2LO "And added to that it affected the water; we haven't got any."
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