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Two Docs get mixed-up; Steven and Dodo are master pianists; and the whole thing is tied together with the most annoying song in the Wild West.

Instead of going to the planet Dentos in the constellation Zero-Cavities, Doc takes his two companions and the tooth he chipped at the end of C024 The Celestial Toymaker to the Wild West, Tombstone in the year 1881 to be precise, where threats, booze and blunt-force-trauma were the anaesthetics in common use in dentistry.

There, they meet the legendary Wyatt Earp whose majestic moustache is matched only by his willingness to disregard his duties. Also just arrived are Doc Holiday (the only person around who even tries to keep his faux-American accent consistent) and the Clantons and Johnny Ringo who are out to kill him. Calamity and god-awful singing ensue as the Clantons get the wrong Doc in their sights.

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Here's what we think of C025 The Gunfighters

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what we think of C025 The Gunfighters

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what you think 9 Responses to “C025 The Gunfighters”
  1. Gallifreyan Buccaneer | @aluntrussler

    This is really a love it or hate it serial. Personally, I love it. It still stands to me as one of the highlights of Hartnell’s run, and not just that but all of 60’s Who. Unlike The Celestial Toymaker, this story is such fun!

    The musical interludes can be repetitive and grating at times, but if you embrace it it adds an element we don’t normally get in Doctor Who. Just having it there shows that this story is going to be something different, not space-stations and Daleks, but the Wild West!

    There’s a touch of farce to the whole thing and it sends up the actual history brilliantly, with The Doctor visiting Doc Holliday due to a dickie tooth, Stephen getting roped in to sing The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon, and the Clanton’s wonderfully scenery-chewing villains. Hartnell is clearly loving every moment, and that’s saying something knowing his state of health at the time. I know Peter Purves wasn’t a fan of all the singing but that’s too bad I suppose.

    This story has had a bad reputation for decades and I think it’s great that it’s now starting to get praised by the newer fans delving into the classics. I’m certainly one of them. Even taken in the context of it’s broadcast season, it’s one hell of a breath of fresh air after all the death in earlier stories, and the disappointingly poor stories, The Ark and The Celestial Toymaker (particularly that last one)!

    It’s Doctor Who, in the Wild West, yes there’s a silly song, deal with it. Stetsons are definitely cool!

    The Gunfighters gets a 4.1 from me.

  2. Kyle Rath | @sinistersprspy

    Doctor Who Classic Series Review – Season 3 Episode 8 “The Gunfighters”

    Howdy, y’all. After being away for a spell, I reckoned it was time I got back in the saddle.


    Somewhere in Time and Space is a place called the Last Chance Saloon. It has a theme song. And by the end of the first serial, it will affix itself to the inside your skull like a mental hemorrhoid.

    Tombstone, Arizona – 1881. The Doctor has a toothache, and the only prescription, might actually be more cowbell. Fortunately, as with most Doctor Who historicals, all of the most relevant and necessary characters are within easy reach five minutes into the episode.

    Mistaken for Doc Holiday, The Doctor and his two fancy dress cowpokes find themselves caught up in the not-so-true events of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. That’s kind of all you need to know. If this story feels at all familiar, it’s because two years later, Star Trek rips it off in colour.

    Bullet points to consider:

    1) Steven Regret: Best appropriate alias/unintentional cheap shot in Doctor Who history.
    2) Mr. Werp. I never get tired of Hartnell’s pot-shot mispronunciations.
    3) Despite a story shot full of plot holes and historical inaccuracy, the set design wasn’t actually half bad.
    4) For a satire, there is a lot of fucking shooting and killing in this serial.
    5) Whoever had the idea for a sing-a-long plot should be shot.

    The historical has always been a hit or miss for DW. This is the last time the Doctor has a full on adventure with historical figures until the Sixth Doctor adventure “The Mark of the Rani”. There is a reason for it. Blunt force time travel doesn’t work unless it’s clever, and clever was not part of the usual repertoire for Doctor Who during this period. In defense of the production team, I suppose it’s easy to become prey to all the cliche written convention of the American West.

