Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 123: Johnny Ringo (The Gunfighters, Episode Three)
One of the things that often seems to be cited for people disliking The Gunfighters is the singing narration. I can't say it's really been bothering me too much (if anything, it adds a certain amount of character, and certainly makes the story stand out!), but today's episode is starting to try my patience with the idea - there's an awful lot of recapping everything we've just watched.
This episode is also home to the best use of the singing narration, though. It comes once we've seen Charlie the barman shot, and the narration plays out over a shot of his lifeless body slumped across the bar. The camera pulls back slowly from the image, toward the top of the stairs. It really leaves Charlie's death to linger, in a way that many in the series don't.
His death, along with that of Warren at the end, and one of Doc Holliday's 'old friends' off screen really paint a picture of the Wild West being a dangerous place - just as dangerous as any alien planet that the TARDIS might land on. It's great to see this, and I have to admit that I'm enjoying the period more than I thought I would - I've never been the biggest fan of Westerns (there's nothing wrong with them, I've just never been all that keen), but this one is really drawing me in.
It helps, I think, that the sets are so nice. I think I'm right in saying that this was the first time a Western of this scale was mounted as a fully studio-bound production in the UK, but I don't think you can tell. The style of the piece certainly feels like a stereotypical Western, and all the right boxes are being ticked. The only thing I could take issue with is that the hotel the Doc, Kate, and Dodo stay at has a corridor set that's near identical to one from a Fawlty Towers story. That doesn't half lower the tension.
Praise also has to be given to the man this episode takes its name from - Johnny Ringo. He's, again, fairly stereotypical as a 'bad' cowboy, dressed head-to-toe in black, strolling into the Last Chance Saloon and lighting his cigarette over one of the lamps. He says very few words to begin with, but it's enough to leave Charlie quivering in his presence… and then he shoots him dead anyway.
He's arrived in the tale at just the right moment, in time to perk things up for me a bit when things were in danger of dragging on. He brings with him a new backstory for Kate, and a new angle towards the various vendettas against Doc Holliday. The next episode's title gives a good indication as to what's coming, but I must confess that, as has often been the case with historicals of late, I've not got much knowledge of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Frankly, anything could happen and I'd be none the wiser.
Next Episode: The O.K. Corral