A Town Called Mercy

I have a fondness for Westerns. I have a fondness for Doctor Who. What could be better?

This story had somewhat bewitched me from the beginning. I love a pre-titles sequence without the Doctor in it, and I love to see the Doctor wander into a horrible situation in full Doctorish mode. And the music was lovely. And it had Ben Browder in it! And some cute editing! I was very happy.

I say all this, and it sounds like I’m leading up to a “but”, however in all honesty there wasn’t one, aside from the standard “oh, that was easy” reaction I have to almost every Doctor Who story’s resolution these days. Reading other opinions afterwards though, I felt like I should have had a “but”, when the Doctor went and started waving a gun at people.

Let me take a brief moment to share a concern I have that I’m becoming less of a fan. Two weeks back, they showed Skaro on screen and yet I did not complain that it was supposed to be no more accessible than Gallifrey, i.e. either destroyed, or locked in a Time War, or maybe both. And now, the Doctor goes around using guns and I’m generally okay with it. Although in this case, I’m okay with it because he didn’t actually use it. I imagine I’d have my Tom Baker underpants in a twist had he actually shot someone in the head.[1]

What does annoy me about the angry Doctor is how it seems to come from nowhere in particular, and how I feel like it’s not going anywhere. Maybe it did, and maybe it is, but regardless, I don’t feel like the Doctor’s character development is in safe hands somehow. I long to be proven wrong. The speech about honouring the victims of people spared by the Doctor’s mercy was well written and delivered. It’s a way of looking at Doctor Who that naturally occurs to everyone after a while, and I’m glad the show occasionally addresses it. But overally, I don’t think it really worked. Especially since you find Jex claiming that the Doctor’s “morality” holds him back, as if he’s been watching the show for ages, rather than the bit he was in, where the Doctor tried to get him killed and only got talked down by his friend.

Having Amy speaking out for mercy was nice, and Gillan was both moving and hilarious (“You’ve clearly been taking stupid lessons!”) It would have been even more awesome, however, if she’d used the opportunity to tell the Doctor that she killed someone in revenge recently[2] and feels horrible about it. As it was, well, I choose to believe she was thinking about it at the very least. Meanwhile, Rory got to be the “let’s kill the bad guy” guy. I think I can rationalise that too, but it’s a shame he didn’t get to do it himself, at least a little.

Sometimes I wonder if in this day and age, when not many Who scripts actually stand up to any kind of rigorous logic,[3] if enjoying an episode isn’t all about how much you’re seduced by the vibe of the thing. I really liked Mercy, and I think it’s because the Doctor is a stronger, more interesting character here than he has been for a while. He gets to mingle hilariously, he gets to investigate, he gets to be angry, he gets to have an argument with someone, he gets to save the day (in a somewhat too easy way, I’ll admit).

But maybe it’s just because it has horses and dust and hats. I can’t rule it out.

  1. I swear, that’s a joke. ↩︎

  2. See Doctor Who and the Wedding of River Song. ↩︎

  3. For example, why not just pull a weeping angel, take Jex somewhere back in time and tell the Gunslinger he’s dead? That said, there’s a near-blanket rule about using the TARDIS to solve plots and I’ve no desire to see them start breaking it. ↩︎

Tom Charman Mastodon