Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Gunfighters

I have been led to believe from my good friend Andrew that ‘The Gunfighters’ has a bad reputation. Some of it based on supposedly the lowest ratings to that point – which is not true, several episodes before ‘The Gunfighters’ rated lower (such as ‘The Ark’). It did have the lowest, to the time, audience appreciation score. Apparently this is one of the reasons that the new production team decided to cut the historical stories.
The Doctor meets Wyatt Earp. Or is that 'Mr Wearp'?

Anyhoo, ‘The Gunfighters’ is a refreshingly enjoyable Doctor Who tale after the previous two which were rather hard work. There’s a light-hearted feel to the piece, filled with a talented guest cast and an outstanding performance from William Hartnell. He knew exactly where to pitch this performance, which he generally does, however, there’s barely a slip of the tongue in this story from our beloved Doctor. The same can’t be said for Anthony Jacobs who took on the role of Doc Holliday. He stumbles and repeats several lines, and looks about 50 whereas Holliday was supposed to be around 30 at the time, and indeed died at 36. However, he is well cast apart from those two minor quibbles.

The strongest of the guest cast is John Alderson as Wyatt Earp, he plays straight man to the Doctor who keeps calling him ‘Mr Wearp’ brilliantly. This joke is brilliantly expanded on when Steven accidently calls him ‘Mr Wearp’ and corrects himself in embarrassment. I liked Peter Purves’ performance as well in this story, although the actor did not. Steven is very weak and ignorant of the surround he is in, which is fair enough as he comes from the far future. It works wonderfully well I think. And Jackie Lane shines as Dodo in her best story thus far, with wonderful interactions with Jacobs.
Americans don’t tend to do British that well (and don’t get me started on their Australian accents!) but it’s fair to say that the British aren’t that great at American accents either. There’s a real mix in this story of good and bad accents. The guys playing the Clantons are not very convincing, and fade in and out and sometimes go a bit British. David Graham gives a great performance as Charlie the barman, however his accent is rather stagey – by that I mean it’s reminiscent of an American accent used by non-Americans on stage. It seems a little too strong, a little too ‘worked on’ perhaps. Generally, the main characters are very good. Reed De Rouen as Pa Clanton probably had the best accent.
Kate sings 'The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon'

This story probably can’t be reviewed without at least mentioning ‘The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon’ – a song that does appear far too frequently in the production. It was written for the production, but why they couldn’t write a couple of other tunes I don’t know. It fits in well with the piece, but it just pops up all the time. On top of that it is sung as part of the story as well as being used as the soundtrack which is mighty confusing. The latter verses of the soundtrack version tells the story as it’s being played out, which I liked. I think they needed to have Kate, Steven and Dodo singing a different tune though. They could have checked the later verses and seen what was going to happen!
The shoot out in the final episode.
The sets are great for ‘The Gunfighters’. The stuff shot on film (mostly just the shootout) looks wonderful in the bigger studio with wider streets and a less claustrophobic feel. Everything looks quite authentic and much of the set seems to be interconnected to itself. They managed to put sand on the ground so we didn’t see a shiny black studio floor too which really helps. Very well done.

Dodo is is held hostage by Johnny Ringo

One last nod to the cast – Laurence Payne as Johnny Ringo. Wonderful casting, played him very dark and his introduction to the third episode changes the mood of the entire piece leading up to the shootout. In reality he wasn’t at the shootout, Pa Clanton was already dead and many other things didn’t happen as they did in this piece. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story. And despite what others may say, this is a good story.

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