CLASSIC REVIEW: THE GUNFIGHTERS (1966)
The Gunfighters is by far the best historical Doctor who story in the entire 57 year history of the show. That includes classic who, modern who and big finish. I have never watched any historical this good before. Usually, I find the purely historical episodes of the 60’s to be quite boring but The Gunfighters had the pacing just right and built it up for an epic finale. All four parts were great, and the set and music helped to create the perfect wild western atmosphere. It is rare side characters in the classic series are as developed as the ones in The Gunfighters. There were two historical figures: Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo. Both of them were famous outlaws in the late 1800s who often had business in the town of Tombstone. As someone who is very interested in the wild west this was the perfect setting for me with the perfect characters. It was in many ways the classic who version of A Town Called Mercy (2012), which is another one of my favourite episodes. I didn’t even know The Gunfighters was even a story if I am going to be completely honest. I haven’t really watched a lot of William Hartnell’s era but after watching this I think I’m going to start watching more of him.
Part one begins with the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo landing in the town of Tombstone in the late 1800s. Something very unusual for Doctor who happened at the start of this first part. The Doctor had a toothache. You never really see the Doctor, or his companions just get ill of natural causes and this must have been one of the only times the Doctor has ever had a health problem. You get the sense in this story that the Doctor has no idea how to fly the Tardis and they just end up in random places which adds more fun to the adventure. This is the first time I have seen Steven or Dodo as a lot of there episodes are missing. I really liked Steven. He came across like a bit of an idiot which I liked because the other male companions around that time, Ian and Ben were a lot more competent and helped the Doctor out a lot more. Whereas Steven just seemed to annoy him which I found funny. Dodo was a character who didn’t feature that much in this story however from what I saw of her I did like her even thou she was very similar to Susan who left the season before. The Doctor finds a dentist where he meets an outlaw called Doc Holliday. Doc Holliday is one of the historical figures who featured in The Gunfighters and he was brilliantly portrayed by Anthony Jacob’s. He had a real gentlemanly side of him, and he would charm people including the Doctor but also have a darker side where he would kill people in cold blood. Steven and Dodo go to an inn to find somewhere to stay for the night. This is where they meet the Clanton brothers. They are after Doc Holliday because he killed one of their brothers, but they don’t know what he looks like. As the first part proceeds Doc Holloway sets the Doctor up to be him and so he gets caught by him and it is a fitting cliff hanger.
The Doctor being confused for another Doctor is what happened in A Town Called Mercy (2012) and I am seeing more and more of the parallels. Due to The Gunfighters being much longer they had chance to develop this a lot more than Toby Withouse did in his wild western episode with Matt Smith. The Clanton brothers have their guns pointing at the Doctor when the sheriff comes in and arrests the Doctor. However, Steven is held hostage with the Clanton brothers. Whilst this is happening Doc Holliday realises the Doctor hasn’t been killed so he kidnaps Dodo and heads out of town. The Clanton brothers then came to the prison to hang Steven if the Doctor didn’t give himself over. With the help of the sheriff and one of the other officials they get the Clanton brothers to leave and Steven is rescued. This was the start of them building up to the big fight scene at the end of the fourth part. Part two ends with the introduction of Johnny Ringo.
Johnny Ringo is the complete opposite to Doc Holliday. He is nothing like a gentleman he killed the barman for no reason and is very similar to Han Solo in Star Wars. Part three sees the Clanton brothers and Steven team up to go after Doc Holloway and Dodo. One of the Clanton brothers got arrested in the previous episode. The Clanton brothers kill the Sheriff’s son in order to get their arrested brother back. Doc Holliday came back to Tombstone to return Dodo. This created two very big groups who wanted to fight each other. You had the Sherriff and his group as well as Doc Holliday versus the Clanton brothers and Johnny Ringo. The Doctor left Tombstone to try and reason with the Clanton brothers and get Steven back before it was too late. However, by the time he got there they had left, and it was just Mr Clanton who had very limited screen time and Steven. Once the Doctor convinced Mr Clanton it was over and every move, they were going to take had been predicted he let them go. It led into the final part.
The dual at the end had the Sherriff and his group slowly walking towards the Claton Brothers. Whilst this was happening Doc Holliday walked down the side in the shadows to try and catch them out however Johnny Ringo was right behind him. Dodo saved Doc Holliday’s life by running in and being captured by Johnny Ringo. The Doc throws his gun down on the ground and as Johnny takes Dodo over to the gun, she pushes him to the ground. He is then shot by Doc Holliday who has another gun. I feel like the death of Johnny Ringo could have been so much better as it felt a bit stupid and anti-climatic however there was a great moment between him and Doc Holliday before he died. The final fight is a very entertaining and fulfilling one and I didn’t know which way it was going to go. The sheriff did end up winning and killing the Clanton Brothers. Doc Holliday left town and the Doctor, Steven and Dodo said goodbye to the Sherriff. The end.
To conclude, The Gunfighters was a great historical adventure in the wild west. It used some great historical figures like Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo as well as having a great set design and music which made the story feel even more atmospheric. You could tell this story wanted to fit in with the times of the 1960’s where wild western films were popular. This was one of William Hartnell’s best performances as the Doctor and I enjoyed seeing Steven and Dodo for the first time. The conclusion was a satisfying one and you could tell this inspired the modern who episode, A Town Called Mercy (2012). I absolutely loved this adventure and I just wished it was six parts long so you could see more of it.
I rate the Gunfighters a 9/10.
Written by: JACOB MOORE
Hi I’m Jacob and I am one of the writers for this website. I hope you all enjoyed the review 🙂