Monday, March 25, 2013

Doctor Who Review: A Town Called Mercy

Well, now Steven Moffat is saying he is nearer the end of his run as boss than the beginning. Could Christmas be it for he and Matt Smith? It seems a bit late to be undecided as to whether or not you return. Naturally the BBC say, rightly so, that the Christmas episode hasn't even been written yet. I say one more year for Moffat, being that Jenna Louise is returning in 2014. As to Matt, it, like most everything else, remains to be seen.

This brings up another rumor connected with the rumor that Steven Moffat is leaving. I thought this would be the perfect place to mention it because the rumor is that Toby Whithouse, writer of this episode I'm reviewing, will be the new boss in charge. I'm conflicted because on the one hand I am lukewarm at best with most of the episodes he has written for Doctor Who. On the other hand I am a HUGE Being Human fan. Toby denies this rumor, but they'll all lie to your face if it isn't the time to release the information.

I was very surprised by John Barrowman's tweet that he wouldn't be in the 50th. Why else would they have contacted him? Unless it's about Christmas. He admitted he would do it and the Arrow people, big fans of Who, said they would work around any schedule. Especially with the filming starting in about a week, I expect there will be more things revealed soon. If we do have a regeneration coming I hope they reveal it soon so we can brace ourselves.

Each series has episodes that fall into 4 categories. 1. I love it. 2. I like it. 3. It's okay/I forget how much I like it. 4. Hard to get through.  "A Town Called Mercy" is a bit of #2 and a bit of  #4. This tends to be the case with me and a Toby Whithouse story. "School Reunion" I am split on because I love the way Sarah-Jane returned. Some I like, but some are low on my rewatch list. The new one is a western, a bit sleepy in the journey. It's a beautiful episode, shot in Spain on set of many spaghetti westerns. Vast, beautiful surroundings, reminiscent of when they filmed in America, but with a simple 19th century western town, a location worthy of the ongoing cinematic feel to each episode.

The intro retains the darker vortex look, with additional colored flashes of lights in the clouds, with a reddish-orange vortex for the titles, which are in wood tone. Amy and Rory are already with The Doctor. Later we find out they were on the way to the Day of the Dead celebration until someone got toast crumbs on the TARDIS console (Doctor looks at Rory). Ignoring the keep out sign and 2 foot tall border of planks and rocks, they enter the town to find electricity has been rigged up about ten years earlier than possible.

The town seems familiar with the concept of aliens, even though it's merely 5 years after the civil war. When they discover The Doctor is one they drag him back across the town's border. In the distance the gunslinger begins to, I think, teleport, but at short intervals, coming closer. The marshal puts an end to it, calling The Doctor back inside the border, at which time the gunslinger disappears. We learn there is another alien doctor, Kahler Jex, who the gunslinger wants. They did an awesome job on his branding./tattoo work. He brought the town electricity by using his ship as a generator and also cured the town of cholera, so the town let him stay.

Thinking he can save Jex, The Doctor borrows a horse to get the TARDIS. Of course The Doctor speaks horse. I think more than aliens the preacher is shocked to hear that, instead of the given name Joshua, his horse calls himself Susan and would like his life choices respected. Anyway, on the way The Doctor investigates the oddly not damaged ship of Jex and learns who Jex really is, a military science adviser in an experimental cyborg program where they created military fighting machines from unsuspecting "volunteers."

And now angry Doctor is back. He wants to hand Jex over to his justice in order to save the town. He goes so far as to point a gun at him to force him to stay outside the towns' border. Here again we have the question of Doctor who? Amy asks it, wondering who he has become from travelling alone for so long. She reminds him that killing someone is not an option, that they have to be better.

Then the gunslinger appears and marshal Isaac (great performance by Ben Browder) is killed saving Jex. As he dies he gives his badge to The Doctor and instructs him to protect both his town and Jex. So naturally a noon showdown is set with the gunslinger. Overnight The Doctor diffuses a lynch mob with his words, back to his old self. The two doctors discuss the difficulty of the situation for The Doctor, about Jex's self imposed punishment, and Kahler beliefs about their souls after death. When he claims that we all carry our prisons with us The Doctor gets the idea to send Jex away safely, saving the town when the gunslinger takes chase.

The Doctor sonics the gunslinger at noon, creating confusion. Face-painted Jex decoys run around, allowing the real Jex to escape the town. But instead of carrying his prison away with him, Jex decides to end the battle, destroying his ship with him in it. A mighty explosion that didn't quite match the explosion seen from town, especially given the distance of the ship from town. Small matter, hardly anyone noticed. The gunslinger thinks his purpose was war, with no role in peace time. The Doctor suggests protecting the peace, and he becomes the towns permanent marshal.

As they were entering the TARDIS The Doctor teased us with the idea to show Amy and Rory what really happened to all those dogs and monkeys they sent into space in the 50's and 60's. Amy says they need to go home. They fear their friends noticing them aging at a faster rate.

Upon reflection, I guess I do like this episode. It is probably my favorite Toby Whithouse. Part of that though is the memories I have of growing up with my father watching western movies, possibly some that were filmed in the same location.

Next up: The Power of Three
4Days 15Hours 04Minutes 31Seconds until "The Bells of Saint John"

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