The Quality of Mercy

Having enjoyed Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (here) we now await the cowboy themed Doctor Who episode A Town Called Mercy. Written by Toby Whitehouse (School ReunionVampires of Venice and The God Complex and also Torchwood Greeks Bearing Gifts) this has every chance of being interesting (what a damning word that can be) or at least memorable. I note that sci-fi western has had some recent film success such as Cowboys and Aliens so I hope this treads some new ground. Anyway, I will see you below after the break (and when I have watched it!)

Having tipped Nefertiti last week I tip the cyborg as being mis-understood and will end up being helped by the Doctor. What do I know!

The Cyborg

As expected this was the tale of a cyborg known as the Gunslinger who was once a volunteer for experimentation that turned him into a lethal killing machine in order to help his people win a war. Appalled by the way he was created he set out to kill (terminate in an homage to The Terminator) his creators which led him to the Wild West. Holed up in the town of Mercy was the doctor (Kahler-Jex) who had created him, protected by the townsfolk whose lives he had saved from cholera and improved with electricity for light and heat.

Into these anomalies comes our Doctor with his companions Amy and Rory who begin by trying to help first Kahler-Jex, then the Gunslinger then finally (the Marshall Isaac having been killed) the townsfolk.

The tale ends with the trail of violence leading Kahler-Jex sacrificing himself and the cyborg getting a new role as the protector of Mercy. All this through the eyes of a young girl who would tell the story to her children and grand-children.

Gripes and Moans

I’m afraid I found a lot to dislike, which is a pity as a lot of effort clearly went into making this episode. In no real order:

  • The Doctor decides to let Kahler-Jex die rather than figure out a better solution
  • Rory has nothing useful to do
  • A lot of clichés both cowboy genre (measuring for coffin, high noon…) and Doctor genre (horse called Susan). Cliché can work, just ask the producers of the Pirates of the Caribbean  films, but these came across as fillers
  • Amy has to be the moral centre (again) why would the Doctor be bored with saving the day
  • The Doctor has started not taking situations seriously – ‘make mine a tea, the strong kind and leave the bag in’. Was he also bored with the lack of originality?
  • The good guy was the bad guy – not very original again.


This was visually superb, really well shot and the performances of the townsfolk tremendous – remember this is a TV show not an actual movie. Ben Browder turned in an A* performance as Marshall Isaac (I don’t know his work in Farscape or Stargate: SG1). The BBC have put up a profile of the character here.

What I didn’t like was the lack of plot for a whole episode and the padding with the Doctor’s initial attempt to push Kahler-Jex out of town to his death, prevarication with guns nor the lack of anything for Rory to do. I wasn’t surprised that Kahler-Jex was a bad guy and for me this didn’t work overall.

What did you think?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Aidan Brack says:

    Sadly I think we’re in agreement about this one too. I enjoy a good western so I had high hopes but the story felt like a Boom Town retread and I thought the story’s twists were all pretty expected. Browder was great and the episode looked phenomenal but I just never felt engaged with the action.


    1. HelmStone says:

      Nothing more to say except it may have worked better if it were longer. I had some thoughts about more interaction with the towns people


  2. I will say that I do understand why they are trying to write the Doctor as a darker figure, but this time around it feels kind of forced. Unless there’s a bigger payoff coming, I think they might be going to this idea once too often for my liking.


    1. HelmStone says:

      Someone pointed out that the opening credits get darker every week. Maybe the Doctor knows the destiny of the Ponds and he is struggling to cope? Much though I liked the Ponds at the beginning I think the show needs to move on


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