Last time: dinosaurs. This week, Doctor Who hits another trope: the Western. And with “Mercy” writ large in the title, it’s no surprise the Doctor’s here to wrestle with thorny issues of justice, ethics and clemency.
Obviously, aliens, horses and shootouts too. Watch it on iPlayer before continuing, as I will be doing spoilers. So, how did it all slot together?
The Gunslinger Is Not In Cardiff
I rarely compliment the Doctor Who crew on their technical proficiency, but I’ll take the trouble this time – A Town Called Mercy looked good. Nice effects, lovely scenery, hardly ever felt like we were inevitably near Cardiff. Good work, all.
And story-wise, we had the redemptive journey of the lone Gunslinger, tarted up by his being an alien cyborg with a gangly bow-tie wearing idiot jumping around him. Many of the reveals (the town doctor being a nasty piece of work, the Gunslinger having a valid point) were predictable, but that’s why the episode gets them out of the way early.
And then we hit the meat-and-potatoes of many Who episodes: lengthy moral hand-wringing.
It is a tricky dilemma, and arguably their way out is an obvious cheat, but the main point seems to be flagging up the Doctor’s increasing frustrations, through the medium of bashing us over the head with parallels between him and the other alien war criminal.
I’d hesitate to say this was brilliance, it was very much a mid-series episode, giving the Doctor a problem to overcome whilst simultaneously flagging up his ongoing storylines. (And yes, good to see him killing the baddie last week was a deliberate point rather than an out of character moment.)
And the Ponds, even though we’re into their final three episodes, get sidelined in favour of the moral conundrums. Amy gets her usual few lines as the Doctor’s conscience, Rory is barely there. Based on their final scene here and the trailer for next week, it looks like the big question is: will they tell the Doctor they’re leaving, only for something awful to happen to them on their “last trip”?
That would be my prediction for their departure, anyway. But pulling things back to A Town Called Mercy: decent adventure, storylines advanced, looked good, I was engaged whilst watching it, not quite as great as previous Toby Whitehouse episodes like School Reunion and The God Complex but still good.
So, three watchable weeks so far, I’m happy enough. How about you?