The Gunfighters

Doctor Who Big Finish Gunfighters
Gunfighters Radio Times

Welcome to our second William Hartnell Wednesday. This week`s upload is The Gunfighters, a story that`s arguably one of the least well regarded in the entire canon. But, whilst most Fans have a poor opinion of it, myself included, it`s actually not that bad if you take it for what it is instead of what we’d all rather it was. And I do like the bloke who plays Doc Holliday, he’s probably the only person on screen other than Hartnell himself who’s in any way engaging.

I think part of the problem with this story in the eyes of many fans, aside from the obvious drawbacks caused by limited budgets and actors of limited ability, is that, tonally, it`s at odds with the normal pitch of the Hartnell Era. Just imagine what it might have been like if Season Sixteen Tom Baker had turned up in Tombstone instead, the story would probably have worked a lot better!

gunfighters covers

We tend to like our Who to take itself seriously, and although the Douglas Adams/Graham Williams style has its fans too, they`re not in the majority when it comes to Best Era Ever. And taking yourself seriously wasn`t something the show always did back in those early days. Back then they could – and did – tell any kind of story they liked, unrestricted by audience expectations, concerns over continuity or a self-awareness of a particular perceived house style. There was no artistic reason why the show couldn’t alternate between serious, comedic or downright weird, like the story immediately before this one…

Since the end of The Celestial Toymaker leads directly into the start of The Gunfighters I always intended to use it as a pre-credits sequence. It’s  not exactly a huge loss to fandom that the story doesn’t exist in it’s entirety as Hartnell is absent for most of it. And can you imagine the harm it would have done the show if they really had brought him back looking completely different and played by someone else? I doubt the show would have survived a change like that so it’s just as well those ill-conceived plans came to nothing and Bill staggered on.

So, since the full story doesn`t exist I thought it would be nice to at least get some of the footage in there somewhere! And the final episode is probably the best one of the four as far as I can tell. All we really need is the climax of the Trilogic Game but the dialogue is so involved that it made it difficult to start too late into the sequence. The answer was simply to get the Doctor straight into the Tardis and take it from there. I used a music cue from earlier in the episode to cover the join.

When it came to the dematerialisation of the Ship, in the TX version, the sound effect starts before Steven hits the switch so I fixed that. I used a slow fade to both finish the game and to vanish the Toymaker which I think is much more effective and let the full take off sound effect play out underneath the rest of the scene. The last thing to do was to slow down the final shots to fit with the music cue that leads into the opening credits.

It`s probably the quickest way you can recap the previous adventure and still have it make sense to anyone who missed it. It`s only four and a half minutes but I`m really pleased it`s in there. Having got the Toymaker into the Edit it was now time to tackle The Gunfighters itself!

Sometimes you have an idea of what you want to do with an Edit before you start, and for this one I knew I wanted rid of that silly bloody song. The first time it appears is right at the top of the show before the Tardis lands so I cut that out and put in the clean landing effect, leaving a silent gap to be filled with music later. As I worked through the episode I ended up with a whole series of these gaps which would need filling in.

On the whole editing the song out wasn`t too problematic, despite the fact that the dialogue usually starts as the song is ending. That meant you had to get into the scene after it had finished, which was easier with some scenes than with others! The first problematic instance was the end of part two/start of part three, where they plan to lynch Steven. That required some ingenuity and audio patching from elsewhere in the episode to cover the join. The gun battle at the end was tightened up considerably to make it fit with the music, which, as ever, was the most challenging part of the edit.

Since this is a Western I initially thought of using “straight” movie music but the tone of the show is all wrong for that. I tried it but it just didn`t seem to work with the visuals; it`s more Carry On Cowboy than The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! In the end I decided to bookend the show with two “proper” pieces of Western Music – which I`m sure the movie buffs among you will recognise right away – and plug the rest of the gaps with Tristram Carey`s silent movie style piano music from Dalek Masterplan. It seemed to fit better than anything else and, while it echoed the original, it was a huge improvement on it.




7 thoughts on “The Gunfighters

  1. After months of starvation, I resumed my tour of classic Doctor Who with an all out binge. Today, I managed to finish The Dalek’s Master Plan, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, the Ark, the Celestial Toymaker, and finally the Gunfighters.

    This is the first edit I’ve watched without having seen the original, and I’m a bit lost for what to write up here. Normally, I just compare the original and the edit try to mention a few of the changes I noticed and comment on the pacing of the who and choices of music. I guess I’ll have to just review the episode as is.

    I remember when I first rediscovered Doctor Who as an adult. My girlfriend had BBC America and when she would nod off I’d sneak downstairs on the off chance that it would be on and sometimes I got lucky.

    Now, BBCA would always run a few episodes back to back and I’d never really know where I was in an episode or how many they were going to play. My favorite thing about watching those episodes were the next episode jumps. I was never really sure if the episode I was watching was really ending or just beginning, especially when the theme hits.

    I really appreciate the jump from the Celestial Toymaker. In adds a different elements to the episode in terms of both set and scenery and in tone. It shifts from the very grim and serious ending of the Celestial Toymaker, (another lighthearted adventure) to the less than serious western romp of the Gunfighters.

    Also, nice job cleaning up the effect of the floating Trilogic piece during the Doctor’s final move. It looks much better.

    Opening up the episode with the theme from A Fistful of Dollars was a lot of fun. Ennio Morricone can do so much with a couple guitars, a jaw harp, and a bit of whistling. It got me really excited for the episode.

    Which is right about where the train jumps a “time track”. The acting and the American accents on the episode are atrocious. I reckon I wanted to plum blow my brains out by the end.

    Cheesy American accents aside the episode wasn’t as nearly as bad as I’ve read about or even as bad as I’m making it out to be. It bounced around as one character after was suddenly unable to get back to the TARDIS. Even though the plot leapt forward at a pretty hectic pace, it did so like a gazelle; smooth and evenly. I prefered it to the slowly lurching pointless loops that most of the original episodes suffer from.

    The final showdown was pretty terrific. A Few Dollars more was a very fun choice for Doc Holiday to slay everybody to.

    Thanks again for the edit. It was fun.

    • Well you must be the only one then! For me it was a bit too intrusive in a story that was comedic enough already. But there’s nothing to stop you keeping it in when you do your own edit…

  2. I simply must praise you for your mastery of the fan edit on display here. This is one serial I never thought I’d revisit because it is so dreadful but you have really saved it! It’s no masterpiece even with your improvements, obviously, but it’s amazing how much more watchable it is. Without the awful song it’s amazing how improved it is, not to mention the lack of singing by Dodo and Steven Regret. Great work!

    • Cheers, Bud! Glad you liked it.
      That’s the whole point of fan editing as I see it – to try and make a more watchable version.

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