I had high hopes going into this episode. One of the reasons being that episode two was only so-so, and I think whenever the Brits (especially Matt Smith, although I’m sad he didn’t do his own horseback riding) hit up America of any era, good times will ensue. It’s like the BBC wished they had created Firefly!Things started well, right from the opening. I’m noticing with these new episodes that the opening sequence is getting darker besides the usual thematic changes with each episode. I like the fact that “Asylum of the Daleks” had a Dalek-themed title and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” had scales, and this episode had a good touch with the title being made out of wood. I felt it really added to the western feel and set the stage for the episode as a whole. For some reason I keep expecting River Song to show up… Sorry, too many crossover fan feeds on my Facebook, but Ben Browder on Who? Awesome. I watch Doctor Who on SPACE here in Canada and they always have some great discussion on social media about themes and theories. People from SPACE and those who follow them on twitter suggested themes like flickering lights (weeping angels) and Matt Smith referencing “Christmas”… While I don’t think the Christmas reference is anything other than funny dialogue, there could be something in those flickering lights beyond just Kahler-Jex’s poor wiring skills. One particular note I made while watching this episode was how different the Doctor seemed. Not only in his willingness to let the murderer Jex die, but also the ongoing struggle with the concept of his own mercy. I think it shocked a lot of people when he picked up the gun, something Tennant’s Doctor never would have done and something #11 wouldn’t have done in the past two seasons either. Saviour of the town or evil scientist/mass murderer, which role will Jex be judged for? Perhaps it has something to do with his age, for – morals, perhaps something about his age, something that seems to have increased very quickly. Amy also mentions he’s been travelling alone for too long, setting up the fact that he has been weaning them off his adventures.
Morality is an interesting theme in this episode. Jex’s case seems to be obvious: he caused the issue, he is at fault, and obviously only his death will cause true vindication. The Gunslinger knows that he will have to follow him across the universe if he escapes and even though he has won over the late Isaac, life cannot go on with him. In comparison, the Doctor has saved many people but has also left many behind, and those issues are brought up once again in classic Doctor Who . His demons from the Time War remain mainly untold in the series re-vamp.
And to mix things up even more, what are we supposed to think about the Gunslinger? He has killed many people (admittedly he was medically induced to) and has lived only for revenge, but because his campaign finally ended with Jex he could move on and protect the town.He views himself as no better than Jex and after some reflection decides it would be best for him to self-destruct as well. I think the Doctor was sorry Jex died, but at least some good could come with the Gunslinger staying in town. Moffat and episode writer Toby Whithouse make us viewers question our own demons and the souls we’d carry up the mountain, and I think they did a great job showing that question in the Doctor as he holds a gun to Jex’s head.
All these things (The Wild West, great guest stars, great writing, and the moral focus) make “A Town Called Mercy” the best of the new season. When I first watched “Asylum of the Daleks” I thought it was great but watching it again since has made it somewhat forgettable other than Jenna-Louise Coleman’s debut, and “Dinosaurs” was just bad (but with the kitschy Christmas vibe). I look forward to the Ponds’ exit now, although having five episodes to say goodbye is nice. Looking ahead, seeing Doctor Who visit the Day of the Dead festival as hinted at in the episode’s opening would be a really cool idea!