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The Gunfighters

Doctor WhoHis tooth broken by a booby-trapped piece of candy leftover from his struggle with the Celestial Toymaker, the Doctor seeks dental help in the old west – from none other than Doc Holliday himself, in Tombstone Arizona. But when the Doctor, Steven and Dodo go to seek his help, the Doctor is mistaken for Holliday…and this may plunge the time travellers into the legendary, bloody shootout at the OK Corral, not as observers, but as participants.

written by Donald Cotton
directed by Rex Tucker
music by Tristram Cary / vocals by Lynda Baron

Doctor WhoGuest Cast: William Hurndell (Ike Clanton), Maurice Good (Phineas Clanton), David Cole (Billy Clanton), Sheena Marshe (Kae), Shane Rimmer (Seth Harper), David Graham (Charlie), John Alderson (Wyatt Earp), Anthony Jacobs (Doc Holliday), Richard Beale (Bat Masterson), Reed de Rouen (Pa Clanton), Laurence Payne (Johnny Ringo), Martyn Huntley (Warren Earp), Victor Carin (Virgil Earp)

Broadcast from April 30 through May 21, 1966

Notes: Actor Anthony Jacobs’ son Matthew, still a young boy, was in the studio watching his father film his scenes for this story. Almost exactly 30 years later, Matthew Jacobs would write the script for the one-off Doctor Who TV movie starring Paul McGann.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Until the 80s and The Trial Of A Time Lord rolled around, The Gunfighters earned a dubious distinction in Doctor Who history: the lowest-rated story ever. Granted, that low rating was eclipsed by an even lower rating in 1986, though – to be fair – The Gunfighters didn’t face competition from video games, computers, cable television, and VCRs. The Gunfighters‘ record-setting low ranking in the viewing figures wasn’t due to distractions for the viewing audience, but because they weren’t interested in seeing William Hartnell and company go through the motions of retelling the story of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Going back and watching the tape again, it’s hard to blame the audience. But in equal fairness, perhaps the collective memory of fandom has been rather hard on The Gunfighters, expecting a bit too much from it. On a purely escapist level, and if you can check your brain at the door, Doctor Who’s one and only western is light-hearted, light-headed fun. The sad thing is, the production crew really did try to pull it off, but in the end it all has about as much credibility as, oh, say, Kevin Costner’s fleeting hints of a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Not really the finest hour (and a half) of the first Doctor.

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