A Town Called Mercy


The idea of The Doctor in an American western town is appealing and I was excited to see A Town Called Mercy, as the episode advertised having a Cyborg Gun-slinger, but then I watched it.

The opening narration by Joanne McQuinn 2 as Sadie, "Growing up, my favourite story was about a man who lived forever, but his eyes were heavy with the weight of all that he'd seen. A man who fell from the stars." Did set the tone of the episode and the mood of the Doctor, but I had to watch it a second time before I saw that.

What was interesting was that the characters where never what they seemed to be. The "good" Kahler Jex that had saved the people of Mercy form cholera, was an evil Nazi-esque character. While the "mean" cyborg, called The Gunslinger, was only interested in retribution for the people that Jex had killed and experimented on. He was doing everything he could to spare the innocent.

Fantastic to see Ben Browder 65(Farscape, Stargate SG-1) back in a sci-fi series, even for 1 episode. Ben was the main reason, besides Muppets, for me to watch Farscape. Here as Isaac, the Marshal of Mercy, a man willing to give folks a second chance, he played the character perfectly. As the buffer between those that are scared and what the thing that is right, he defused the tension between Amy, with gun, and the Doctor, with gun, just by shouting, "Everyone who isn't an American. Drop your gun?" When he jumped in front of Jex and got shot by the Gunslinger, he showed his commitment to his beliefs and showed The Doctor where the right path was. Which he followed in talking down the poor attempt for a lynch mob.

Ending the episode by letting Jex kill him self, seemed cheep. It missed the mark for me and a lot of other commenters I've seen on the net. Should our Doctor have killed him or let the Cyborg kill him? No. Should the Ponds and Doctor have hauled his ass off to the planet that he came from and imprisoned him? Maybe, but sometimes it is good to have a show go in a direction we're not comfortable with, so that we can ask these questions.

Then we have the issue of The Doctor, our kind, benevolent, pacifist, heroic Doctor. We see what travelling alone does to him, how he loses his compass, he goes off the rails. This is show runner Steven Moffat showing us that The Doctor need them as much, if not more than they need him. It really is a symbiotic relationship. The Doctor feeds on the love, enthusiasm and exuberance of the youth of Earth and they provide him with morality and drive. What the companions get is love and a father figure, who isn't their father, but that they love more than any little girl could ever love their Dad. River goes so far as to marry him.

Dialogue for this episode had a few gems:

Rory: The sign does says Keep Out.
Doctor: I see Keep Out signs as suggestions, more than actual orders. Kind of like Dry Clean only.

Doctor: Frightened people. Give me Daleks any day.

Preacher: He’s called Joshua.  It’s from the Bible, it means ‘the deliverer’.
Doctor: No he isn't.

Preacher: What?
Doctor: I speak Horse. He's called Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices.

Doctor: Anachronistic electricity, Keep Out signs, aggressive stares – has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?

Doctor: How old are you?
Dockery: Nearly nineteen.
Doctor: That's eighteen then.

Sadie: By the time the Gunslinger arrived, the people of Mercy were used to the strange and impossible. Where he came from didn't matter. As a man once said, "America is a land of second chances".
Do I believe the story? I don't know. My great-grandmother must have been a little girl when he arrived, but next time your in Mercy, ask someone why they don't have a Marshal or Sheriff or Policeman there.

"We got our own arrangement" they'll say. The they'll smile like they go a secret. Like they got there own special Angel watching out for them. Their very own Angel, who fell from the stars.

I must say that Toby Whithouse did a great job of writing in a lot of the typical western trappings, including the ever-persistent Undertaker played by Garrick Hagon 308(Star Wars Biggs/ Doctor Who Season 9).

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