Saturday 18 September 2010

The Gunfighters

The First Doctor, Steven and Dodo get mixed up in the gunfight at the OK Corral.

This story has a really bad reputation among fans for some reason. When I viewed it, I was preparing for the worst. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps because I quite like westerns or just because I like Doctor Who stories that are light, camp and fun.

I understand 'The Gunfighters' has the remarkable honour of being the first western ever made in Britain. This is probably not surprising as it makes a lot of sense to leave the Yanks to do what they are good at. By the time The Gunfighters was made, the public were getting a little tired of westerns and so the story opts to send up the genre. Hence, we are treated to some hilarious comedy. I think it is much more successful as a comedy story than The Romans, which was a little too daft in places, while in other places being very grim and quite serious.

As might be expected in a British western, the attempt to recreate a western town in a studio leaves a little to be desired. Nevertheless, the production team did their best and gave us a set that is certainly adequate. Unfortunately, most of the American accents on offer are even less successful, but this is Doctor Who.

One odd feature that makes this story stand out is a rather catchy ballad that is sung throughout the serial and provides a sort of running commentary on the action. I think this is quite cute and oddly nostalgic (though it is not a typical feature of westerns).

Hartnell puts in a fantastic performance in a period when his health was declining and he was getting rather lacklustre. Peter Purves also gives a great performance as Steven. Even the much unloved Dodo is reasonably good in this story. The guest cast are rather a mixed bunch; Anthony Jacobs is certainly very good as Doc Holliday.

I think the Doctor's choice of 'Regret'as a psudonym for Steven the 'singer' is fantastic.

Of course, there are plenty of things in the story that make no sense, for instance the fact that it is so obvious that the Doctor is a dental patient and not the dentist. Particularly strange is the Doctor's attempt to prevent the shoot-out. If he knows it happens, why is he trying to change history? Perhaps he has grown weary of watching dreadful historical events unfold and feels like making an hopeless, but well meant attempt.

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