25) THE GUNFIGHTERS

30 April - 21 May 1966

Average Viewing Figure: 6.3M

Plot

The Doctor, Steven and Dodo land in Arizona 1881 days before the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral

Cast

William Hartnell (The Doctor), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Jackie Lane (Dodo), Laurence Payne (Johnny Ringo), John Alderson (Wyatt Earp)

Anthony Jacobs (Doc Holliday), William Hurndell (Ike Clanton), Maurice Good (Phineas Clanton), David Cole (Billy Clanton)

Sheena Marshe (Kate), Shane Rimmer (Seth Harper), David Graham (Charlie), Richard Beale (Bat Masterson), Reed de Rouen (Pa Clanton)

Martyn Huntley (Warren Earp), Victor Carin (Virgil Earp)

Uncredited Cast

John Doye, Roy Curtis, John Caesar, Bill Smith (Cowboys), Vilma Stuttle, Maureen Lane, Maureen Nelson (Brassy Bar Girls)

Reg Cranfield, Leslie Shannon, Mark Allington, Jonas Kurchi, Kevin Leslie, John De Marco, Derek Chafer (Settlers)

Antony Billing (Mexican Cowboy), Jackie Ho, Edward Cheekan (Chinese Storekeepers), Marguerite Young (Settler's Wife)

Jane Tucker, Edwina Salmon (Settle's Daughters), John Raven (Savage)

Crew

Donald Cotton (Writer), Ron Grainer (Title Music), Tristram Cary (Ballad Music), Lynda Baron (Singer), Ken Westbury (Film Cameraman)

Les Newman (Film Editor), Daphne Dare (Costumes), Sonia Markham (Make-Up), George Summers (Lighting), Colin Dixon (Sound)

Gerry Davis (Story Editor), Barry Newbery (Designer), Innes Lloyd (Producer), Rex Tucker (Director)

Uncredited Crew

Tom O'Sullivan (Assistant Floor Manager), Tristan de Vere Cole, Angela Gordon (Production Assistant), Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds)

Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Julian Aston (Floor Assistant), Rosemary Parsons (Producer's Assistant), Jack Lennox (Armourer)

Johnny Farr (Technical Manager), Clive Halls, Joan Duncan (Vision Mixers), Crew 14 (Camera Crew)

Broadcast

Filming Locations

  • Ealing Film Studios: Stage 3

  • Television Centre: Studio 4

  • Riverside Studio 1

  • Callow Hill Sandpit, Virginia Water, Surrey

Deaths

  • Ike Clanton [shot and killed by Wyatt, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday]

  • Phineas Clanton [shot and killed by Virgil Earp]

  • Billy Clanton [shot and killed by Doc Holliday]

  • Seth Harper [shot and killed by Doc Holliday]

  • Charlie [shot and killed by Johnny Ringo]

  • Johnny Ringo [shot and killed by Dic Holliday]

  • Warren Earp [shot and killed by Ike and Billy Clanton]

Production Days

  • 9 days between Monday 28 March - Friday 6 May 1966

Production Errors

  1. During the first episode, Billy fires a few shots at the K on the O.K. Corral sign. However the bullet holes are already visible before Billy has even fired a shot 

  2. During the scene when Kate advances upon Johnny Ringo, something can be heard falling off-screen causing Sheena Marshe (Kate) to glance in that direction before continuing with the scene 

  3. When entering the Saloon for the first time, Peter Purves (Steven) trips over whilst looking behind him

  4. The bar at the Saloon is noticeably wobbly when Harper crashes into it after being killed by Doc Holliday

  5. Steven and Dodo's accents continually change throughout the serial ​​​​​

Working Titles

  • The Gunslingers

  • Doctor Who and the Toymaker

Verdict

The show’s first and perhaps finest parody, The Gunfighters takes the gun welding, smooth talking, and wild attributes of the classic Western genre to create a comedic tale, something the show very rarely gets right. You know you’re watching a great piece of television when the cast themselves are having tremendous fun. William Hartnell is given another opportunity, to provide a performance which calls for both comedy and seriousness, in a story where there is no real threat to face, apart from staying alive from a band of redneck brothers. 
The script is tightly written and brought to life by the highly experienced Rex Tucker who for a while was the original producer of the show. It’s only fitting that his first and last assignment on the show was to take a vastly growing popular genre and turn The Gunfighters  into something that is both suitable but educational for children. It’s easy to see The Gunfighters as a critique of gun violence, the title is a big give away, and all of the characters who die are killed by being shot to death. Compare this to other American Western films and TV shows at the time who glorify gun violence, and look at The Doctor’s reaction at being offered a firearm, ‘Well, I should hope not. I certainly disapprove of violence’, followed by an awkward moment when The Doctor holds a gun for the first time. The Doctor has always been a role model for children, and not some swash buckling cowboy who fires bullets into the air, as he rides off into the sunset. Or rather dematerialises from a disused barn. It’s a bold attempt and statement for The Doctor when the entire atmosphere around him is constructed around violence, and the possibility of being killed is more likely than discovering a nugget of gold in the local mine. 
The scripts are the most creative (up-to-this-point) that is, incorporating dark humour for the occasion, cheap joke now and then, impressive camerawork inside a small BBC recording studio, short musical numbers, and a ballad singer who acts like a narrator and commentator at the same time. The entire plot of the story hangs on the whole mistaken identity storyline where ‘The Doc’ is mistaken for Doc Holliday and The Clanton Brothers fail to listen to Steven and Dodo for the umpteenth time that The Doctor is not Doc Holliday. This is better suited for comedic Silent-movies than Doctor Who. The final gunfight is fine, for a small budget, but does appear to be clumsy in places; heck 3 of the Brothers are killed within a 39 second timespan. Thrilling? Entertaining more like. Despite the botched gunfight at the end, The Gunfighters is a brave attempt to take the show to new heights and doesn’t disappoint. ****