Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S07E03 – A Town Called Mercy

In the third episode of the seventh season of Doctor Who, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory arrive in a small American town in the wild west where two beings are enacting a frightening revenge tale. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Well, I liked that episode! Kind of a lot? I mean, there are some shaky moments that I want to talk about, but by and large, that was an interesting and engaging episode of Doctor Who.

  • I get it now! The opening monologue by the great granddaughter of the little girl in this story is actually talking about The Gunslinger, not the Doctor. I FELL FOR IT.
  • It also seems that series seven (or at least the first half of it) isn’t serialized at all. However, this could be the same thing as what happened to me in series one, where I completely missed all the Bad Wolf mentions half the time. Am I missing something? Wait, don’t tell me.
  • Did the Gunslinger remind any of you of Adam from season four of Buffy? No? Just me?
  • There’s actually another sleight of hand in the cold open. The “Doctor” the Gunslinger refers to is actually Dr. Kahler-Jex.
  • Has the show’s production just given up on dressing Rory as anything other than a real-life representation of how Arthur Darvill dresses? I’m not really complaining because Rory always looks fantastic, but it wasn’t until this episode that I realized there was absolutely no difference between the two when it came to their wardrobe.
  • I also consider it canon that the Doctor actually has an ongoing Christmas list, and everything he mentions in this episode is truly on it. Honestly, think about it. It’s totally true. Eleven would do this.
  • I think one of the reasons I’m ultimately more forgiving than not about “A Town Called Mercy” is that I grew up watching terrible spaghetti westerns. (Well, and a lot of really good ones, which gave birth to my obsession with Ennio Morricone.) Toby Whithouse and Saul Metzstein litter this episode with so many loving references to western movies that I can’t help but enjoy it. A great deal of the camera frames and zooms and movements are all borrowed from the genre, and it was a goddamn pleasure to see them show up every few minutes.
  • And at the same time, it’s also hilarious to watch Eleven completely mess up every trope, too. He can’t even keep a toothpick in his mouth the right way without chewing it up and nearly poking himself with it. Bless.
  • The Doctor ordered tea at the bar. “…the strong stuff; leave the bag in.” This is literally one of my new favorite lines of Eleven. SO GOOD.
  • Here’s one part that totally confused me: Why did the citizens of Mercy throw the Doctor out of town? If they suspected he was the alien doctor the Gunslinger was after, that would be reasonable. The Gunslinger is terrorizing the town, so they give up the Doctor to save the town. But after Isaac saves the Doctor, he reveals that the actual doctor, Kahler-Jex, has been helping the town stay alive. Ostensibly, that means the townspeople already know who the doctor is. So their reaction to Eleven is just… weird? It’s really weird.
  • The Doctor looked genuinely scared as the Gunslinger advanced at him. The way that scene was filmed was brilliant, especially since we saw the Gunslinger getting closer and closer to the Doctor over his shoulder.
  • The Doctor was more mortified that the Gunslinger shot through a hat than he was by hearing the town of Mercy is cut off from the outside world. If that had been a fez that was shot through, I’m pretty sure the Doctor would have had a heart attack.
  • The solution to this episode seemed so simple! Get the TARDIS, evacuate the town with it, and the end! But we were only 15 minutes into “A Town Called Mercy.” It couldn’t be this easy.
  • Susan, the genderqueer horse. Holy shit. Why can’t Susan come along in the TARDIS? 🙁
  • Someone gave the Doctor a new hat. You really should take that away from him if you ever want to hear the end of it. Why isn’t River Song around to shoot it off of his head?
  • I don’t know where this episode was shot, but it’s super gorgeous, and it reminds me so much of my love for the western half of the United States. That could be in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico… and yeah, that might be me saying that all those places look the same. They don’t! But the country is beautiful out here.
  • Oh my god, I just looked up where this was filmed: SPAIN. WHAT THE FUCK, IT LOOKS LIKE THE CALIFORNIA DESERT. I should have known, though, because this is clearly the same location where A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly were filmed. Perhaps The Magnificent Seven? Oh fuck, I haven’t watched those brilliant movies in so long.
  • My first clue that something was amiss: Kahler-Jex’s conversation with Amy about where he came from and being a father himself. Oh, he was hiding something, and the Doctor was about to find it.
  • Holy shit, Dr. Kahler-Jex created the Gunslinger. Oh my god, HE EXPERIMENTED ON LIVING CREATURES TO CREATE WAR MACHINES.
  • Well, in an instant, this episode became a billion times more complex.
  • You know, I understood the Doctor’s fury at Jex, but I wonder why the writers didn’t use another perspective as a reaction. Rory is a medical nurse, and what Jex did is a complete disregard for science and what doctors are supposed to do. However, I think that’s one of this episode’s larger problems. Amy and Rory aren’t utilized all that much.
  • Actually, there’s another one: the Doctor using a gun. Really? Really? I get that this episode is sort of a response to what the Doctor did to Solomon. (Which… okay, you have the previous episode where the Doctor solved a crisis with violence, and Amy even mentions that the Doctor is changing before her eyes as a result of traveling alone so often. Why not have Amy or Rory mention Solomon?) Hell, the town is called Mercy because we’re meant to reflect on the term, and the episode acts as an exploration of the Doctor’s complicity in violence and genocide. These are things that I want the show to address! But it has been established more than a BILLION times that the Doctor hates guns, so what is it about Jex that motivates Eleven to break his own cardinal rule? The Doctor has faced murderous people before, and he never pulled a gun on them. So what gives? What makes this different? And how can you do this when later, the Doctor refers to pull a gun on that 18-year-old boy?
  • OH WOW, HOW AWESOME IS THAT MOMENT WHEN THE GUNSLINGER JUST SHOWS UP RIGHT BEHIND JEX? This episode was pretty tense.
  • Goddamn, Isaac is dead. Well, that was unexpected.
  • Did this episode have a strange pacing to any of you? After Isaac died and made the Doctor marshall, I actually thought the episode was almost over. Um, I was barely halfway through it! I found the first half was generally much stronger than the second half.
  • Best side character in Mercy: the undertaker.
  • Best of the Doctor’s lines: when he tells Jex that it’s not up to him when he pays his debt to his society. Foreshadowing? I don’t, if there’s anything serialized in this episode, I think it has to do with the Doctor’s morality and accountability.
  • I know that it’s a plot point, but the Doctor’s incredible high noon scene was totally ruined by the little girl who knocked over the books. These people are trying to stay quiet to avoid detection by the Gunslinger. WHY ISN’T ANYONE HOLDING ON TO HER SO SHE DOESN’T MAKE ANY NOISE?
  • Regardless, I was pleased with how “A Town Called Mercy” ended. Jex kills himself to spare any more suffering, and the town adopts the Gunslinger as their new marshall, giving Kahler-Tek a purpose to his life. There’s even a moment where the Ponds mention that their friends are noticing that they age faster than they should, since they spend so much time with the Doctor. Oh god, can this be addressed in another episode? Please?

A solid episode of this show. Wow, this series is pretty neat so far! All these one-off episodes are entertaining and thoughtful for the most part. Let’s move on to the next one.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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