a real world point of view
|Novelised as:||The Gunfighters|
|Main enemy:||Johnny Ringo|
|Main setting:||Tombstone, USA, 1881|
|Number of episodes:||4|
|Premiere broadcast:||30 April - 21 May 1966|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Celestial Toymaker||The Savages|
The Gunfighters was the eighth story of Season 3 of Doctor Who. It was Doctor Who's first attempt at a western, and, indeed, the first story in any medium principally set in the United States — though the First Doctor had briefly visited New York City in The Chase. William Hartnell would later claim that the Wild West setting was his idea, a statement which was confirmed on the DVD bonus features.
The story gave director Rex Tucker his first on-screen credit, despite his heavy involvement in the formative weeks of Doctor Who's pre-production in 1963, before Verity Lambert was hired. It was also the first televised story to have a song written especially for it. The next story to have an original song wouldn't come until The King's Demons almost twenty years later. Conversely, its final episode, "The O. K. Corral", was the last individually-titled episode, discounting charity events, until Rose. Both conditions — titled episodes and original songs — would become more commonplace in the BBC Wales era.
The Gunfighters was notable for its casting, both proposed and actual. The role of Johnny Ringo was offered to veteran actor Patrick Troughton, but he was too busy. Had he accepted, Doctor Who history might have turned out quite differently. Anthony Jacobs, who played Doc Holliday, was the father of Matthew Jacobs, and he brought Matthew onto the set. The younger Jacobs would later write the 1996 telemovie, somewhat muddying the common fan argument that the Paul McGann movie was the "American" version of Doctor Who.
Despite its many notable factors, the serial was one of the worst-received in the series' history. Its poor ratings and low audience appreciation figures strengthened Innes Lloyd's argument that historical stories should be axed. Indeed, it was the final historical to prominently use "celebrity" historical figures until 2005's The Unquiet Dead.
A Holiday for the Doctor (1) Edit
Having eaten one of Cyril's sweets, the Doctor gets a toothache. The TARDIS lands and Steven and Dodo are overjoyed to be in the "wild west". They meet the local marshal, Wyatt Earp, who introduces them to the sheriff, Bat Masterson.
Meanwhile, the Clantons (Ike, Phineas, and Billy) meet Seth Harper in the Last Chance Saloon. They are hunting Doc Holliday to kill him. The singer, Kate Fisher, goes to warn Doc, who has just set up as a dentist. The Doctor visits him and has his tooth removed.
Steven and Dodo visit the Last Chance Saloon and the Clantons and Seth overhear them mentioning "the Doc", whom they take to be Holliday. Steven and Dodo book rooms for themselves and the Doctor, leaving his key with Charlie, the bartender. Seth goes to Holliday's dentistry and meets the Doctor, telling him to go to the Last Chance Saloon. Seeing a chance to escape his hunters, Holliday gives the Doctor some of his possessions, notably a gun with his name engraved upon it.
Seth returns to the bar and the Clantons force Steven and Dodo to perform a song. Dodo plays the piano while Steven sings "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon". The Clantons and Seth ready themselves to shoot Holliday as he come through the door. Outside, the Doctor approaches the Last Chance Saloon.
Don't Shoot the Pianist (2) Edit
Steven and Dodo continue to play the piano. Kate returns and sings while Steven plays. Dodo exits to her room. The Doctor enters and, through a number of misunderstandings, is believed to be Holliday. The Doctor realises their mistake and tries to explain. Holliday enters the Saloon through a back door and stands on the stair case, listening to the proceedings. The Doctor fails to convince them and accidentally fires his gun, knocking Harper's gun from his hand. Together, the Doctor and Kate threaten the other with a gun each. Hearing the shot, Dodo comes down to investigate but meets Holliday, who threatens her and escorts her back to her room.
Wyatt Earp and Masterson enter and try to find out what has happened. They arrest the Doctor and lead him from the saloon. Once they have gone, the Clantons and Harper move in on Steven. In her room, Dodo is being detained by Holliday; Kate joins them.
