Ḥashshāshīn’s Creed: Five Hundred Eyes

Tegana has reached the way station, and is enjoying all the water he can drink. Compared to the caravan’s plight in the middle of the brutal Gobi Desert, it seems even more cruel as the warlord gloats at Marco Polo’s predicament. And as he purposefully tips his container of water onto the ground, it seems clear that he has no intention of returning with help at all…

The Doctor uses his spare key to enter the TARDISI smoked marijuana once to see what it’s like. I didn’t have a bad experience—it made my skeleton feel cold (don’t ask), and I couldn’t get enough of those chocolate chocolate-chip cookies—but it really wasn’t for me, so I never did it again. Nevertheless, I think I can speak with authority that there’s a good reason it’s called getting stoned, and the last thing anyone wants to do while high is run around assassinating people.

The Book of Ser Marco Polo, a VenetianFrom an historical perspective, it’s likely that the so-called Ḥashshāshīn weren’t getting high on hashish and killing people, either.  This is an honest mistake, especially considering that John Lucarotti probably drew heavily from Yule’s 1875 translation of (the real) Marco Polo’s memoirs of his time in Asia while writing this serial.  Ping-Cho’s tale of the legendary exploits of the Ḥashshāshīn Aloadin, for example, is adapted from Polo’s account “concerning the Old Man of the Mountain.”  As far as I can tell, however, the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes is completely fictional, though Polo does mention the Mongol general Bayan of the Baarin, whom Polo knew as Bayan Chincsan or Bayan Hundred-Eyes.  The similarity is clearly more than a coincidence on Lucarotti’s part.

It also seems clear—at least in my mind—that the TARDIS, despite being powerless, is actively working on behalf of not only the time travelers, but for the rest of Marco’s caravan after Tegana sabotages the water supply and leaves them all to die, especially after the revelations of the previous serial.  Frankly, I’m no expert on dimensionally transcendental engineering, but I’m at a loss to explain how condensation could form on the walls of the Ship when the interior exists in a different dimension than the external police box.  It doesn’t really make sense, to be perfectly honest, unless Idris the sentient aspect of the Ship has allowed its interior to be affected by conditions outside for the benefit of the Doctor and everyone else.  OK—certainly Lucarotti had none of this in mind writing his script, but it’s nevertheless an interesting and compelling possibility.

The Doctor tells Ian of the spare TARDIS keyBarbara, for her part, has become far less apprehensive about being in the past, and is clearly allowing herself to relax to a certain degree and enjoy her experiences.  This may be because, as I mentioned previously, Marco Polo and his journey to China carries at least somewhat familiar (especially for a history teacher) when compared to the Tribe of Gum in the Upper Palaeolithic or the Daleks (and Thals) on Skaro.  In fact, she’s a little too relaxed and, considering her grave misgivings about Tegana and his motivations, more than a little reckless by following him to the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes—where she’s promptly captured by Tegana’s accomplices.

The Doctor uses a lamp to see the TARDIS' lockOf course, Marco is furious at her for going off on her own, and goes with Ian and Tegana to search for her, but it’s Ping-Cho who deduces that Barbara may have gone to the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, and goes with the Doctor and Susan to search for her.  The Doctor is fascinated by the bizarre paintings of the 250 Ḥashshāshīn who hid out in the cave more than twenty years ago, unaware that the bandits are mere inches away, hiding in secret chambers behind the walls.  And then—Susan lets out a piercing shriek: the eyes of the painted Ḥashshāshīn are moving…

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Daniel Lestarjette

Daniel is the owner and Managing Editor of Time and The – !. He's been a fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker regenerate into Peter Davison on his local PBS station as a kid. He launched Time and The – ! in 2011 after having the bright (?) idea to watch every Doctor Who story from the beginning and blog about it. (Yeah, he's way behind.)

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