Monday, April 27, 2015

The Gunfighters — Blogging Doctor Who

What scarier than being
between a Dalek and a
Having to watch this story.
I knew this one was coming and coming soon. I’m going to bet that just about any fan of the classic Doctor Who series would, if they could change history and get a serial back but they had to give up a serial we currently had, would happily trade “The Gunfighters.” Yet, with all that, it doesn’t stick in my mind as my least favorite Doctor Who serial. There is something I like less and dread rewatching more.

That (perhaps surprisingly) won’t come up for a long time. The serial in question (and I’m going to be coy and not reveal its name prematurely) fails in one respect where “The Gunfighters” succeeds. “The Gunfighters” has a coherent plot. It’s not a terribly interesting plot, but characters stay in character throughout the whole thing. How grateful we must be for small virtues.

There’s no point in talking about the virtues of the serial, since its sins loom too large. First and foremost is that damn song, “The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon,” which is dull and distracting at its introduction, and only serves to get more irritating. Worse, in addition to the voice-over, we also get to hear various characters sing it. It is the only song available in Tombstone? No wonder people are so ready to shoot someone dead.

Another glaring problem is that they get the history wrong. In prior historicals, they only ran into actual history on rare occasion. In “The Reign of Terror,” we do have Robespierre falling in a coup, but we don’t spend that much time with him (of course, there I noted that Robespierre would have been the last person to use the old calendar and would have noted the date on the French Republican calendar). “The Aztecs” dealt with an unspecified period of Aztec history so they were able to fudge even more.

While the basic outline of the shootout at the O.K. Corral is right, there are a lot of historical details, large and small, that are just dead wrong. For a start, the actor playing Doc Holliday is way too old, as Holliday died (of tuberculosis) at just 36, but they have a 48-year-old actor playing him. I can cope with the accents being a bit inconsistent, since a fully accurate set of accents might actually be light on southern and western drawls. Once character who almost certainly didn’t have a clipped western twang is Holliday’s common-law wife, Kate, because she was a Czech immigrant. Oh, while Doc Holliday might have killed Johnny Ringo, it didn’t happen then and there.

But the factual inaccuracies wouldn’t matter if they spun out an interesting tale. The problem is “The gunfight at O.K. Corral” is sort of predictable. Everything is going to move toward the famous gunfight. The script doesn’t provide enough suspense. It rarely seems that our heroes are in that much danger, other than Steven getting threatened with lynching (they heard him sing). Once that’s over, everything seems kinda placid. You just spend your time waiting for that damn song to be over.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
Given the iconic status of the cowboy, you’d expect there’d be some eye candy. These guys just don’t do it for me. Maybe it’s the big mustaches, though generally I’m a fan of facial hair. No idea. Maybe it might be your thing. Maybe Laurence Payne, who plays Johnny Ringo. Still, everyone’s snarling, and that damn song makes everyone look less attractive.

Not really germane here, but Peter Purves’s costume was about as ridiculous as possible.

So, Is This a Must-See
No, it’s more of a “should skip.” Just about scraping the bottom of the barrel, worth watching only if you’re on some mad mission to watch all extant Who in sequence. If you’re just trying to have fun, almost any other choice is a better one.

Now you’ll excuse me, I have to get that stupid song out of my head.

Next: The Doctor deals with a horrific plan to link all the computers in the world together and control people's minds with cat videos (or something).
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