The Return of the Stetson

Posted: 17th September 2012 by J. Marcus in Doctor Who, Recap, Television

This weekend, Doctor Who aired it’s third episode of the fall season, “A Town Called Mercy.” Much like last week’s “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” this week’s episode has that one iconic image/hook: A gun-slinging cyborg.



I’m glad I got that warning out of the way.  Quite frankly, my review of this episode is all about the spoilers, so be aware that you have been warned.

Having been a Star Trek fan lo these many years, I was completely prepared for the fact that the saintly doctor Kahler Jex was going to be a bad guy.  After all, anyone who violates the Federation’s “prime directive” of non-interference (curing diseases and giving out electricity a few years too early) was bound to be a baddie.

Of course, Doctor Who pulls a fast one and actually makes both “villains” of the piece much more complex and multi-dimensional than you would initially be led to believe.  Both Jex and the Gunslinger are given more than their fair share of baggage and motivation to make how they behave completely believable and not-at-all cliché.

While all of this is happening, the Doctor and Amy revisit some old ground last trod by the Doctor and Donna a few years ago: the idea that the Doctor needs someone to travel with him to ground him and, as Donna put it, to stop him.

This year’s episodes have had a few themes running through them, but this one touches on the idea that, despite his protestations in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” the Doctor is weaning himself off the Ponds.  Whether this is intentional or not is still unexplained, but never before has he gone back to revisit old companions with this kind of regularity… or should I say irregularity, depending on who you ask.


Because the Ponds aren’t with him, we’re seeing a Doctor reminiscent of some of the darker David Tennant days, as well as some Sylvester McCoy wrapped in.  Dramatically it’s good for the Doctor, but as far as storytelling is concerned it left me a little cold.  The Doctor made too many easy turns from hot-to-cold in this episode for my liking.  And while it may very well be that the rift between the Doctor and Amy in this episode was the real reason why the Ponds went home at the end, it’s undercut by the fact that they’ve gone home at the end of every episode this season.  Who’s weaning who off whom?


Another theme that is becoming more apparent as the season is progressing is the idea of misdirection when it comes to “the Doctor”.  At the end of “Asylum of the Daleks”, we’re left with the Doctor’s legend being wiped from the Daleks’ memories.  In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, Solomon seems really eager at the Doctor’s arrival.  Later we find out it’s because Solomon needs A doctor and not THE Doctor.  And again, when Solomon begins to talk about an item of extreme value that the Doctor has brought aboard the ship, most seemed to think he was referring to the TARDIS.  Instead it was an Egyptian queen.  Finally in this episode, we find that the gunslinger is looking for an alien doctor.  Another alien doctor, not our alien Doctor.

Seriously, this is getting a little old and it’s leading me back to my theory that the question asked at the end of last season… the all-important “dock tore hoo?” is, in fact, not asking who the Doctor is but is, again, another bit of misdirection.  If I’m right, I think I’ll be a bit depressed.  If I’m wrong and that question is answered, I think I will be a bit depressed.  Just call me Marvin.


“A Town Called Mercy” also saw the return of Ben Browder to my television in a part that he was born to play.  A fan of his work on Farscape (I never watched Stargate so I missed his turn there), I was glad to see him again.  As always, his acting is genuine and heartfelt.  He was perfectly believable as the voice of reason in this episode.

Unfortunately, I’m beginning to worry about the way everyone seems to buy into the premise of this show. In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” Rory’s dad was introduced to the idea of travelling through time and space fairly quickly and adapted quicker than most would.  You could say that maybe it’s because he’s an enlightened 20-21st century man and that maybe he’s where Rory gets his modicum of level-headedness from.  However… now we have a whole Western town which seems to be going with the flow of everything they’re seeing?  I think we all know that an old-time American town would be making fusses about devils and magic.  I’m just saying it struck me as odd, though I’m sure everyone will say I’m picking nits.


Anyway, I’ll give this one 3/5 TARDISes.  It wasn’t terrible, though while I understand why Jex is wearing period garb, I’m not entirely sure how or why the Gunslinger wound up being dressed like a cowboy.