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Two sadly underrated Doctor Who stories
on 8 September 2013
The link between these two stories may be tenuous, but if we judge the stories on their own merits they both have a great deal to offer.
The first story is the William Hartnell story 'The Gunfighters' which is quite possibly the most maligned Doctor Who story ever and, having watched it, I cannot understand why. The story is a historical set in the wild west in 1881, it concerns the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the events leading up to it. Donald Cotton's script is very well written; it's consistently very amusing and has loads of great dialogue. William Hartnell had apparently wanted to do a western and his performance here is a joy to watch. The rest of the cast are also pretty good, Anthony Jacobs in particular excels as Doc Holliday.
The sets constructed for this story are very impressive and are made to look even better by Rex Tucker's stylish and confident direction. Perhaps the most often criticized part of this story is the 'Ballad of the last chance saloon' which is sung by Lynda Baron and appears at various times throughout the story. The ballad is there to commentate on the action and if you listen to the lyrics they are very clever, I also found Baron's vocals to be more than satisfactory.
So in conclusion The Gunfighters is wonderfully entertaining and so I would urge you not to be put off by the undeserved criticism this story has received.
The other story is the Peter Davison story 'The Awakening', Davison's time on the show gave us many excellent stories and this is certainly one of the best. This is well acted and directed with especially excellent use of location filming. The sets for this story are also fabulous, but extra praise has to go to the magnificent church set which was so convincing that you could be forgiven for thinking the scenes it was used for were filmed inside a real church.
The antagonist is an incredibly malevolent entity by the name of the Malus which is buried inside the walls of the church and is breaking out, the design for the Malus too is impressive it really projects a sense of menace despite the fact that it doesn't actually speak. It has been said that his story is insubstantial due to it's brief length but I disagree, after all stories such as 'The Girl in the Fireplace' and 'Blink' which are both almost exactly the same length as this are rightly considered classics and I believe this should be as well.
In conclusion The Awakening is nearly faultless and is, for me, one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever.
So, we have two superb stories packaged together, I believe the quality of these stories more than compensates for the lack of reasoning for why they were released together in the first place.