Marco Polo (Netflix)

Looks very interesting - airs 12/12.

For anyone who cares, trailer is NSFW.


Fish out of water!

Looks like something from Starz.

I can’t tell if that’s a compliment or an insult!


I don’t really remember the last tv series I watched about Marco Polo featuring assassins, wars and the like?

I predict its utterly non-historical in its approach.

My recollection is that the historical consensus is that Marco Polo didn’t even get close to China – and perhaps no further than Iran (?) – so I suspect your prediction is an extremely safe bet!

I just saw the first episode of this. Its clear to me they want to play with music, lights, colors all mixed together to do great things, and thats always an interesting thing. Its quite…well, sensual I guess you could say, but it actually works quite well so far. There was some wonky graphics at one time, making the throne of Kublai Khan wobble weirdly, but other than that, I enjoyed the episode, and the GF and I will most certainly see more.

Watched a few episodes.

The themes are very similar to James Clavell’s Shogun - the level of historical accuracy is probably about the same (ie not really). The Kublai Khan, like Ieyatsu “Toronaga” is a cruel, but willy despot fascinated by the Westerner’s point of view.

The costumes are very pretty. I’m sad I haven’t seen horse archers like a Total War game yet - formations, maneuvers, kiting.

I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It’s a fun adventure series that just happens to include some historical figures. It itches that scratch that Spartacus’ absence has left with me, while not being as willfully stupid as Da Vinci’s Demons. Two thumbs up.

Isn’t the consensus on Marco Polo that he never even existed, that he was a fiction invented by a Venetian fantasy author? In which case the historical accuracy is sort of moot, isn’t it? Although I guess the series does feature actual historical figures, so maybe that’s what you meant.

But am I wrong about there being no reliable historical evidence that Marco Polo ever existed?


Wikipedia says he was a real person, and that there’s a significant possibility that he did make it as far as northern China. At the very least there are researchers named in references from that page who argue that.

You’re not wrong in saying that there’s a ton of healthy skepticism regarding whether or not Marco Polo was:

  1. a real person

  2. a real person who did the things credited to “Marco Polo”.

The first is probably true. There was probably a guy named or fitting the description of “Marco Polo” who traded east towards “the orient”. He probably didn’t make it very far.

The second is almost certainly utter fiction, at least as it relates to what we were taught in grade school about the exploits of Marco Polo.

So yeah. I think the show should best be approached as fun, historically based fiction where stuff can happen if it needs to in order to move the plot forward.

The cinematography on this show is fantastic. The huge budget really shows.

The politic intrigue is starting to kick in and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Khan’s court.

Ok, I finished it all.

It’s not just the level of accuracy I suppose, but there seems to be a lack of historical flavor. The costumes and sets are very well done, but we don’t see any of the wonders I assume Marco Polo would have seen - Paper money, transportation infrastructure, more of the interesting things an European would have found fascinating. In the show, Marco Polo is fascinated by pretty girls and gets taught Shaolin kung fu.

The amount of kung fu was annoying. Weapons, we use them for a reason.

Kublai Khan’s probably the most interesting character on the series.

I will tune in for next season.

spoiler after Ep10

The heir’s subplot is a bit annoying. I assume they are trying to say it’s jealousy for a father’s approval combined with xenophobic ideas from the uncle. Didn’t really buy it, and it was eye-rolling how in the end he wins his friendship and gets called brother.

So I just realized why the Empress looks so familiar. That’s Joan Chen. She’s still sexy as hell in her fifties.

I think it helps to be skeptical of any statement that begins with “Wikipedia says”. :)

The source for the story of Marco Polo is a story written by a Venetian guy who basically wrote fantasies. The story has crazy stuff about monsters, by the way, so you know to take it with a grain of salt. Furthermore, over the years, there have been various additions and versions and editions. It’s about as consistent and reliable a source for historicity as, say, the Gospels. Probably even less so considering it’s from a guy who also wrote King Arthur stories.

As for historical records – I’m basing this on a Nova documentary, interestingly enough also on Netflix! – there’s an inventory for a warehouse belonging to someone named Marco Polo in Venice from that time period, but there’s nothing on the inventory list that couldn’t have been bought locally. There’s no evidence this historical Marco Polo did anything of note. But the real daming lack of evidence is in China, where we would have definitely had historical references if he’d ruled his own city, which is part of the story, or rubbed elbows with so many people of note.

So, yeah, there was definitely someone named Marco Polo. But my understanding is that the only source we have for the Marco Polo saga we know is a work of obvious fiction without any historical records to back it up and a conspicious absense of historical records where we should have seen them (e.g. China).

This is what I’m curious about. What’s the evidence for that beyond this guy’s book and all the Venetian mythology that was later appended to it? Is there any?