Who Review – The Gunfighters

Posted by Richo On April 19, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the Sixteenth instalment of Who Review, my potentially insane quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, the TARDIS journeys to the Wild West and the Gunfight at the OK Corral in The Gunfighters.


The Gunfighters (4 Episodes)


30 April – 21 May 1966


William Hartnell


Steven Taylor

Dodo Chaplet


In the western frontier town of Tombstone, the Clanton Brothers – Ike, Phineas and Billy – are searching for famed gunfighter Doc Holliday, seeking retribution for the death of their brother Reuben.  In the Last Chance Saloon, they meet with their hired hand Seth Harper, who describes Holliday to them. Their discussion is overheard by a bar singer, Kate, the lover of Holliday. She leaves the saloon to warn him of the danger.

All of this is accompanied by a god-awful musical narration, one that I can only assume is meant to capture the feel of classic western TV shows and movies of the time. Unfortunately, it is the first aspect of this story that is completely unbearable. Unfortunately, it isn’t the last…

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, the Doctor is suffering from a painful toothache. Steven and Dodo agree that he needs a dentist. The TARDIS lands in Tombstone and the crew depart to find a dentist for the Doctor. Steven and Dodo encounter local marshal Wyatt Earp, who offers them protection.

This is one of the first historical inaccuracies present in this storyline. At the time of the Gunfight, Virgil was Marshal, with Wyatt acting as a deputy. A minor inaccuracy that I could let slide if it wasn’t for the numerous other errors to come.

Meanwhile, The Doctor finds a dentist – Doc Holliday himself. Holliday removes the Doctor’s aching tooth. Well, at least that plot thread is done with.

Dodo and Steven make their way to the Last Chance Hotel. There, they encounter the Clantons, who mistake their comments about being companions of The Doctor for a discussion about Doc Holliday.  The Clantons torment the pair, forcing them to perform a musical number.

That’s right; the companions get to perform a song and dance routine. I think this is meant to be played for laughs. Unfortunately, it just isn’t funny. It’s actually really irritating…almost as irritating as the musical narrative.

Seth Harper retrieves the Doctor from Holliday’s practice. Holliday learns that The Clantons believe the Doctor is him and he allows the Doctor to be taken to the hotel to be killed in his place. Kate intervenes on the Doctor’s behalf, and he is spared. Holliday makes his way to the hotel and does his best to keep up the illusion that the Doctor is him.

Finally, Wyatt Earp and Sheriff Bat Masterson show up to break up the fracas and save us from this tedious series of events. Unfortunately, the writers feel the need to continue this debacle, so they take the Doctor into custody for his own protection. Steven tries to break him free but the attempt fails. Shortly after this, Steven is confronted by the Clantons and a crowd of locals seeking to lynch an associate of Doc Holliday’s. Earp and Masterson manage to diffuse the situation and take Phineas Clanton into custody in the hope that this will ensure his brother’s co-operation.

Dodo encounters doc Holliday and Kate, who flee town to escape the Clantons, killing Seth Harper in the process. Harper is soon replaced by Johnny Ringo, a dangerous hired killer.  Steven heads out of town to find them and Ringo follows him.

Earp’s brothers Warren and Virgil arrive in town to help him enforce the law. The Clantons seek to free their brother from prison and manage to kill Warren. Events begin to spiral, as Earp swears revenge. Holliday returns to town with Dodo and offers his services to Earp.

Okay, we’ve got more problems here. Most notable is Warren’s death. Warren wasn’t actually present at the Gunfight and didn’t die until 1900. Then there’s Virgil’s arrival, which is strange since Virgil was actually Tombstone’s Marshal at the time.

The Doctor’s attempts to diffuse the situation fail; the Gunfight will happen. Finally, the Clanton Brothers and Johnny Ringo face off against Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday…

…except that not how it happened. The actual Gunfight at the OK Corral was fought by only one of the Clantons: Billy. While Johnny Ringo was a presence in Tombstone, he wasn’t part of the Gunfight. Clanton’s companions were brothers Tom and Frank McLaury. Opposing them were the Earp brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan, aided by Doc Holliday.

Anyway, the gunfight leaves Ringo and the Clantons dead. With the battle over, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo slip away in the TARDIS. They arrive on a strange planet and leave to investigate. As the story ends, a strange man approached the TARDIS with a scanner.

While the historical episodes of Doctor Who have taken liberties in the past, they’ve tried, for the most part, to present at least a relatively accurate and educational depiction of the events they present. Here, we see so many inaccuracies that it makes me wonder just where the writers were getting their “facts” from.


Like just about everything in The Gunfighters, the Doctor suffers from some terrible writing. He comes across at various times as comic relief, as incompetent, as ineffective, or as superfluous to the storyline. Best just to forget this entire outing and move on.


Steven sings. That’s really all I can say about the companions in The Gunfighters. There are some attempts at humour that fall flat and detract from the story.


The Clantons are played more for laughs than anything else and don’t really come across as menacing in any way. They’re really nothing more than childish bullies and nothing they do adds any level of entertainment to the storyline.

Johnny Ringo is a little more interesting, being a particularly nasty and borderline psychotic individual. He adds a sense of menace to proceedings that the Clantons fail to do. It’s not really enough, but it’s better than nothing.


So, we have painfully bad musical narratives, excruciating attempts at comedy, some terrible faux American accents and a historically inaccurate and incredibly tedious script. This is without a doubt the lowest point in William Hartnell’s era of Doctor Who.

1 Luke


Well, things can only go uphill from here. The next Doctor Who storyline, The Savages, is unfortunately one of the lost storylines, so we skip ahead to modern day London for The War Machines.

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