Saturday 11 May 2024

Episode 116: Don't Shoot The Pianist

Unaware that he is walking into a trap, the Doctor wanders slowly down Main Street towards the Last Chance Saloon, where the Clanton brothers and their friend Seth Harper await him...
Not only does Steven have the habit of calling him "Doc", but the gambling gunslinger Doc Holliday has tricked him into carrying a pistol, hoping that he will be mistaken for him.
His girlfriend Kate is unhappy at this manipulation and so sets off to make sure the Doctor comes to no harm. Holliday is forced to follow.
In the saloon bar, Steven and Dodo are being forced to run through their song over and over again - preventing them warning the Doctor. When he finally arrives, he is happy to see that his companions have made new friends - until he detects the threatening atmosphere.
He attempts to clear up the misunderstanding, but Harper saw him earlier in the dentist shop, and he is carrying Holliday's gun.
Kate then arrives and deliberately makes out that he is Holliday. Unseen by everyone at the top of the stairs, the gunslinger shoots Seth's gun from his hand - and everyone thinks the Doctor did it. Hoping to calm things down, he disarms everyone.
Dodo meets Holliday upstairs, and he is forced to take her to one of the bedrooms.
In the bar, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson arrive. Earp is also keen that everyone thinks the Doctor to be Holliday, as the gunslinger is an old friend of his. He decides to arrest him, hoping that this will defuse the situation and deflect attention from his friend.
Whilst Dodo is held in the bedroom by Holliday and Kate, Steven continues to argue that the Doctor isn't Holliday and he will try to get him out of jail. He finds the Clantons and Harper agreeing to help him.
As darkness falls, Holliday slips back to his shop - and finds Earp waiting for him. He advises that he needs to get out of town until things blow over.
Steven is given a gun to pass onto the Doctor though the jailhouse window, but Earp sees him openly playing with it.
The Clantons then decide on another scheme - to threaten Steven with a lynching. Earp must release "Holliday" or his friend will die.
Alone in the bar Harper spots Holliday as he returns to fetch Kate, but is shot dead before he can warn the brothers. Holliday and Kate then force Dodo to accompany them as they flee the town - despite her wanting them to save Steven.
Tied up and mounted on a horse, he is positioned under a tree with a noose around his neck. A mob surrounds him, fired up by the Clantons. 
The Doctor can only look on helplessly from the jailhouse...
Next episode: Johnny Ringo

Written by: Donald Cotton
Recorded: Friday 22nd April 1966 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 7th May 1966
Ratings: 6.6 million / AI 39
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Rex Tucker

John Henry "Doc" Holliday was born in Griffin, Georgia in 1851. He studied dentistry at the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery, earning a degree at age 20. After setting up a practice in his home town he developed TB - which prompted him to move to the south western states for their drier climate. In Arizona he set himself up as a gambler - a perfectly acceptable profession there at the time.
Arguments over cards led to a number of confrontations, which is is how he came to earn a reputation as a gunslinger. That reputation was that he had killed up to 20 men, but the reality is that he only killed two or three.
He and Wyatt Earp became friends after the dentist saved Earp's life in Texas.

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois in 1849. In 1874 he and his wife opened a brothel in Witchita, Kansas and, despite being arrested several times accused of being a pimp, he was hired as a police officer. Falling foul of a political rival of his boss, he moved on - eventually setting up another brothel in Dodge City. He later became a Deputy Marshal. Following an outlaw named "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh to Texas brought him into contact with Holliday for the first time.
In 1879 Earp and some of his brothers left Dodge City for Tombstone, which was experiencing an economic boom thanks to its silver mines.
Earp had many siblings, best known of which were Virgil (b. 1843), Morgan (b. 1851), and Warren (b. 1855).
It was Virgil who was Tombstones' Marshal. Wyatt was simply made his deputy in order to help the brothers confront the "Cochise County Cowboys" - an outlaw gang of which the Clantons were part.

Bartholomew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson was born in Henryville, Canada, in 1853. Moving to the US as a young man he became a buffalo hunter and army scout. After a crooked businessman disappeared owing he and his brothers money, he tracked the man down over the course of five years - eventually getting their money back with interest. This took place in Dodge City, where he was later to become sheriff - coinciding with his brother being Marshal there. Like Holliday and Earp, he was a well-known gambler. Whilst well acquainted with the key figures of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Masterson was not in Tombstone at the time of the event.

