Doctor Who 116 – Don’t Shoot the Pianist (The Gunfighters Part 2)

Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Rex Tucker

Wyatt Earp discover’s Holliday’s ruse and attempts to protect The Doctor–by arresting him.  The Clantons decide to use Steven as a hostage to lure The Doctor out of hiding. 

Wyatt Earp confronts Doc Holliday.

 “Ain’t it wonderful, honey, what a man will do for what he truly believes in.”

The resolution of the cliffhanger from the previous episode is well-handled.  Kate decides to meddle, presumably out of concern for helping set-up The Doctor.  Holliday isn’t particularly thrilled about this, but sneaks in to the saloon as tensions mount.  A well-placed bullet helps turn the tides and The Doctor and Kate end up holding The Clantons at gunpoint.  The Doctor has figured out the mistake at this point, but his protestations are ineffective as Kate and later Wyatt Earp insist that The Doctor truly is Holiday.  Both Kate and Earp are attempting to protect Holiday.  Earp, however, seems a bit irritated at his friend’s cowardice and deception.  Cotton has chosen to portray Wyatt Earp as the noble, just lawman, while Holliday is a bit of an anti-hero.  He is more concerned with alcohol and self-preservation.  Kate provides a bit of character analysis of Holliday, stating that he is a gentleman who has occasionally found himself in situations that required him to do ungentlemanly things.  This seems to have some basis in fact.  However, we can all find ourselves in uncomfortable or horrific situations if we continue to pursue nothing more than self-interest.  This is Holliday’s flaw, and Cotton seems to be writing a character journey for him.  Holliday may have no interest in The Clantons or owning up to his past actions, but he is loyal to his friends and he does care for Earp.

One of the most criticized elements of The Gunfighters are the accents.  I don’t claim that the actors capture perfect American accents, but truth be told, I’m not sure they are trying to.  I think the actors are trying for stylized “Western” accents.  Taken from this perspective, I don’t really find many flaws.  It would be similar to Doctor Who tackling the noir style of film and having actors trying to imitate Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, or Fred MacMurray.  The Western-style would have been well-developed by this point, so I’m not sure we can really fault the actors for choosing to imitate a convention rather than shoot for any type of modern realism.  Besides, we aren’t yet at the point in film or television where deconstruction and realism have become staples.

This episode flew by for me.  There was a lot of good action and tension.  I hardly noticed the minutes tick by.  And knowing that this is Peter Purvis’ next-to-last story, I’m trying to enjoy every moment he has left.  Steven was a great companion and Purvis was a boon to Doctor Who.


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