Spoiler Alert: There are plenty of spoilers herein.
I am sad to report that this week, I don’t have a lot to report. “A Town Called Mercy” was among the more forgettable episodes of New!Who. Quick overview: This week the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves in an American “Wild West” town tricked out with every Western cliché imaginable. There’s the busty barmaid, the hardened sheriff with a heart of gold, the trigger-happy townsfolk and the theme of second chances. Then there’s the cyborg living in the desert just past the city limits, and the alien doctor who isn’t the Doctor being hunted by said cyborg.
Highlights this week start with Matt Smith’s short-lived American accent and horseback riding, although both seem like gimmicks, sort of a “while in Rome” joke (Insert Centurion jokes here). Plus, “I wear a stetson now” should have been followed up by a simple “Stetsons are cool…again”. (See the top of season six in case you’re at all confused.) “Mercy” itself is almost 100% filler, with no mention of the Pond’s ever-closer end…and River is still nowhere to be seen. HOWEVER this week definitely proved my previous theories about the Doctor getting darker and darker. Not only does he do some aggressive shouting, he willingly takes hold of a gun and intends to fire it until Amy interferes. Additionally…when did he get to be 1200 years old? Wasn’t he only 900 the last time we checked? (The 1100 year old version was eliminated at the end of “The Wedding of River Song”, leaving only the 900 year old version behind…) Do Timelords age differently than humans, or has that much time really passed since “The Impossible Astronaut”?
My iTunes subscription surprised me this week with a “featurette” titled “The Making of the Gunslinger”, a bonus feature that didn’t do anything to help explain the episode or to add to the overarching plot of the show. I prefer this filler style for the extra content, as opposed to the “Pond Life” episode that swept a major plot line under the rug. While we’re on the subject of plot, let’s talk plot holes: how do the Doctor and the rest find out how the Gunslinger identifies his victims? Why won’t the Gunslinger shoot innocents, even after he has decided to destroy the town in search of Jax? Who is the narrator of the episode? And seriously—why is the Doctor 1200 all of a sudden?
Beyond Susan the horse, the most dynamic element of “Mercy” was the theme of perspective. Finally, when the Ponds and the Doctor are back where they belong—on screen TOGETHER—the show gets interesting. The argument over whether or not to save Jex from the Gunslinger, culminating in an almost-shoot-out, is the real juice of “Mercy”. What kind of man is the Doctor? This question has been asked before, and will inevitably be asked again, which is actually an element of Doctor Whoat large that I rather enjoy. The Doctor ambles on and on and on, saving this man, condemning another, committing genocide on the Daleks over and over and over; if he didn’t have an existential melt-down every now and again, then he wouldn’t have much in common with the human race at all.
Next week’s episode looks like it’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for, and most importantly we get more time with Brian in “The Power of Three”.