Friday, 15 July 2011

A Holiday For The Doctor

Originally Broadcast 30th April 1966
Episode One of: ‘The Gunfighters’

Written by: Donald Cotton

In a nutshell: Landing in the Wild West, the Doctor needs a dentist after suffering at the hands of a boiled sweet (see ‘The Celestial Toymaker’), but a case of mistaken identity makes him the West’s most wanted.

Review: ‘The Gunfighters’ always comes under a lot of heavy fire from fans, but it’s not actually that bad. I think the problem most fans (myself included) have is Lynda Baron’s song played over the top far too many times, it’s easy to mistake this for ‘Oklahoma!’ rather than a Doctor Who serial. Not only is the song misused, it’s even mis-edited, so the top half of the episode gets an overplay of music and the latter half doesn’t get as much. Because of this I (thankfully) forget some of the song until it plays again, sending me into depressed mode.
It’s not that I don’t like the song, I love Lynda Baron as well (who’s striking up her third Who appearance this year), but it doesn’t really fit being cut and pasted over an episode of the show.

Donald Cotton’s script for this episode can’t really be slated, because it’s great! Hartnell’s great in it, there’s some fun lines for all three of the TARDIS crew (less for Dodo, but it’s Dodo!), some good comedic actions such as Holliday giving Hartnell the gun and some good supporting artists. David Graham as Charlie is such a fantastic actor, it’s easy to spot in just the one or two snippets of scenes he makes his way into, thankfully he has more to do in latter episodes if memory serves.

The episode cliffhanger was wonderfully underplayed as well, the obvious would be to end with a close-up of a gun barrel (a cliché worn down in the Pertwee era) but instead we just get a shot of the Doctor staggering over to the Last Chance Saloon, which is wonderful. It’s so unique in the show, brilliantly directed by Rex Tucker.

Trivia: Rex Tucker was brought on as ‘caretaker producer’ for Doctor Who in 1963, before ‘first’ producer Verity Lambert was hired. Tucker was also set to direct ‘An Unearthly Child’ as well as more of the 1963-4 series, before all plans fell through. He even requested his name dropped from the final episode of ‘The Gunfighters’.

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