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Cowboys in Tombstone
It’s time to have some adventures on Earth!
‘Earth Story’ is a very unusual ‘Doctor Who’ DVD box set. It contains two totally unconnected stories from the classic series, apart from the fact they have one thing in common. They’re both set on Earth. ‘The Gunfighters’ features William Hartnell and ‘The Awakening’ features Peter Davison.
I enjoyed seeing the stories each in turn when I purchased the ‘Earth Story’ DVD box set in the summer of 2011. They’re both different and unique in their identity. They’re not the best ‘Doctor Who’ stories I’ve seen, but they’re worth the entertainment and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them too.
Before ‘A Town Called Mercy’ with Matt Smith, there was ‘The Gunfighters’ with William Hartnell.
This is a four-part adventure by Donald Cotton set in the Wild West of America in 1888. It features William Hartnell as the Doctor with Peter Purves as Steven Taylor and Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet.
The Doctor hopes to find a dentist in Tombstone, following his toothache in ‘The Celestial Toymaker’. But it soon gets the Doctor and his friends into trouble as the Clanton brothers want Doc. Holliday dead.
The events featured in this story did happen, as it depicts the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona 1888. This was interesting to see here as I later discovered this historical event.
I enjoyed this take of a ‘Doctor Who’ Wild West adventure. There are plenty of good humorous moments that I enjoyed as well the famous gunfight scene between the cowboys at the O.K. Corral.
What spoiled ‘The Gunfighters’ for me was that dreadful ballad song performed in the background by Lynda Baron. I cringed sometimes when that song was sung, as it permeated the bulk of the story.
William Hartnell is at his best as the Doctor in this adventure. I loved the comedic moments the Doctor has in this story. Hartnell clearly enjoyed getting to participate in this historical Wild West adventure.
Peter Purves is very good as Steven in this adventure. I know how much Peter hated making this story back then, but he stands out pretty well. Steven also gets to sing that ballad song in the story.
Jackie Lane is good as Dodo Chaplet in this adventure. Dodo also gets to play the piano when Steven sings the ballad song. She’s a hostage by Doc. Holliday mostly, but forms a nice bond with him in the tale.
The guest cast are great too. There’s John Alderson as Marshall Wyatt Earp and Richard Beale as Bat Masterson, Earp’s deputy. There’s also Martyn Huntley as Warren and Victor Carin as Virgil; Wyatt Earp’s brothers.
There’s Anthony Jacobs as Doc. Holliday and Sheena Marshe as Kate. There’s also Shane Rimmer, who voiced Scott Tracy in ‘Thunderbirds’, as Seth Harper; and David Graham, who voiced Brains in ‘Thunderbirds’ as well as the original Daleks in ‘Doctor Who’, as Charlie the barman.
The Clanton brothers include William Hurndell as Ike Clanton; Maurice Good as Phineas Clanton and David Cole as Billy Clanton. These are mean gunmen and they get joined by Reed De Rouen as Pa Clanton.
There’s also Laurence Payne, who would later star in ‘The Leisure Hive’ and ‘The Two Doctors’, as Johnny Ringo. Johnny is a wanted man in Tombstone since he’s a vicious gunfighter and also wants Doc. Holliday dead. He doesn’t like it when people know his name.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘The End of the Line’ documentary on the show’s third season with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews; ‘Tomorrow’s Times – The First Doctor’, presented by Mary Tamm and a photo gallery of the story. There’s a DVD audio commentary with Peter Purves, Shane Rimmer, David Graham, Richard Beale and production assistant Tristan de Vere Cole, moderated by Toby Hadoke. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story. There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Paradise Towers’ with Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford.
‘The Gunfighters’ has been an enjoyable historical adventure with William Hartnell as the Doctor, set in the Wild West. It’s not great and the ballad song got on my nerves, but this is a fun story to watch.
‘The Gunfighters’ rating – 6/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE GUNFIGHTERS’
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Having A Read/Listen In The Last Chance Saloon
What can I say about ‘The Gunfighters’ novelization/audiobook by Donald Cotton?