As mentioned last week, Kate is based on "Big Nose Kate" Horony, who was born in 1849 in Hungary. Her family emigrated to the US in 1860. Running away from home aged 16, she first made for St Louis. She later became a prostitute - working in a brothel run by Earp's brother James for a time. She moved to Fort Griffin in 1876, where she first met Holliday. Theirs was a fiery relationship, and at one point Kate even signed a false accusation that he had been involved in the attempted robbery of a wagon carrying silver, in which people were killed. No matter how serious, after every bust-up they always reconciled.
Apart from Masterson, all of the above characters were in Tombstone at the time of the events of The Gunfighters, though their actual biographies may vary from their fictional selves.
Donald Cotton positioned them as the "good guys" in his tale, despite them behaving in dubious, self-serving fashion. 
Next week, we'll look at "the opposition".

Like his Trojan War scripts, Cotton ensured a great deal of humour was to be had prior to the inevitable dark turn of the final instalment. The Gunfighters can only lead to the infamous Gunfight, in which some of these characters are doomed to die - but let's have some fun on the way there.
Hartnell in particular gets to indulge in some comedy, getting some nice lines. The mispronunciation of Earp's name - "Mr Werp" - came mainly from him.
It's hard to believe that this is the same Doctor who was so antagonistic towards Ian and Barbara, and who appeared ready to smash a wounded caveman's skull in, just to get back to the TARDIS.
In this episode he comes across as a total innocent, failing to spot the threatening undercurrents of the saloon gathering until too late. Funniest of all is his response to Steven's attempt to spring him from jail. He simply doesn't twig what his companion is trying to do, openly waving the gun about and even showing it off to "Mr Werp". He then protests: "... only people keep giving me guns, and I do wish they wouldn't...". He then tells Earp all about the plan to spring him.

Wednesday 20th April saw the Bulwer Road rehearsal hall visited by a photographer from the Daily Mirror (see below), whilst a journalist was booked to attend the Friday recording session to interview William Hartnell, for a piece that would be published the next day.
Recording moved back to Riverside Studios.
There was a delay in setting things up when the firearms arrived late. Pianist Tom McCall had pre-recorded some of the music for this episode but was not present in studio this week - his place taken by Winifred Taylor.
The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon is rather too prominent in this episode.
Whilst in his cell, the Doctor is seen to peruse a "Wanted" poster - featuring a guest artist who won't actually appear until next week. We see Laurence Paine as Johnny Ringo. Though photography was well established by 1881, these posters were much more likely to feature an artist's impression of the wanted man or a far less detailed photo.
The way we're introduced to Ringo is a perfect example of the way the language of film has changed over the years. With huge turret cameras in small sets on cramped studios, we see the Doctor seemingly fascinated by the back of the poster - so that the front faces the camera. (It's like the way groups of people always sit in a semi-circle round a square table in sitcoms and most soap operas). 
A number of these posters were printed by Barry Newbery and scattered around the sets.
The recording session saw the arrival of a horse in studio, for the closing sequence with Steven about to be lynched.
High shots of the street scenes were achieved by mounting a camera on a mole-crane, pointing through a fake window pane.

  • The ratings actually see a small rise (of only 0.1 million), but the appreciation figure tumbles by six points to bring it below the 40 mark for the first time since The Feast of Steven.
  • Competition for the series across the ITV regions comprised Lost In Space, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, The Addams Family and Bonanza.
  • On Saturday 23rd April, journalist Jack Bell of the Daily Mirror quoted Hartnell as saying "The idea of a Western story was my idea... children will always adore Cowboys and Indians"
  • On the Friday following transmission of this episode, Junior Points of View saw considerable criticism of the current adventure. "Since the Doctor has arrived in the Wild West, I have not enjoyed the programme". Another viewer complained about the genre cliches and the "phony" American accents, before adding "PS Steven can't sing".
  • Another young viewer pointed out that his older brother had seen Hartnell in the pub sans wig, though he hadn't.
  • Rehearsals at the Bulwer Street Territorial Army Drill Hall:

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