    For my first time back – I’m still pretty harsh – 1.5, for all the obvious reasons. Weak story, terrible soundtrack, bad accents, and jokey dialogue that gets a little long in the tooth. Oh, and Steven’s awful outfit – maybe little Bobby Zemeckis was Whovian growing up. (Hint: Marty’s outfit in Back to the Future 3)

    Finally, a question: When a Timelord regenerates, what happens to his pulled tooth?

  3. Gina Guerrero | @ginaguerrero1

    I am so excited to review The Gunfighter because there are so many good things and terrible things in this story. The Doctor, Dodo and Steven arrive in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 because the Doc inexplicably has a tooth ache. First off, I understood what Doctor Who was trying to do with the “Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon”, being an homage to classic westerns. However, I personally found the singing throughout the story as irritating and repetitive. Every time a scene ended I began to cringe waiting for the awful Last Chance Saloon song to begin again. At least Steven and Dodo’s (who both can play piano all of a sudden) version was the least cringe-worthy.
    What I found particularly amusing were the different levels of “western” accents. I felt the actor who played Doc Holiday was not only the most interesting and entertaining, but also had the best accent of the lot. And then we had the actor playing Johnny Ringo who didn’t even try to have an accent other than his British one, which I also thought was hilarious.
    For the actual story and plot, it was a good historical even though it was almost completely inaccurate. The Gunfight at the O.K corral lasted less than a minute and many of the people in the DW story weren’t even in Tombstone when it occurred. Being the last pure historical, it was interesting and had some funny moments, but had very little for the Doctor to actually do. He seemed more peripheral than actively moving the plot along.

    Stray observations
    The Doc repeatedly saying “Don’t call me pop”
    The Doctor calling Wyatt Earp “Mr. Werp”. Don’t know if that was in the script or it was Hartnell’s doing..I loved it.
    I feel like this has to the Doctor Who story with the most murders.. although many were funny due to Doc Holiday.
    Don’t know if I was the only one happy when Charlie the Bartender was murdered..Its his fault for snitchin to everyone.
    In summary, I enjoyed the story for the most part. It was a good first attempt for the BBC to try an American Western. I liked the mistaken identities plot, even though I saw it coming a mile away. The sets were surprisingly detailed for 60’s Doctor Who. I didn’t mention Dodo, cause she served no purpose but to be kidnapped. Mostly I just didn’t care about her. Anthony Jacobs portrayal of Doc Holiday was, for me, the highlight of the story. So I rate this a 3.3. Miss you guys!!

  4. Stephen | @sgamer82


    The Gunfighters sets the stage early with an old west town, a musical narration, and a group of outlaws out for Doc Holiday’s blood, followed by Dodo and Steven dressing up in silly cowboy getups decades before Marty McFly in Back to the Future III (or maybe a decade after since the movie’s beginning took place in the 50s).

    This is a mostly light serial, bigger on humor than drama, at least until episode 3. One of the funnier moments to me is actually unrelated to the episode itself, but more hilarious in hindsight. Upon seeing Steven and Dodo as cowpokes, he berates them for not wearing inconspicuous clothing like he does. One need only look as far as Jon Pertwee to see the humor here, never mind the two Bakers.

    Some other jokes I enjoyed were the Doctor’s initial encounter with Doc Holiday, from realizing too late that there’s no anesthetic, his refusal of the alternatives, and Doc Holiday’s NOT refusing one of the alternatives and taking a swig, and the Doctor’s ignorance of proper gun handling.

    The first time I watched this serial, I wasn’t a fan of the singing throughout the episodes. I think that was mostly due to me being slow on the uptake recognizing its development as a form of narration for the second half of the story. The actual musical number was all right, though arguably out of place. There’s actually a documentary with John “Captain Jack” Barrowman talking about this fact.