The Doctor has been locked in a gaol, with Earp suggesting that it is a safer with his status as a wanted man. Masterson agrees with the ploy; having the Doctor in prison means that the Clantons and Harper will think Holliday is locked up. Earp goes out to find the real Holliday.
In the saloon, Steven tries to convince the others of the Doctor's innocence. Upstairs, Doc is thirsty and Kate reminds him he left a bottle in his dentistry. He leaves through the back entrance and returns there. Earp is there and asks him to leave town. Earp will tell the Clantons the truth tomorrow morning. He explains that Pa Clanton and his sons are rustlers.
In the saloon, the Clantons and Harper tell Steven to pass a gun through the gaol-house window to the Doctor with which he can force his way out. They'll wait outside to "welcome him back to society". Steven agrees. Phineas follows him, just in case he makes a run for it with "Holliday".
Dodo asks Kate if she really intends to marry Holliday, an outlaw. Kate replies that she has met many outlaws and that Holliday is the best of the lot, "a real gentleman". Holliday arrives and tells Kate that they have to leave. Earp is gunning for him and he doesn't want to kill a friend.
Steven gives the Doctor the gun through a window, telling him that the Clantons still think he's Holliday. Once he has gone, the Doctor hands the gun to Earp, asking him to meet Steven outside in his stead and to tell him he wants to remain in gaol.
In the saloon, the Clantons incite the locals to violence, telling them to break "Holliday" out of gaol and hang him from the nearest tree. Phineas brings Steven in and they tie him up, planning to threaten his life so that Holliday leaves the gaol. From an upstairs window, Kate, Doc, and Dodo watch the mob pass with Steven and Holliday's operating chair. Doc makes his way downstairs and Kate calls after him. Hearing the name "Doc", Harper enquires if he is Holliday. He says yes and draws his gun faster than Harper, shooting his opponent. Harper falls, injured. Doc tells Kate to ready three horses, planning to take Dodo with them when they leave. Dodo resists, but finally complies and they leave the saloon.
The Doctor is released from gaol and the mob gathers outside. The Clantons announce that they want "Holliday" within two minutes, or Steven will be hanged.
Johnny Ringo (3) Edit
The Doctor tries to leave but Masterson holds him. The mob prepares a rope to hang Steven with. Earp leaves and circles around to the back of the mob. Just as they're attaching the noose, Earp attacks, knocking Phineas out. He frees Steven. Realising they're caught in the crossfire of Earp and Masterson, the mob disperses.
The bartender, Charlie, arrives and tells the Clantons that Harper is dead, shot by Holliday in the saloon. The Clantons confront Earp, who admits he knew the Doctor wasn't Holliday. Earp threatens them until they leave. Charlie, Earp, Masterson and Steven carry the unconscious Phineas into the gaol. The Doctor announces his intention to leave in the morning.
In the saloon, Pa Clanton tells his sons that he wants to hire Johnny Ringo to help them fight Earp. His sons protest but he does not think they are capable. They leave. Steven and the Doctor return to the saloon and Charlie tells them that Dodo left with Holliday. The Doctor claims that Holliday is his friend, recalling how he removed his tooth. They then retire to their rooms.
Doc, Kate and Dodo find a place to sleep but Kate wants to continue as they are still near Tombstone. As Doc leaves to get food, they hear gunfire and he returns. He ran into an old friend who has now "lost his appetite".
Meanwhile, Ringo enters the saloon and talks to Charlie. The barman tells him that the Clantons want help dealing with Earp but Ringo already has a target, Doc Holliday. Charlie tells him that they're also after Doc but Ringo wants to kill him on his own. Charlie promises that he wont tell anyone. Ringo agrees and shoots him dead.
In the morning, Dodo asks Doc if he is going to return her to the Doctor today. He says no. Angered, Dodo takes his gun and threatens him. Doc agrees to take her home and asks Kate to stay. Realising Doc had a gun and was about to shoot her, Dodo faints.
