Towards the end of Season 6 of Doctor Who, the creators have been hinting at a possible Western themed episode, randomly giving the Doctor a cowboy hat or giving a random scene a strong western feel. This week we were giving our Western episode in Season 7’s third episode, “A Town Called Mercy.”
This week’s episode brought the Doctor (Matt Smith) to Earth, specifically to the town of Mercy in Western America. The Doctor arrives in town, which is surrounded by a manmade circle of stones and logs, only to be thrown out upon announcing his name. It turns out the town is under the attack of a cyborg they refer to as the Gunslinger (Andrew Brooke). An honorable killer, the Gunslinger will not cross the line surrounding the town, only killing those that cross said line. He has made it very clear that his main target is a doctor, an alien doctor. Convinced the cyborg is trying to kill the Doctor, the townsfolk attempt to leave him for dead to protect their own lives. Saved at the last minute by Mercy’s marshal, the Doctor finds that the town has already found an alien doctor, a Kahler-Jex (Adrian Scarborough).
Jex came to Mercy during an outbreak of cholera, using his advanced technology to save many people in Mercy. Due to his service in the town, as well as him bringing heat and electricity to the town before its time, the sheriff will not turn in over to the Gunslinger. As always, the Doctor decides to lend a helping hand and discovers the truth about the Gunslinger. After torturing and experimenting on a species of humanoids, Jex created the Gunslinger and others like him to end a war. The Gunslinger must kill Jex to bring him to justice.
This episode focuses on the Doctor’s morality. Upon discovering the horrors that Jex committed, the Doctor’s immediate reaction is to kick him out of town and leave him for dead. While Jex did commit horrible crimes, he did it to end a horrible, seemingly endless war. On top of that Jex is a doctor, a man who has dedicated his life to helping people. Mercy owes Jex a debt for his ability to get them through a cholera outbreak, something they were not equipped to deal with. The dilemma at the center of this episode perfectly defines the difficulty of being the Doctor. The Gunslinger becomes tired of waiting and gives the Doctor an ultimatum; Jex is delivered to him or he starts killing without remorse for innocents. Again, a horrible decision is left to the Doctor. If he cannot find a way to stop the Gunslinger he will have to either turn Jex over, basically condemning the man to death, or risk the Gunslinger attacking Mercy. It is obvious that the situation weighs on the Doctor for he wants to turn over Jex but there are things that stop him. While the physical battle in the episode is against the Gunslinger, the real battle takes place in the Doctor’s mind.
Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy (Karen Gillan) took a backseat in this episode which is alright after last week where Rory piloted a spaceship with his father and Amy managed to survive without the Doctor and even lead the people she was with. Amy and Rory were still there but acted more as background characters, letting the Doctor once again take center stage like he deserves to do. Next week’s episode is titled “The Power of Three”, a title that makes me excited for endless number of things it could refer to. My first though is the power of the Doctor, Amy and Rory. The previews for the next episode seem to hint at Amy and Rory’s inevitable departure, something that promises to be outstandingly devastating, like most companion departures.