Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 3 – A Town Called Mercy

More than ever, this third episode of the truncated series seven was one of those mini-films that Steven Moffat desired. As he has previously said:

When we had the pitch meetings for the various stories, I would say ‘Tell me the movie poster. Tell me the title, what’s on the poster and what’s the log-line… Let’s have a blockbuster every single week, no two-parters, every single week is going to be a blockbuster and let’s not have the cheap episode, let’s just make them all huge.’ It has caused some problems, but I think it has worked really well for us. It’s the year of the blockbuster.

And so this week was the Western movie, complete with tumbleweed, dolled up woman behind the bar, Stetsons, horses, and a cyborg gunslinger from another planet. Wait, what?

As ever, things aren’t all that simple in the Doctor’s world, and what first appears to be a quaint little cowboy town with a bit of a problem with a menace turns out to be an incredible story of right, wrong and justice.

More than anything, what is notable in the episode is the Doctor’s anger. Amy did point out that he had been travelling alone for too long – but equally, she and Rory did not seem all that keen to stay with him. The relationship status between the three seems to be getting very complicated. Amy was just recently desperately hoping the Doctor would come back, and then when he did, and he wants to continue travelling them for a while longer, they’re not so keen. “Our friends will notice we’re ageing faster than them.” So what?

Thus, the Doctor is left alone to travel, although we haven’t seen much of that. The anger that he showed in this episode was mostly out of character – shouting the odds, refusing to negotiate, pushing people across the line to their deaths (incidentally, what was the line for? The gunslinger just stepped right over it), and most importantly, pointing a gun! This isn’t the Doctor we know. Has something happened? I don’t think travelling alone would do this, without something else occurring.

We were so used to David Tennant being on the edge, expecting him to flip one way or the other at the slightest thing. The regeneration to Doctor number eleven saw him a bit more crazy, but a bit less emotional. Everything we saw in this episode seemed odd, but we never do see everything that happens to our favourite alien, so it’s hard to judge.

Meanwhile, the story itself was fascinating. The setting was absolutely beautiful, particularly in HD, and the movie vibe Moffat was going for came across really well. The characters were good, and strong. I felt the set up for the story was jammed in a little bit – a quick conversation in the Marshal’s office gave us a lot of information in a very short space of time – but the episodes don’t have the length of a movie to spread out. I thought it was a good episode, a fine way to spend 45 minutes, and it moved the story onwards to the inevitable Amy/Rory departure, but overall, I found it somewhat forgettable. Ask me in a couple of weeks what the third episode of the series was, and I’ll probably only be able to tell you it was the one where the Doctor lost his temper.

Next week looks more interesting, with the Doctor getting involved in the home life of Amy and Rory… to a degree. Strange boxes falling from the sky, and still no sign of the Weeping Angels.

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