A beginner’s guide to… Netflix drama Marco Polo

Netflix have spent big money on their new show Marco Polo, which the online video service will be premiering on 12 December. But what’s it all about and, more importantly, will it be any good?

Marco Polo was a famous explorer, wasn’t he?

He certainly was, in fact he was possibly the most famous explorer in the world until Christopher Columbus came along and discovered America!

Please tell me this isn’t a documentary …

Fear not, this is a historical drama series based on the explorer’s adventures in 13th century China and focuses on his time at the court of Kubla Khan. If the trailer – check it out below – is anything to go by then the series will be filled with a whole lot of sex, blood and adventure…

It sounds full on!

Indeed. People are already comparing it to Game of Thrones and with Netflix rumoured to have paid a whopping US$90m for the 10-part series, it should be pretty spectacular. Take a look!


That’s a lot of cash. Is anyone famous in it?

Let’s put it like this: Netflix have spent the money on creating a spectacle rather than on big-name stars. In fact, Marco Polo is played by an Italian newcomer Lorenzo Richelmy (pictured), who’s never even had a major English-language role before!

All that money went on the set? It must be massive?

Yes it’s something to behold. The studio itself is 50 acres and a crew of 400 spent months creating Kublai Khan’s 13th century capital and costume makers worked around the clock to produce hundreds of silken gowns and robes, heavy furs and suits of armour.

But did Marco Polo actually make it to China? 

He did. In fact the Venetian spent 17 years in China and the first series of the show will tell only the beginning of his coming of age of the Mongols, which includes his three-year journey from Venice to war-torn Khanbulik (modern day Beijing).

So there’s going to be a second series?

Netflix will wait to see how the show is received before announcing, but it looks likely. The streaming service have recommissioned all their original content for further series so far.

Netflix are on a bit of a roll at the moment, aren’t they?

You could say that. Political thriller House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey, will return for a third series next year after scooping a host of awards, while prison comedy Orange Is The New Black is also back for a third run in 2015.

So we might be seeing more of Marco Polo’s adventures then?

Well, the writers certainly won’t be short of material. When the explorer returned home and wrote about his experiences, his tales were so fantastic that few people believed him. On his deathbed many years later he was urged to confess to telling fibs, but he replied: “I haven’t told half of what I saw.”

That’s a major claim…

It is and writer John Fusco has upped expectations by saying the show’s mantra on the wall of the writing room is “We are not only telling the half Marco did write about, we are also telling the half he might have seen!”

Marco Polo premieres on Netflix on Friday, December 12