Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy

We were out all day yesterday, so I’m a day late writing this up – probably going to end up rather more disjointed than I might wish 😉 Spoilers galore in the rest of the post, hover mouse over text to read or read on full entry page.

Where to start? Another good episode 🙂 I liked it right from the start with the voice over cluing us into the tone of the episode – a Western. Tho for all I know everyone across the US is wincing at how the accent was all wrong, but it worked for the Brit audience anyway 😉

Note the fakeout in the intro voiceover, too – the man who doesn’t die, who falls from the sky. And it’s not the Doctor. Also, another fakeout early on – it’s the “alien Doctor” that the cyborg is looking for to kill, and again it’s not the Doctor. Which resonates with three fakeouts I can think of from last episode: a) Solomon wants the Doctor brought to him when he overhears Rory calling him Doctor, but it’s because he wants medical attention, not because he wants “The Doctor”; b) the scanner that tells the value of everything doesn’t flag up the Doctor as interesting or even known; c) Solomon finds something “more valuable than the dinosaurs” and it’s neither the Tardis nor the Doctor, it’s Nefertiti. I’m not sure if this is season arc stuff or if this is more about aggressively re-educating our expectations – I’m sure I read somewhere that Moffat thought the stakes for Doctor Who stories had got too high, and that he wanted to pull back the scope of the stories to more personal ones rather than universe destroying ones. Certainly these last two episodes have fit that mould, and the fakeouts remind us that the whole universe does not, in fact, revolve around the Doctor.

I liked the way that the characters generally weren’t one-note this time. I say “generally” partly because I’m not sure whether to count the preacher as a “proper” character or not, he has a speaking part but he doesn’t really do much (and in not doing much doesn’t get characterisation beyond stereotypical “man of the cloth in frontier town who prays a bit”). Obviously Jex & the Gunslinger are set up to play with our expectations & sympathies, and set up to mirror & cast lights on the Doctor & his demons. But also Isaac – I felt clearly he did things in the war he wasn’t proud of and he was in some ways atoning for this by his protection of Jex. And “the kid” who ringleads the push to fling out first the Doctor then Jex to the Gunslinger – leading a lynch mob isn’t exactly a plus point, but he’s doing the best he can think of to look after his family and his town.

Jex in particular was well done, I thought. He was a manipulative little bastard (the “bonding” moment with Amy as a parent, the way he pushes the Doctor’s buttons, the way he clearly got Isaac onside), although he doesn’t always get quite the reaction he wants – not as clever as he’d like to hope he is. You could see how he managed to rationalise his participation in atrocities and how he justified himself to others. You could also see he was consumed by guilt, he knew he’d done wrong, but you could see the self-interest in his repentance – redemption for him wasn’t about atoning for the wrongs he’d done to others, it was about avoiding or ameliorating an afterlife that would be unpleasant for him.

Some nice callbacks to previous continuity like Amy having to do the “and this is why you need company” speech. I felt the Time War was the elephant in the room for a lot of the Doctor/Jex scenes but as well as that there’s more recent & on-screen moments like “A Good Man Goes to War” and “Waters of Mars” are clearly referenced in the “what holds you back is your morality” conversation where Jex is both manipulating and wrong – the Doctor has rules, and people who expect better from him, the Doctor left to his own devices in the past has acted like a vengeful & capricious god not like a moral person.

On a lighter note there’s also the “I speak horse” thing, like how he speaks baby in the cyberman one with the rom-com star (I can’t remember the episode name, or the famous actor in it, hopefully you can figure out what I mean!). And the horse being Susan and wanting his life choices respected gave me a good giggle, from the combination of the deadpan delivery from the Doctor and the preacher’s face.

Amy & Rory didn’t really have a lot to do here – Amy’s “you need us” moment aside. In fact Rory could’ve been elsewhere entirely & I don’t think it’d be noticeable. The end is noteworthy though for Amy also being keen to get home, things have changed again since last episode. The Doctor may or may not’ve been intentionally weaning Rory & Amy off him, but he’s certainly succeeding. Note also that he’s 1200 years old now, and at the end of last season he was 1100 years old – I presume that’s to show us how he’s stretching out his visits to Amy & Rory even more from his perspective. I had another thought about the “you’ll be here till the end of me” conversation from last episode too, is the Doctor trying in some ways to spread out his visits so that he doesn’t out live this set of companions?

Oh, and I’ve seen a few comments elsewhere on the web about how the Doctor wouldn’t point a gun at anyone coz he’s anti-violence … I think he’s actually a hypocrite and was so even in old school Who 😉 I ran across a link to this montage & it seems appropriate here:

Note that it’s got swear words in the music it’s set to, so perhaps headphones if you’re looking at it at work.