The Doctor wears a fez well, but he rocks a stetson. And that was reason enough to film A Town Called Mercy, even if the story was thin on the ground. Not that thin plots is harming series 7 – by my reckoning we’ve been story light in the first three episodes of Doctor Who, yet we’ve not really had a weak week (great alliteration or bad writing? You decide).
Saturday’s episode had me torn between enjoying the play on a Western and groaning slightly at the rammed-down-your-throat morality; happy to say that Western won out. Questioning the Doctor’s role as our ethical guidance has been a prevalent theme since latter day Tennant episodes, but it got a bit heavy partway through the last series when virtually any monster could be brought down by the power of virtuous thoughts. In Asylum of the Daleks the power of lurve saved Amy. So really, in episode three it was almost refreshing to that there was no perfect resolution when the vengeful cyborg Gunslinger was pitted against his torturous yet reformed maker.
Personally, I felt the Auschwitz-esque human experimentation was enough to condemn Kahler Jex on the spot, and, as the Doctor so accurately pointed out, it was not for him to pick himself such a cosy punishment. Moreover, a quick death for Jex at the hands of the Gunslinger would have not only saved the Marshall’s life but also kept the entire town out of peril. Surely the cleanest path?
However, this is family teatime viewing and no one really wants to have to deal with blood directly on the whimsical Doctor’s hands. So although we had to sacrifice the Marshall to keep the Doctor’s newfound clean slate, well, clean, in the end it turned out ok. The cyborg failed to follow through on his threats to destroy Mercy. In fact the worst he ever did is shoot a hole in a rather stylish stetson, which begs the question why did the Doctor bother getting involved at all? Can’t help but meddle? Indulging a bit of a power complex over the lowly humans?
Let’s backtrack, as I’ve gone off on rant about the plot holes after having really enjoyed the episode. Although I’m a big fan of succinct, watertight plots, that tends to be an added bonus in Doctor Who and all the other salient points were still there. Excellent proof that excitement doesn’t always hinge on running down corridors, the quiet tension in the standoff was thrilling. In a PC world (not the computer store) Susan the gender-fluid horse shouldn’t have provided the humour, but she really, really did.
In an episode where the Doctor was mostly incidental, the Ponds weren’t really taxed, though Amy sacrificed the Marshall to keep the Doctor pure at heart. Next week’s teaser shows Amy and Rory’s home life come into the spotlight, once more setting us up for their final moments with the Doctor. But it seemed to me a little hypocritical of Amy to accuse the Doctor of losing his humanity when parted from her for too long, only to refuse a trip with him at the end of the episode.
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