Doctor Who

The gunfighters (1966)

About this serial

This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 30th April - 21st May 1966. The serial was written by Donald Cotton, produced by Innes Lloyd and directed by Rex Tucker. The script editor was Gerry Davis.

Plot summary

The Tardis lands in Tombstone, where gunfighters are gathering to meet at the OK Corral.


Let's start with some good things about this serial:

That said - it's one of the weirder Doctor Who serials. A key aspect is that it is about a genre (the Western) rather than about a historical time and place (the US in the late 19th century). In that sense it's more 'Pyramids of Mars' than 'Reign of Terror' even if, apart from the Tardis' presence, the science fiction element is missing. From the 1970s onwards genre spoofs would become a staple of Doctor Who, and seen from that perspective 'The gunfighters' is way ahead of its time.

There's no incidental music other than the Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon. The Ballad is mostly performed off-screen, with the lyrics commenting on the action and occasionally adding background information to it, though at one point Steven is forced at gunpoint to sing it and we also see it performed by the bar girl. (Just when you start wondering how many more times you're going to hear the Ballad in this serial, there's a slightly meta moment when Steven complains about having to sing it for the fourth time - after which the bar girl invervenes, only to give us her own rendition.)

Even considering that the whole thing is comedy, there are some puzzling plot points:

Also, the gunfight makes no sense:

The bottom line


Not among the worst of Doctor Who, but certainly among the weirdest.

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