Season 7 Episode 3 – A Town Called Mercy

“This Is What Happens When You Travel Alone For Too Long”

whovian season 7 short box reviews

Season 7 continues to be the season of overly fun locales and fantastic premises. What it also continues to be a continuation of certain themes. A quick overview of the premise of the episode:

A woman tells the story of “a man who fell from the stars”. This is meant to lead you to believe she is talking about the Doctor and yet it starts off with the story of who this story is really about…The Gunslinger. The gunslinger is the name given by the the towns folk to an alien cyborg bent on revenge in this episode that is all things Old West (with a Doctor Who spin). As the cyborg dispatches his prey you are teased with his next intended target: The Doctor (another great misdirect).

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The story takes us away from the alien landscape it began on and next to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory in the Old West to…a town called Mercy. They are greeted with signs that say “Keep Out” as well as a curious population of 80 crossed out and the number 81 written over it. The Doctor starts adding up all the things wrong with this city (Keep Out Signs, Electric Lamps before they are invented, and aggressive stares) and he decides to investigate further. The Doctor eventually determines that an alien genius has set up shop and is helping this town.

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Garrick Hagon (Biggs from Star Wars) as the Undertaker of Mercy

He eventually finds out that this alien (who calls himself…”The Doctor” as well) committed atrocities in a war before fleeing to Earth. He took unwitting citizens and turned them into cyborg death machines and other wartime evil. This is the heart of the story and where the parallels of these two doctors begin. Watching our Doctor realize what the other alien did was disturbing. His anger was so strong and overwhelming that it eventually resulted in one of the angriest I have ever seen this typically controlled character. His anger in the middle of this episode speaks to one of the chief reasons, I believe, the companions are necessary to the Doctor in the modern Doctor Who. He has almost limitless power and influence and because of this he needs to be grounded at all times. Those he inspires, at times, need to inspire him with his own words.

matt smith the doctor short box review

The ending of this was both tragic and redeeming for the two aliens of the story. Central to the plot of this story was the question that if things done in war can be judged in times of peace. It made me thing of President Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan. More specific to Doctor Who, it then made me think about the Doctor’s decision to end the Time War by killing the Daleks and the Time Lords. This choice, in a time of war, still haunts the Doctor and you could tell it was exactly what he was thinking and where his anger came from (although it’s not often that THIS version of the doctor has sooken on the subject directly).

Murray Gold’s score to this episode is spot on! It’s a perfect mixture of Doctor Who and a Western. The Western tropes were well utilized in this episodes. The point where the Doctor becomes the Marshal and the showdown at high noon…it’s the stuff of pure fun.

Season 7 has shown a more removed and colder Doctor. His time apart from the Ponds has changed him and Amy can tell. I don’t believe Rory cares too much about the Doctor at this point. He seems to just be going along for the ride. Amy also seems…tired of these adventures. Her disinterest in being part of the Doctor’s life has done a lot for me to be more willing to let them go. I think they both want to get on with their lives and gradually I’ve come to want the same for them. Speaking of the Doctor’s chilly behavior, lets look at the last three episode’s uncharacteristic behaviors:

  • Episode 1 – He kills Daleks by blowing them up…with no remorse.
  • Episode 2 – Needlessly kills Solomon by sending missiles after him.
  • Episode 3 – Is about to kill Jex in a fit of anger.

In addition to the fact that no one recognizes the Doctor, his growing coldness, there is also the theme of the Ponds wanting time away from the Doctor. This third theme seems to be central to the next episode. The Ponds are almost off the show. Will they make it out alive? In addition, each episode has had something egg-like involved (the Dalek “eggs”, the dinosaur eggs, and an egg-shaped spaceship). There has also been a few references to the Doctor’s Christmas List (a lead in to the Christmas episode?).

This episode had lots of amazing quotes. Here are a few:

The Preacher: His name is Joshua. It’s from the Bible. It means “The Deliverer”.
The Doctor: No it isn’t. I speak horse. His name is Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices.

Jex: Looking at you, Doctor, is like looking into a mirror. Almost. There’s rage there…like me. Guilt…like me. Solitude. Everything but the nerve to do what needs to be done. Thanks the gods my people weren’t relying on you to save them.

Amy: This is not how we roll and you know it. What’s happened Doctor? When did killing someone become an option?

The Doctor: They keep coming back, don’t you see? Every time I negotiate, I try to understand them…not today…no. Today, I honor the victims first. His, the Masters, the Daleks,…all the people who die because of MY MERCY.

Marshall: You’re both good men…you just forget it sometimes.

Doctor: Frightened PEOPLE… Give me a Dalek any day…

Check out the sneak peak at next week’s penultimate episode of the first half of the Season’s new episodes:


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One Response.

  1. I wasn’t as taken with this episode as you. It felt a little off-key for a few reasons. While I like exploring the morality play that the the story centered around, there are certain Doctor rules that should not be broken. I wasn’t comfortable with him wearing a gun, let alone holding one, and especially not pointing one at somebody. Certain scenes from the David Tennant era (see “The Doctor’s Daughter) make that hard to swallow, even in his different incarnation. Another thing that put me off was that, for a Dr Who episode, it felt a bit conventional. Maybe because every series feels it needs to do a Western-style story (even Dr Who has done it before), but the modern Who series seems too smart for that. I was waiting for more of a twist, something not so obvious, but this had the feel of a Star Trek Next Gen episode. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if I hadn’t watched it immediately after the excellent “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” from last week. In regards to the Ponds, it was pretty clear that this was shot without regard to the contintuity of their relationship to the Dr. It could have been inserted almost anywhere in their history with him. At the end of last week, they ask to go home – yet they’re already with him when “‘Mercy” starts. I didn’t feel the building culmination to their departure that you were able to find in the story, and I missed that after it was so tastefully and tactfully down in “Dinosaurs’”.
    Or maybe I’m just tired and grouchy ’cause it’s a school night.

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