    The plot itself is entertaining enough but nothing standout. The Doctor is a bit overly naive here, thinking well of Doc Holiday as it’s increasingly clear he was set up. Steven proves more adept at operating in the past compared to the Massacre. Possibly because he had a bit more familiarity with the old west vs roughly medieval France. Dodo tends to gain points and lose them in rapid succession. First she holds up Doc Holiday… only to faint on realizing he had a backup pistol ready. Later she gets herself taken hostage, but then also frees herself to let Doc Holiday finish the job. She also seemed to insist on trying to fake the accent which, come to think of it, lends an interesting note to her accent inconsistency from the Ark. Doubtful it was intentional, but it’s fun to say it is anyway.

    Doc Holiday was a fun character, as many sneaky badasses often are. Willing to cheat but also having enough of a sense of honor to join the good fight in the end. Johnny Ringo, whose first action is gunning down an innocent barman, is the ultimate villain of the story and its catalyst for becoming more serious. It’s at this point that events buildup to the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. The shootout itself was a good action scene, despite the gunmen having atrocious aim for most of it.

    I have to admit I enjoyed this serial more on the second viewing than I did the first. The musical narration is actually a fun little touch once you acclimate to it and I enjoyed watching Doc Holiday in action. I’m inclined to rate this a 3.7 out of 5. A fun story, but nothing really amazing.
    P.S.: Ponken & jD, I’m curious to hear how you react to the end of episode 1, where the title “Don’t Shoot the Pianist” comes up while Dodo is the one playing.

    • Hey Stephen, sorry again for not reading your mini out loud on the podcast. Totally my mistake. And it’s such a good mini, too!

      You touched upon many of the same points as the rest of us, so, you know, you’re in good company. ;)

      Really like your observation about Dodo’s accent. You’re totally right. The only consistent thing about her voice work is how inconsistent it is.

      Nice mini, man. Thanks for sending it in.

  5. Peter Zunitch

    This is definitely a controversial serial, and for good reason. For a long time I hated this story and refused to watch it again. I can definitely say it grows on you. The subtle comedy combined with some very serious moments provide great contrast. Forgetting the accents, the acting is top notch in many respects. The actors are clearly all having great fun and manage to take things seriously while still portraying the charactes as people who often don’t take anyone else seriously. Jonny Ringo is as bada&& as holiday is is control. The clantons are total mischief makers whose actions are sometimes baffling, 6ntil you meet the father (shame he wasn’t in this more).

    Stop harshing on the clevage shots, it was an accurate period costume and nothing was blatantly shoved into the camera. There were more blatant clevage shots with miss piggy in the Muppet show.

    The singing grated on me the first two times I watched this, but it grows on you, although it remains repetitious. The sets and blo king are phenomenal, and stylistically this episode is beautiful.

    Take a breather and then come back to this one some day. I guarantee it will be better than you remember, and in the end you’ll appreciate it more, as I do, for the beautifully stylistic piece that it is.

    Old rating: 1
    New rating: 3.5

  6. Arthur Fuxake


    I don’t know if you still read these comments after so much time has passed since this episode of WBW was uploaded to that internet, but I’ve only just listened to it now (for the second time, mind). I thought I would try and answer your question at the end, asking if any other BBC sci-fi shows had attempted a western theme at around the same time. Indeed, something similar was attempted within “The Prisoner” series a couple of years later… and in colour! Although not technically a BBC production, it was however a British TV series that was hugely popular at the time and still retains a cult following to this day. If you haven’t heard of it, I strongly recommend you check it out… I think you’d like it.

    Anyhow, like “The Gunfighters”, this particular episode was a complete departure from the show’s usual surreal, psychedelic take on sci-fi/espionage. The production values were considerably higher than the Doctor Who serial and all in all, a much more enjoyable programme in general. Probably not the best place to start watching the series though, because a lot depends on the viewer already being familiar with the show.

    There are several similarities of note inasmuch as all the female characters are hookers, more people than usual are killed to death, there’s a gunfight, an audacious plot hole or two as well as an unbelievable and chronically overacted scene at the end.

