Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 124: The O.K. Corral (The Gunfighters, Episode Four)
The big draw of this episode, of course, was always going to be the gunfight. I don't know all that much about the 'Wild' West, but I know enough to understand that in a Western film, the O.K. Corral is associated with a big fight. I also understand enough about Doctor Who in this period to know that it'll either be a triumph or a real letdown.
Thankfully, it comes out as the former. It doesn't hurt that it's all been done on film, and therefor instantly looks better than it could have done in Riverside studios. The real star of the gunfight surely has to be Doc Holliday, who really comes into his own here. Throughout the story, he's been used as a kind of comic relief. From pulling the Doctor's tooth in Episode One, through to being 'held up' by Dodo in yesterday's episode, he's never really carried too much of a threat.
And yet we keep having characters turn up to seek revenge against him for being a cold killer. The story opens with the Clantons out to get him, and Johnny Ringo joins in at the halfway point. We've seen the Doc kill before now and he spent some time at the start of the tale manipulating people into thinking that our Doctor was him, so that people could shoot first and he'd slip away scott-free.
Here, though, we finally get to see some of his true personality. During the gunfight, he's cooler than Johnny Ringo! We even get to see that demonstrated when he kills the man. The whole sequence is well played, and really tense - it's everything that you'd expect from a Western gunfight. It's almost a shame that the Doctor doesn't keep Holliday's 'Wanted' poster, though. I like the idea that he'd have kept it hung up in the TARDIS somewhere.
Speaking of the Doctor, I've yet to mention just how good he looks in this story. His costume has always been about right for this era, but it's surprising how much the addition of a stetson and a Sheriff's badge makes it look spot-on. It could have been designed especially for this story and it wouldn't look out of place. It's also surprising how comfortable the Doctor looks in the Old West. There's a moment in the Sheriff's office where he's leaning against a pillar and he looks more cool and relaxed than I think we've ever seen him.
On the whole, it's fair to say that this story easily defies its long-standing reputation as 'The Worst Doctor Who Story Ever'. With the exception of Episode Two (which may have just been an off-day for me), I've been hooked right the way through. There's been a perfect mix of comedy and drama, and it really does surprise me that it took them until last year's A Town Called Mercy to return to this type of setting - it suits the programme so well! It's the kind of place I can imagine the series going in the 1980's very easily, and I'm a bit saddened that it never happened!
Perhaps most notably, though, this is the last time in the classic run that the series uses individual titles for each episode! I have to admit that I've never really thought all that much of them: it was just something that the programme did for the first couple of years, and then dropped out of doing. Having actually watched all these episodes like this… I've realised how much I like having the individual titles! It adds something fun to the end of the episodes, and I'm going to be missing those 'Next Episode' captions.
But for today, we do have a 'Next Episode' caption, so for the last ('official') time…
Next Episode: Dr. Who and the Savages