Well, it’s not as good as ‘The Myth Makers’ novelization by Donald Cotton. But it’s far better than ‘The Romans’ novelization. Also ‘The Ballard of the Last Chance Saloon’ doesn’t play throughout the story thankfully. And of course Shane Rimmer (Scott Tracy in ‘Thunderbirds’) reads the audiobook. 🙂
I’ve read and listened to ‘The Gunfighters’ Target novelization/audiobook in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed reading/hearing it. I think I’ve made it clear in my review on the TV story that I found okay despite not liking the song being performed by Lynda Barron. But I wanted to give this story another chance.
And what better way to do that than tackle the novelization/audiobook. I hoped the novelization would provide more depth to the story and perhaps provide a serious edge to the story compared to what was in the TV story. For the majority of it, it worked that way, but not altogether in my opinion.
I think the novelization spent a lot of time on the first two segments of the four-part story in novelization form but it felt rather rushed in the last two segments. It’s almost like Donald Cotton struggled to expand his story and didn’t have enough time left to complete the majority of his story.
I would’ve liked it if Donald Cotton provided equal amounts of the book dedicated to each of the four segments of the story. The chapters themselves are pretty easy to read and sometimes for at least five or six pages. The OK Corral Gunfight in the final chapter takes up a lot of ten pages overall.
By the way, I read some of this Target novelization/audiobook whilst I was away attending the ‘Destination Star Trek Birmingham’ convention in October 2018. With all the American actors I was going to be meeting at that convention, I suppose ‘The Gunfighters’ novelization helped me a lot. 😀
The book was published in 1986, twenty years after the TV story was transmitted back in 1965 on BBC TV. The book is divided into 23 chapters with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end. As I stated, the audiobook gets read by Shane Rimmer who played Seth Harper in the TV story.
I purchased the audiobook as a download from Audible for me to listen to in the background whilst reading the Target novelization. For those of you to know, I’ve met Shane Rimmer in real-life. I’ve had my ‘Thunderbirds’ complete collection DVD cover signed by me and I have met him in a lift once.
That occasion I met him in the lift was when my parents were with me at the ‘Dimensions 2013’ convention in Newcastle, October 2013. My Dad didn’t know who he was at first. It was after chatting to him in the lift I said; “Dad, do you know who that was?” He was amazed when I told him. 😀
Shane Rimmer as a reader is very good as he recaptures the old American Wild West atmosphere that’s prevalent in the story. Shane is a Canadian actor who has worked on many film and TV projects both in the UK and America. This includes ‘Thunderbirds’ of course, ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Superman II’.
I don’t think Shane is a voice actor who can replicate other characters’ voices like the First Doctor, Steven, Dodo and everybody else, which is interesting considering the voice work he did on ‘Thunderbirds’. He does well with the American characters though since his voice sounds American.
I couldn’t get the feel of William Hartnell’s presence in the First Doctor when Shane read him as a character, which is a shame. But I don’t think Shane’s trying to as it’s not a performance he’s doing. It seems to be a reading. Shane is getting on now, but he managed to keep me interested via audio.
So how does the novelization begin? Well the prologue has Ned Buntline, who is an American journalist, hearing an account of what happened at the OK Coral Gunfight from Doc Holiday. This is some years when Doc Holiday is on his dead. In fact, the epilogue has Holiday dying at the very end.
Some of the novel is told in the first person from the perspective of Ned Buntline. Of course, the prologue and the epilogue scenes don’t feature in the TV story and it’s interesting how Donald Cotton sets the story up with that perspective, just as when Homer recalled ‘The Myth Makers’ tale.
As I said, ‘The Ballard of the Last Chance Saloon’ doesn’t get sung throughout the novelization/audiobook thankfully. There is the full lyrics of the song featured in Chapter 2 of the book which Shane Rimmer reads and doesn’t sing. I’m glad that Shane just reads it and doesn’t sing it.
A lot of the novelization has Donald Cotton utilize a lot of coarse language and innuendo not present in the TV story. This seems to be rare for a Target novelization. It’s interesting how Cotton makes the Wild West of America less tame and more roughened compared to the comedic flavor in the TV tale.
