My Thoughts on Story 025 – “The Gunfighters”

Howdy there, pardner! Come here and set a spell. You’re lookin’ a mite thirsty! Here, have a glass of some primo firewater, and listen up to The Ballad of the Gunfighters!

 

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So turn on your TV,
And put up your feet.
The day’s long behind you,
This story’s kind of neat.
So come, all you Who fans
Let’s relax and enjoy,
Till you come across those accents,
In The Last Chance Saloon.

 

The story was not bad,
The premise was quite good.
But then there’s the accents,
Not sounding like they should.
The Pecos via England!
It really hurts my ears,
And makes me question God,
At the Last Chance Saloon.

 

It’s better than I recall,
With some solid acting.
The Doctor came to Tombstone
And we heard some signing.
On the whole it wasn’t bad
At least there were no Daleks,
Just don’t discuss the history
Of the Last Chance Saloon!
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Donald Cotton
Director Rex Tucker
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Tristram Cary
Production code Z
Series Season 3
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 30 April 1966
Date ended 21 May 1966

Next episode: “Dr. Who and the Savages”

Next story: “The Savages”

Episode 118 – “The OK Corral”

It’s interesting to realize that I’m watching a story that takes place less than a day’s drive from where I live. Ah, lovely Arizona, with it’s wonderful history of quality law enforcement.

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Still a better lawman than certain Arizonans I could mention.

Charlie is dead, to begin with, and Wyatt Earp’s brother has been shot. And as we can see above, the Doctor has been made a deputy. He seems less-than-thrilled with this. To be fair, the leader of the Clantons seems rather a bit unhappy at the shooting of Warren Earp, knowing that this means war!

Bat Masterson tries to talk Wyatt out of his plans for something very unpleasant. This fails, and Earp relays a message to the Clantons to meet up at the OK Corral. I’m sure this will end well for all involved.

Dodo finally shows up, having escorted Holliday to the sheriff’s office, where he signs up to fight alongside the Earps against the Clantons.

I will say some of the actors here really are doing a good job. The actors playing Wyatt, Masterson, and Pa Clanton all turn in an excellent performance, accents and all. Then there are those others, with their “here it is, there it goes” accents.So hit and miss.

Johnny Ringo proves to be quite useless for a man who has an entire episode named after him. He tries to shoot Holliday, fails, takes Dodo hostage, and then manages to get himself killed. Well done, him.

The actual gunfight, it must be said, is rather well-done. Nicely staged, with some good action. I’d like to see what the series would do with something like this these days. But even as it is, it’s better than one might expect.

The Clantons are defeated, and we get one last set of verses to “The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon”. Then our heroes leave, soon to find themselves in a strange, alien place, and, alas, Steven’s last story.

Next time: “Dr. Who and the Savages”

Episode 117 – “Johnny Ringo”

Back again, after being gone for two days. Why was I gone? Because I was! Yay! Logic!

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“You keep using that word. I don’t reckon it means what you reckon it means.”

Steven is still facing a lynching, and the Doctor is hanging out at the jail, trying to figure out how to resolve the situation. Before he can, the situation gets itself resolved by a nice little deus ex marshalia. The Doctor sulks a bit and then goes wandering off.

Meantime, the Clanton boys are back at the saloon gettin’ all liquored up. Steven and the Doctor end up there not long after, and the bartender tells them all about Dodo and her current situation. We cut to that, finding her still being held prisoner by Holiday and his woman.

Johnny Ringo arrives in town not long after this. He and Charlie, the bartender, have a little conversation of the sort that one often sees in these kind of stories. Johnny shoots Charlie after the latter flaps his gums a bit too much, and we then have the singer continuing to sing her little song.

Man, I’m sick of that song. I haven’t given it much mention here, but it’s really annoying and plays through the whole story.

The next morning, the Doctor and Steven meet up with Johnny and Charlie’s corpse. The dead body doesn’t seem to alarm them as much as it should. The Doctor soon winds up at the sheriff’s office and mentions Charlie’s death. Everyone seems fairly disappointed.

They all leave, with one of the Clantons and Wyatt Earp’s brother remaining behind. They banter a bit and then the rest of the Clantons show up to free their brother. Earp tries to stand up to them, which doesn’t end especially well for him.

And we queue up for the next and final episode!

Next time: “The OK Corral”

Episode 116 – “Don’t Shoot the Pianist”

Well, here we are, the second episode in this story. And with a title like this, there’s only one thing I can say.

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“Have you ever heard the one about the man with the twelve inch pianist?”

Steven and Dodo are saved from having to continue to sing, and Holiday is plotting his…well, holiday from being himself. As for the Doctor…well, he shows up just after the nick of time.

The Doctor finally figures out that people are confusing him for Doc Holiday. There’s a confrontation that ends with Steven basically holding all the guns. Earp then shows up and tries to restore order, which includes arresting the Doctor.