Steven and the Doctor find the dead Charlie. The Doctor asks Ringo to wait in the bar for Earp but he claims that only Holliday would shoot an unarmed barman. Steven tells Ringo they want to get Dodo back from Holliday and the Doctor denies any intention to kill him. Ringo invites the Doctor and Steven to ride with him after Doc and they agree.
The Doctor visits the gaol and tells Earp that Steven has gone after Holliday with Ringo. He points out that photos of Ringo are all over the gaol on wanted posters. Ringo and Steven search for Holliday at the saloon where he stayed. Ringo finds Kate, a former girlfriend of his. She lies, telling him Holliday was headed for New Mexico. Ringo tells Kate that he's taking her back to Tombstone. She refuses but he threatens her.
In the gaol, Phineas taunts the young Warren Earp, who has been left to guard him. Ike and Billy Clanton enter and threaten him into opening the cell. Warren tries to grab his gun. Billy shoots him dead. They free Phineas and leave.
The O.K. Corral (4) Edit
In the saloon, Masterson, Earp and the Doctor cover Charlie's body. Earp and Masterson work out that Ringo killed him. Earp deputises the Doctor, giving him and a badge and a gun. Virgil Earp enters and offers his support in the fight against the Clantons. Masterson and the Earps leave. The Doctor remains in the saloon.
The Clantons return to Pa and find Ringo there with Kate. They tell Pa about killing Warren and he tells them that it really is war now. However, Warren is alive, but injured. His brothers tend to him in the gaol. He tells them it was a Clanton who shot him and then dies. Wyatt tells Virgil to inform the Clantons that they'll meet at dawn, at the O.K. Corral.
The Clantons hear Virgil approach and Ringo recognises him as the marshal of Dodge City. Virgil gives them his message and asks Steven whose side he is on. Steven tells him he supports the Earps, but cannot leave as Pa threatens him. Ringo, who hid upstairs during the talk, returns and lays out a plan to ambush the Earps from behind while the Clantons go in from the front.
Back at the gaol, Virgil returns and tells Earp that Kate and Ringo's horse were there. They figure Ringo is siding with the Clantons. The Doctor tells them they cannot take on both the Clantons and Ringo, but as he does so, Doc enters and announces that they wont have to. Dodo runs to the Doctor. Virgil refuses to fight alongside an outlaw but when Doc is told that Kate is with them, he insists. With Doc back, the Doctor hands over his gun and badge, happy to be rid of them.
Dodo and the Doctor are in the saloon when Masterson enters and asks the Doctor to talk the Clantons out of the fight. He agrees and visits the Clanton's shack, finding Pa and Steven there. He is again wearing his sheriff badge and asks Pa to call off the fight. Steven tells the Doctor of Ringo's plan to circle around and the Doctor tells Pa they predicted Ringo would side with the Clantons and that Holliday has joined the Earps.
The Earps and Clantons meet and the latter open fire, hoping that they can stop the Earps. Once in range, the Earps also fire. Ringo is about to shoot Doc when Dodo runs over and alerts him. Ringo uses Dodo as a shield while Doc takes cover. He threatens her, forcing Holliday to drop his weapon. Ringo drops Dodo and starts to run, but Doc pulls another gun and shoots him. Holliday tells the dying Ringo he though he would do better. "I will, next time," Ringo says, then dies.
Holliday regroups with Wyatt, telling him Ringo's dead. Billy makes a move to kill Doc but he misses and Doc kills him instead. Virgil hits Phineas, who dies shortly after. Ike, the only man left to oppose the Earps and Doc, tries to run. Doc corners him and Ike fires his gun, only to find that it's empty. Doc and the Earps kill Ike.
Some time later, the Doctor and Doc are walking together with Dodo, Steven and Kate. He questions Holliday's reason for leaving. Kate and Doc unveil a wanted poster Masterson has released with Doc's face upon it. Holliday also mentions that Wyatt is no longer a lawman, having been involved in the fighting. He gives the poster to the Doctor and then leaves with Kate.
