This weeks episode of Doctor Who, written by show favorite Toby Whitehouse features a Western Theme something I attribute to the new money flooding into the series from BBC America. The theme has been handled well with some truly beautiful shots laid out in the cinematography echoing the great spaghetti westerns with the odd but of Doctor Who charm thrown in like Steampunk cogs amongst the brushed metal and dust.
This weeks episode focuses on the Doctor arriving at the town of Mercy, where the inhabitants are sheltering from the violent attentions of a cyborg named Gunslinger. Gunslinger (SPOILERS BEWARE!) is a cyborg created via inhumane means for an alien war who has tracked down his creators to the dusty little town. The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive just in time to intervene as the town begins to turn against itself by throwing out one of the doctors who worked on the cyborg named Jax. It’s very much a moral tale of finding the peaceful option when all involved are guilty beyond doubt, Jax is a monster, Gunslinger is a monster and the villagers risk turning into monsters but all are justified in their goals.
The Doctor has to fight against his own history of prejudice against those self justified monsters, nearly falling into committing murder to seek his own justice. His own demons seem to take over, the horror perhaps at recognizing his own reflection in all the faces of anger in town proving too much for a brief moment, he pushes Jax beyond the towns ‘Safe Zone’ to be left at the ‘mercy’ of Gunslinger. He is eventually saved by Amy, who reminds him of his pursuit of the peaceful option, it’s nice to see the Doctor dealing with the moral dilemma’s of his life once again as opposed to teasing the audience with the physical dilemmas of previous episodes.
The episode really is a gem, creating an interesting plot and remaining mostly serious on the whole, as well as riffing rather nicely on several of the main western cliches approaching them with the traditional Doctor Who flair and humor. The traditional gunfight wit the Doctor quick drawing his sonic screwdriver, and the saloon falling silent upon the entry of the Doctor and Co. The musical score is also a brilliant little addition, combining the traditional Who score with western style guitar and harmonica tunes. After a while it can be hard to separate the two which only goes to show the great Murray Gold who continues to produce amazing soundtracks for the series.
Overall a brilliant episode which fortunately avoided becoming a clunky western cliche and perhaps even worse an echo of what happened to Torchwood when it went to America. Great music and a brilliant side cast including Ben Browder as the town Sheriff Issac, it places the Doctor in recognizable Moffat territory of moral dilemmas whilst also keeping up the action.