Following on from last week’s ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, Doctor Who provides another cleverly named hour in the form of ‘A Town Called Mercy’, written by Toby Whithouse and continuing with the recent cinematic hints. With a reference to The Jam and the promise of a Stetson or two in the air, coolness points were off the chart from the start as we romp through the third episode in the current series of Doctor Who.
Dodgy American accents were very much ahoy as the Doctor found himself in a small town in the American ‘Wild’ West. A small town in the American West which happens to have electricity just a few years too early, a rather odd looking barrier fence, a resident physician with a face tattoo, a Cyborg gunslinger and a self-destructing spaceship that looks a lot like a Tic-Tac. Obviously.
It started well. It started really well. The Doctor finds himself in spot of bother almost straight away, when he is promptly picked up the townsfolk and kicked out of town Western style. Quite literally, actually, as he is unceremoniously dumped on the other side of the ominous looking perimeter fence. He is met there by a glimpse of a rather shady looking character we will come to know as ‘The Gunslinger’ (Andrew Brooke), an angry Cyborg on a mission. Where are all the nice, relaxed Cyborgs popping down the shops or having some down time in front of the telly I can’t help but wonder?
We then meet the real ‘alien doctor’, Kahler Jex (Adrian Scarborough) and things begin to make sense. Well, as much as they ever do. The Cyborg wants Jex, Marshall Isaac (Ben Browder) wants to protect him, the townspeople want to throw him to the wolf, the Doctor wants everyone to behave themselves, Amy wants to get her own way and Rory presumably just wants to go home. In short, and without giving too much away, The Doctor winds up looking after the town and having to make the decision for everyone.
There’s much to like in this episode. I know I mention this a lot some more absolutely stonking lines of dialogue including a gloriously Milton-esque moment late on in the episode. Amy and Rory are great in an ‘our days are numbered’ sort of way, with the team having clearly cottoned on to the thoroughly shocking fact that girls watch Doctor Who too, providing a healthy handful more Arthur Darvill close ups than usual, and is that a slightly new hairdo? The set was perfect, the lighting was lovely and there were some very well executed and indeed, very cinematic shots. Structurally, it worked well. The epic tone did admittedly at times feel shoe-horned it, but for the first time in a long time you could watch without the creeping sense that the creative team suddenly looked at their watches, found there to be 8 minutes to go and threw in a Cyberman or six to wrap things up. It was the best out and out story the show has produced in a while, with plot twists, morals an Stetsons in all the right places.
The only thing beginning to worry me in all of this, and I suspect it’s because of the Pond Williams focus, but I would like to know what on earth, for want of a better phrase, has happened to The Doctor? It may just be me, but all of a sudden he seems distracted. It’s been apparent since the series opening but in this episode in particular he always seems the last to ask obvious questions, plays with his hat instead of joining in and has wildly different changes of heart from one scene to the next. I’m all for character development, but there’s an uneasiness about this. It may well be intentional, in which case may the Lord High Dalek Prime Minister shoot me down with an electrified egg whisk, but there’s a lack of confidence in his decisions and moods which doesn’t sit quite right.
It was fun, well put together show, but something missed the spot somehow.
To continue with the theme of vaguely space related puns- let’s cross our fingers and watch this space.
You can read Becky's review of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship here.
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