Doctor Who — The Gunfighters


Season 3 – Episode 8 – (1966)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell

Did you ever think that the show would feature a song? One written purely for it? Well it does and it’s known as The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon. If you’d like to hear it once, I’m sure you can find on YouTube. If you’d like to hear it over and over again, you should watch this episode!

The plot is simple really. The Doctor and co arrive in a town called Tombstone at the O.K. Corral and don appropriate clothes. They wander into town and introduce themselves, under pseudonyms, as musicians and the Doctor goes to see the dentist, who has nothing in the way of anaesthetic other than alcohol or knocking him out. The Doctor doesn’t touch alcohol in this story… So while the dentist is in the back room, another chap enters who confuses the Doctor, for Doc Holliday – famous for being a participant at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral – the real Holliday (the dentist) is only too happy to let this confusion continue and even gives a gun to The Doctor.

Doc Holliday, for those who don’t know, was a figure famous for shootouts in the wild west.

It progresses how you think it will. The Doctor himself is mistaken for Holliday due to his naivety. He recognises the name of some of the patrons of a bar, where Steven and Dodo are being forced to perform that damned ballad. When he realises the mistake he tries to talk his way out of it but Kate, Holliday’s associate, arrives and reinforces the charade. The Doctor protests, pulling out the gun and accidentally shooting one of the ruffians (non-fatally of course). Kate doubles down and pretends The Doctor did this on purpose and he plays along.

The Doctor is arrested and taken to prison, which leaves the outlaws to try and break him out in order to execute him personally. He doesn’t leave and so Steven’s life is threatened.

Everything snowballs and a gunfight is inevitable, with Doc Holliday holding his cards close to his chest, waiting for outlaw gangs – one present, one imminent – to meet each other and it all gets rather predictable. People are shot and everyone is sort of happy at the end. The Doctor insists they leave and such and the story closes.

It’s not actually as terrible as it might sound and the strength of the story is from its character moments. Hartnell’s performance is quite strong, especially with the co-stars that he is clearly fond of. The story is a little looked down on by history but I have seen far worse than this. Just get used to that bloody song; it’s incessant.

Favourite Quotes:

  • The Doctor: Now as I’ve already told you… About this gun… (he accidentally shoots a man)
    Kate: (grabbing a gun from the surprised men) OK, don’t try it fellas. Nice shootin’, Doc but you shoulda got ’em between the eyes.
    The Doctor: Between the who?
    Kate: The eyes…
    The Doctor: Oh my dear young lady, I – I –
    Kate: Kill the next one that moves!
    The Doctor: (cottoning on) Yes, yes… quite so, quite so… Very good idea… Excellent! Well, you heard! Steven! Get their guns!


7/10 (It’s a complete story and not as bad as history makes out)

Next time: The age of prosperity that the Doctor promises (upon realising where they’re going next) may not be so Utopian. Slaves and savages. Class systems and such … and more signs of imminent change.


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