  7. Arthur Fuxake

    …In actual fact, an episode of the popular sci-fi/sitcom series Red Dwarf also had a Wild West setting, some 25 years later. I don’t recall too much about this particular adventure, but although essentially a comedy, Red Dwarf did explore some very interesting science fiction concepts and in more elaborate fashion with respect to Doctor Who (even New Who for that matter!) I wasn’t aware of the Star Trek episode you mentioned in your podcast (not being in the slightest bit interested in this series), but it is rather curious to note that all the major sci-fi productions appear to have explored westerns at least once, which is in fact a genre as diametrically opposed to sci-fi as you can probably get. Still, it’s all relative, isn’t it?

  8. With the Doctor suffering from toothache, he needs to get to a dentist pronto. Even though the TARDIS lands in the barbaric ‘Wild West’, he quickly heads to Doc Holiday’s dentist’s salon to get patched up. One case of mistaken identity later, and the Doctor is being held at gunpoint by the murderous Clanton Brothers.

    The crew have stumbled into the middle of a savage feud which leads inexorably to a historic shoot-out at the OK Corral. Featuring bars, brothels, fake American accents, lots of drinking and shooting (but only a single scene with a horse) this is an all-singing, all-dancing Dr Who Western.

    There’s a lot to enjoy about this unusual little story. It’s the closest that Dr. Who ever gets to being a musical, which is a brilliant idea. I’m still holding out for a new adventure in a full-blown musical format, but in the meantime, this is the best I get! Sadly there is only one song, which gets a little repetitive, but kudos for trying. The scene where Steven and Dodo are forced at gunpoint to sing and play the piano is quite comical (though not particularly believable!)

    The whole idea of the Doctor getting toothache is grand. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp are great characters, as is the Doctor referring to the latter as Mr. Werp.

    The repetitive nature of the single song grinds slowly on. You can’t get the tune out of your head, but it doesn’t get any better the more you listen to it. And the lyrics are truly pathetic: “So the Earps and the Clantons are aiming to meet / at the OK Corral near Calamity Street / It’s the OK Corral, boys, of gunfighting fame / where the Earps and the Clantons they played out the game. / They played out the game and we never more shall / hear a story the like of the OK Corral”

    Also, Westerns are supposed to be shot against wide open landscapes. A fully studio-bound story with very fake American accents never allows you to forget you are watching TV.

    – “How do we look?” gushes Dodo, spilling out of the TARDIS in a sterotypical Wild West smock, followed by Steven in full cowboy attire. “Absolutely absurd!” snarls the Doctor. Once again, I couldn’t agree more.
    – Steven plays with his gun like a boy with a toy. Suddenly Wyatt Earp steps out of the shadows and shoots it out of his hand. “Who might you be?” splutters the Doctor. “You wanna find out – try moving fast,” rasps Earp. Brilliant entrance!
    – The Doctor introduces himself as Dr Caligari – a nice little nod to German expressionist cinema of the 1920s!
    – The scene where the Doctor gets his tooth treated by Doc Holliday is very comical.
    – The Doctor appears to shoot a man and then coolly holds up six thugs at gunpoint. You’d never get a scene like that with Jodie Whittaker! He’s still his usual self, though. “My dear sir, I’ve no intention of ‘trying’ anything, but people keep giving me guns!”
    – Ringo gets a great introductory scene with Charlie the unfortunate barman, shooting him dead just for recognising him. It’s a simple and powerful sequence which sets Ringo up immediately as a cold-hearted psychopath.
    – Ringo gets equally good last words. “Thought youd’ve been quicker than that, Mr. Ringo!” taunts Doc Holiday. “I will… next time” replies Ringo, and dies.
    – “Oh my dear Dodo”, laments the Doctor, “You know, you’re fast becoming a prey to every clíche-ridden convention in the American west.” Too right!

    Is it any better for British actors to badly portray clichéd Americans than any other stereotype – Arabic, Chinese, African? Probably not!

    Reading ‘The Gunfighters’ as a teen, I hated it. Utterly boring, it was the worst Dr Who novelisation I had ever read. When I watched the story, as an adult, I rather enjoyed it. The comic-strip characters, the fun setting, even the rather curious motif of the song (though why-oh-why did they only have one tune!) all added to a great, light-hearted adventure. It’s not perfect but it’s unique, and that’s enough for me.

    OVERALL: 3.8

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