The travellers enter the TARDIS and the Doctor tosses the poster on the floor outside. Inside, the Doctor tells his companions that he knows exactly what their new destination is: the far future in an age of prosperity. On the scanner, an armed man approaches the TARDIS.
- The Doctor - William Hartnell
- Steven Taylor - Peter Purves
- Dodo Chaplet - Jackie Lane
- Ike Clanton - William Hurndell
- Phineas Clanton - Maurice Good
- Billy Clanton - David Cole
- Kate Fisher - Sheena Marshe
- Seth Harper - Shane Rimmer
- Charlie - David Graham
- Wyatt Earp - John Alderson
- Doc Holliday - Anthony Jacobs
- Bat Masterson - Richard Beale
- Pa Clanton - Reed De Rouen
- Johnny Ringo - Laurence Payne
- Warren Earp - Martyn Huntley
- Virgil Earp - Victor Carin
- Assistant Floor Manager - Tom O'Sullivan
- Ballad Music - Tristram Cary
- Costumes - Daphne Dare
- Designer - Barry Newbury
- Film Cameraman - Ken Westbury
- Film Editor - Les Newman
- Lyrics - Donald Cotton, Rex Tucker
- Make-Up - Sonia Markham
- Producer - Innes Lloyd
- Production Assistant - Tristan de Vere Cole, Angela Gordon
- Script Editor - Gerry Davis
- Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson
- Studio Lighting - George Summers
- Studio Sound - Colin Dixon
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Both Dodo and Steven can play the piano.
- The Doctor wonders why Steven has to dress up like Tom Mix.
Story notes Edit
- This story had the working titles The Wild West, The Gun-Fighters and The Gunslingers.
- Thunderbirds voice artists David 'Brains' Graham and Shane 'Scott Tracy' Rimmer appear as Charlie the barman and Seth Harper respectively. Graham had also provided Dalek voices for a number of earlier Doctor Who stories.
- The caption at the end of the final episode reads "Next Episode: Dr. Who and the Savages". The Gunfighters was the last story to have individual episode titles.
- Patrick Troughton was one of the actors considered for the role of Johnny Ringo.
- The serial features an original song, "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon", the last time that an original song would be commissioned for the series until the rap song featured in TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (discounting "The King's Song" in The King's Demons). "Ballad" is performed off-screen by Lynda Baron, who years later would play Captain Wrack in TV: Enlightenment and Val in TV: Closing Time.
- Along with Lynda Baron, the "Ballad" was also performed by "Steven" and "Dodo"
- Episode 1 carries the title "A Holiday for the Doctor", the first and only episode of the original series to incorporate the "correct" name of the Doctor (as opposed to an episode of The Chase called "The Death of Doctor Who" and the 1970 serial Doctor Who and the Silurians, both of which used the technically incorrect "Doctor Who"). The next televised episode to include the name "The Doctor" in its title was the 2005 episode The Doctor Dances, a practice later followed by several others.
- This was the first full and only serial to take place completely within the United States. It would be thirty years until another US-set story was filmed, namely the 1996 TV movie, and the next regular episode to be set within the US would not air until TV: Dalek in 2005.
- This story contains an example of the "Doctor Who?" running joke - when introducing himself and his companions to Bat Masterson, the Doctor creates aliases for the group, and says of himself, "And lastly, sir, your humble servant, Doctor, er, Caligari." Masterson, confused, asks, "Doctor who?" to which the Doctor responds, "Yes, quite right."
- The storyline of the serial makes several notable departures from the historical fact. In reality, Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, Warren Earp and Phineas Clanton were not present in Tombstone in October 1881. Consequently, neither Ringo nor Phineas Clanton participated in the Gunfight at the O. K. Corral and were therefore not casualties of it as portrayed here. Warren Earp did not die until July 1900, almost nineteen years after the events of this story take place. Phineas' brother Ike Clanton survived the gunfight whereas their father Pa Clanton had died the previous August. Conversely, no reference is made to four of the gunfight's actual participants: Warren, Wyatt and Virgil Earp's brother Morgan Earp and the Clanton brothers' fellow outlaw cowboys Billy Claiborne and Tom and Frank McLaury. Furthermore, Doc Holliday was only 30 years old in 1881 in real life whereas Anthony Jacobs was 48 in 1966.
