|Originally Broadcast 21st May 1966|
Episode Four of ‘The Gunfighters’
Written by: Donald Cotton
With Wyatt Earp’s (or Wearp if you speak Hartnell) kid brother shot dead by the Clantons, war breaks out between the two opposing forces.
From the very first shot this episode is, for the most part, brilliantly choreographed and brilliantly shot by director Rex Tucker. There’s a fantastic scene between Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday near the end of the episode that feels slowed down and gets surprisingly a lot of screen time for a 22minute episode, making it so much more effective and atmospheric.
What this episode isn’t, however, is brilliantly scripted. The past three episodes have been brilliant and full of comedy and fun, whereas this episode tries to immediately take a darker, more serious tone, but fails to do so due to the far-too quick turn around of mood. I’m not saying the episode fails, as there’s still some great dialogue, good scenes and a very good morale to the story, one that’s precise and yet isn’t spoon-fed, giving a great feel to the episode, as well as teaching you some historical facts as well.
Despite an obviously wobbly stairway, the OK Corral scene at the climax of the episode is, whilst fairly simple, brilliantly staged. There are one or two dodgy moments of choreography but it’s certainly not anything that’ll take you away from the action.
Just prior to the gunfight, there’s a forced scene where the Doctor has to visit the Clantons, which I suppose has to be in the story for it to be complete, but it doesn’t feel right, to me it seemed like an “we need another five minutes of story” idea rather than something really well planned. As well as this the final two scenes felt drained of energy and the final moments, edited on the end to lead into the next serial, really shouldn’t have been included. They really spoil the rest of the episode and I can’t wait until the ‘final episode cliffhanger’ for the next serial is wiped, as it does tend to have this effect a lot throughout the sixties tenure.
Despite a weaker script for the final episode, this is a fantastically under-rated story, one that needs to be rewatched and revaluated as it has some cracking direction, some wonderful acting and set design and, for the most part, a great, fun script.