An example of this is where the Doctor arrives at Doc Holliday’s dentistry and he accidentally walks in where Holiday is in bed with Kate Elder. I was shocked to find that sexual innuendo in the novelization. It’s not in the TV story thank goodness and I’m surprised and intrigued to find it here.
There are a lot of deviations from the TV story featured in the audiobook. One of these differences is when the Doctor doesn’t seem to recognize Johnny Ringo in the novelization as opposed to the TV story. It makes me wonder why Cotton chose this approach as opposed to what was in the TV story.
Also the Doctor doesn’t receive a gun from Steven through the bars of his ‘gaolhouse’ cell before he plays with it until he’s caught by Wyatt Earp. Even I can recall that scene in the TV story and I’m surprised Donald Cotton didn’t use it for the novelization. One wonders why Cotton didn’t include it.
The Doctor also gets recruited to take part in the gunfight at the OK Corral. This is a part of the novelization I don’t really like as I preferred it when Holliday came in to join Wyatt Earp and his men in the fight against the Clantons. The Doctor gets depicted on learning how to shoot a shotgun for this.
He also apparently shoots two onlookers to death in the story’s climax, which I’m afraid I didn’t register at first since I felt it was all rushed in the final chapter. In any case, I don’t like this part, as the Doctor would never open fire with a gun whether by accident or not. This did feel out of character.
There’s one scene in the novelization I did like however when earlier on, when the Doctor is facing the Clantons in the Last Chance, he pulls out his gun but doesn’t open fire. Instead Holliday shoots his gun from the distance upstairs without being seen and gives the impression that the Doctor fired.
The death of Johnny Ringo is handled differently in the novelization compared to the TV version. In the book, Ringo gets killed when he goes to Holliday’s room and attempts to shoot him in the back. This is prevented when Holiday sees Ringo through Dodo holding a mirror before firing on him first.
As I recall in the TV version, it was a fair out confrontation between Holiday and Ringo who held Dodo captive, which I prefer honestly. Another difference in the book is when Ike Clanton manages to survive the gunfight, before he is taken prisoner by Steven and Kate when he is to shoot the Doctor.
A few minor differences in the book from the TV version apparently include Pa Clanton being present for the gunfight but taking no part in it. Kate also gets her surname changed from Fisher to Elder, which is intriguing. Why did Mr. Cotton go for that approach? Is there a real Kate Fisher then?
An interesting aspect of the story in novelization form is when the Clanton brothers are attempting to destroy the TARDIS with dynamite to teach Wyatt Earp a lesson. I’m afraid I missed that part, since again the climax was all rushed and there wasn’t enough breathing space to absorb each other.
A lot of back story is given to the supporting characters of this tale including how Doc Holliday proposed to Kate Elder and how Johnny Ringo got connected between Holliday and Kate at all, which was hinted at in the TV story but never developed upon. Ringo can also speak in Latin to the Doctor.
Phineas Clanton provides some comic relief to the story when he tries to come up with some colourful similes, getting on everyone’s nerve in the story. It also gets explained to a certain extent how Reuben Clanton was killed by Holiday due to cheating at cards that is a typical Wild West thing.
A significant thing I noticed about this ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization is how there’s a lot of 19th century American lingo featured in the supporting characters’ dialogue and some of the book’s descriptive detail. Some of this lingo I recognised; some I didn’t. It was pretty interesting to discover.
‘The Gunfighters’ novelization/audiobook has been an interesting one to read/listen to. It’s not the best ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization/audiobook I’ve come across, but I’m glad it’s not like ‘The Romans’ one which I read beforehand. A lot of comedic value seems to be gone in this novelization.
Whether you view that as a good or bad thing is up to you. I’m just glad I was able to read a version of the story where we didn’t have to have a song played repeatedly in the background. It would’ve been nice for the climax to be fleshed out as opposed to the earlier part of the story that got more attention.
‘Doctor Who – The Gunfighters’ rating – 7/10
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