April 30, 1966: Doctor Who – The Gunfighters

Arriving in the town of Tombstone, the First Doctor finds himself involved with gunmen out to kill Doc Holliday.

The_GunfightersThe Gunfighters was the eighth story of season 3 of Doctor Who. It was Doctor Who’s first attempt at a western, and, indeed, the first story in any medium principally set in the United States — though the First Doctor had briefly visited New York City in The Chase.

The story gave director Rex Tucker his first on-screen credit, despite his heavy involvement in the formative weeks of Doctor Who’s pre-production in 1963, before Verity Lambert was hired. It was also the first televised story to have a song written especially for it. The next story to have an original song didn’t come until The King’s Demons almost twenty years later. Conversely, its final episode, “The O. K. Corral”, was the last individually-titled episode, discounting charity events, until Rose. Both conditions — titled episodes and original songs — became more commonplace in the BBC Wales era.

The Gunfighters was notable for its casting, both proposed and actual. The role of Johnny Ringo was offered to veteran actor Patrick Troughton, soon to be cast as the Second Doctor, but he was too busy. Anthony Jacobs, who played Doc Holliday, was the father of Matthew Jacobs and brought his son onto the set. The younger Jacobs later wrote the 1996 telemovie, somewhat muddying the common fan argument that the Paul McGann movie was the “American” version of Doctor Who.

Despite its many notable factors, the serial was one of the worst-received in the series’ history. Its poor ratings and low audience appreciation figures strengthened Innes Lloyd’s argument that historical stories should be axed, though several more were produced before the format was dropped.

Guest stars included Shane Rimmer and David Graham (the voices of Scott Tracy and Brains, respectively, in Thunderbirds), and Lynda Baron (Nurse Gladys Emanuel, Open All Hours) who provided the singing voice for Sheena Marshe (Kate Fisher) on “The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon“.  Peter Purves (Steven Taylor) played sang and piano on the song.



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