- Anthony Jacobs was the father of Matthew Jacobs, who wrote TV: Doctor Who (1996) 30 years later.
- Laurence Payne (Johnny Ringo) would later play Morix in TV: The Leisure Hive and Dastari in TV: The Two Doctors, in which he also supplied the voice of the Space Station Chimera computer.
- This would be the final televised Doctor Who story to feature an historical figure as an onscreen character until TV: The Mark of the Rani in 1985, in which the Sixth Doctor met George Stephenson and Lord Ravensworth.
- The American sci-fi programme Star Trek had an episode called "Spectre of the Gun" which aired 25th October 1968 and contained nearly identical story and dialogue elements. Examples include "feel my shirt" in an attempt to prove to the bartender that the fabric is from the future, that the main characters are mistaken for the Clampett gang, that one of the characters visits the dentist office (albeit for different reasons), and resolutely standing still as Doc Holliday and the rest open fire at the O.K. Corral.
- "A Holiday For The Doctor" (30/04/1966 17:50) - 6.5 million viewers
- "Don't Shoot The Pianist" (07/05/1966 17:50) - 6.6 million viewers
- "Johnny Ringo" (14/05/1966 17:55) - 6.2 million viewers
- "The O.K. Corral" (21/05/1966 17:50) - 5.7 million viewers
- The Gunfighters was the least-watched Doctor Who story ever, and/or got the lowest-ever Audience Appreciation score. (There were a number of stories with lower viewing figures, including The Savages, The War Machines and The Smugglers, plus every story after the 1986 hiatus. Its Audience Appreciation score technically is the lowest in the show's history, but the scoring system changed several times throughout the show's run, and thus the score cannot really be compared to a story from the 70s or 80s)
- A similar rumour holds that The Gunfighters is consistently the lowest-ranked story among fans. (While it may have at one point held this dishonour, the last few polls conducted by Doctor Who Magazine place the story twenty points or more above the bottom)
- Sheena Marshe, who played Kate Fisher, was director Rex Tucker's daughter. (She was unrelated to him; his daughter Jane Tucker, later to find fame as one third of the Rod, Jane and Freddy group of children's entertainers, did however appear as a walk-on in the story.)
Filming locations Edit
- Ealing Television Film Studios, Ealing Green, Ealing
- BBC Television Centre (TC4), Shepherd's Bush, London
Production errors Edit
to be added
- This story directly follows TV: The Celestial Toymaker.
- Several incarnations later, the Eleventh Doctor would return to the Wild West. (TV: A Town Called Mercy)
- The Doctor later returned to the Wild West in AUDIO: A Town Called Fortune and PROSE: Peacemaker.
Home video and audio releases Edit
Video release Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Gunfighters.
- Released as part of The First Doctor Collection in the UK (BBCV 7268)
- Released as part of The End of the Universe Collection in the US
- Editing for VHS release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- There is a small error in the restoration, as the OK Corral gunfight was VidFIREd despite it being shot on film.
DVD release Edit
Special features included:
- Audio commentary by actors Peter Purves (Steven), Shane Rimmer (Seth Harper), David Graham (Charlie), and Richard Beale (Bat Masterson), production assistant Tristan de Vere Cole, and moderator Toby Hadoke
- The End of the Line - A new documentary about the turbulent third year of Doctor Who
- Tomorrow's Times: The First Doctor - Contemporary press coverage
- Photo gallery
- PDF materials: Radio Times listings
- Production Notes Subtitle Option
- The Gunfighters at the BBC's official site
- The Gunfighters at BroaDWcast
- The Gunfighters at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Gunfighters at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)