Looking closely at Holiday, I have to say the actor playing him looks quite a bit older than Holiday himself actually was. Holiday died at 36, was only 30 at the time of the gunfigh in question, and this guy was pushing 50, according to IMDB.

The Clantons pressure Steven into giving the Doctor a gun. The Doctor promptly hands the gun over to Earp, who seems mildly amused by the whole situation.

Holiday has been keeping low in a room in the hotel, holding Dodo hostage. He comes downstairs as a riot hits the town and promptly shoots and kills a man, who falls back against a very wobbly bar.

Meantime, at the jail, we see the lynch mob showing up with intention to do nastiness!

Next time: “Johnny Ringo”

Episode 115 – “A Holiday for the Doctor”

Every science fiction show eventually feels the need to do a Western episode. Star Trek did it, TNG did it, Red Dwarf, Battlestar Galactica, and many others did it. Doctor Who is, alas, no exception. Yes, it’s time for guns, whiskey, highly-suspect accents, and music, music, music!

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“So fill up your glasses, and join in the song…”

So the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo, arrive in Tombstone, AZ. The Doctor has a toothache, and rather than doing the sensible thing (getting back into the TARDIS and going basically anywhere other than 19th century frontier America), they decide to stay around and look for a dentist.

Dodo and Steven both put on clothes that make them look like actors in a wild west variety show, with Steven doing his best to sound like some Alabama tourist visiting the Empire State Building.

Dodo proves to be a bit of an old west fan, as she knows who Wyatt Earp is. Or…was. Whatever. He kind of arrests the TARDIS gang.

So one actor in this is Canadian. He does the best job of sounding convincingly American. Everyone else has variations of fail, which is kind of a sobering reminder for people like me who occasionally try to sound English.

Another fun, fact: the son of the actor who plays Doc Holiday went on to write the screenplay for the Eighth Doctor movie. Neat!

There’s a backdrop of the street in Tombstone going back some distance. That’s fine, really. It’s a decent enough set extension. Except that they film it from angles that make it very obvious that’s what it is.

The Doctor goes to see Holiday to get his tooth worked on. The scenes of Holiday having a bit of booze beforehand are quite reassuring. He pulls the tooth, and then Seth Harper wanders in (having recently met Steven and Dodo), and promptly mistakes the Doctor for the Doc. Yes, like many a later series story, this one has a pair o’ Docs.

Next time: “Don’t Shoot the Pianist”

My Thoughts on Story 024 – “The Celestial Toymaker”

Fun fact: “Celestial” is an old-time racist slang term for a man from China. In this story, Michael Gough, a white Englishman, plays the “Celestial” Toymaker. So let that sink in.

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Well, at least they didn’t do this the next time we have a major Chinese character as an adversary!

I didn’t hate this story. But I really didn’t like it, either. It’s just…not good. This is where I normally say that the idea was sound, but the execution not so much. Not in this case. The idea of some strange, all-powerful being who forces the Doctor and his companions to play a set of games is just weird, not original, and not good. It can be handled well, but it certainly isn’t here.

Once again, part of the problem is the reconstruction nature. The fourth part, which is intact, was more interesting than the other three. But even that part wasn’t very good; it was just an improvement.

I didn’t hate this story, but it was deeply boring, and disturbingly, it makes me actually look forward to a story I’ve seen before and dislike!

Cast
Others
Production
Writer Brian Hayles
Donald Tosh
Director Bill Sellars
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code Y
Series Season 3
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 3 episodes (1-3)
Date started 2 April 1966
Date ended 23 April 1966

Next episode: “A Holiday for the Doctor”

Next story: “The Gunfighters”

Episode 114 – “The Final Test”

And here we are, the last story in this series! I’m very glad we’re winding it up. It hasn’t been actually bad, really, but it hasn’t been very good, and has been quite boring.

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Also, this character is supposed to be a schoolboy, but…no. Just…no.

Happily for this last episode, we’re back in full, glorious motion. We’ll see if this improves my views on this story at all.

So Steven and Dodo are being put into a real life version of “the floor is lava”, which we all played as kids. We also still have the Doctor being a disembodied hand, for reasons very unclear to me. That, Michael Gough manages to be far more menacing now than he has been.

As I watch this, I’m having flashbacks to one of the less-than-great early episodes of Deep Space Nine. Watching people play these games is every bit as exiting as watching Kira play hopscotch.

Steven gets fed up with the antics of the game and tries to cheat, bypassing the rest of the course. This works about as well as one would be expected, as he learns what an invisible barrier looks like.

So the obnoxious school”boy” basically cheats his way to victory, but then falls onto electrified floor, killing himself. This gives Steven and Dodo a chance to advance to the TARDIS, which I can’t help but notice appears to be on casters.

There’s a final set of scenes where the Doctor proceeds to trick the Toymaker and allow them to escape, and stuff. It’s a bit of an odd ending to a very odd story. Annoyingly, it makes me look forward to what’s next, and I know all to well what’s next.

Next time: “Holiday for the Doctor”