SYNOPSIS: "Sci-fi drama. The Doctor gets a Stetson (and a gun!), and finds himself the reluctant sheriff of a Western town under siege by a relentless cyborg." (bbc.co.uk)
Leaving behind last week’s charming reptilian relics and continuing Steven Moffat’s ‘movie marquee’ theme, ‘A Town Called Mercy’, penned by ‘Being Human’ creator Toby Whithouse, transports the Doctor to the Wild West – and throws up plenty of juicy moral dilemmas along the way.
Landing in the dust-blown town of Mercy, the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) find themselves in the midst of a rather unconventional siege. The townspeople are being held to ransom by a cyborg cowboy hell-bent on seeking revenge against his creator, an alien exile sheltering in the town.
It’s certainly an interesting plot, and with shades of ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Westworld’ and ‘The Terminator’, it’s a fairly post-modern one, too. Whithouse brings his trademark wit and rapid-fire one-liners to the script, with my particular highlights being the Doctor’s discourse with a gender-confused horse – and his questionable Clint Eastwood impression.
‘A Town Called Mercy’ hits plenty of dark emotional notes too though, developing on the unsettling themes already hinted at in the first two episodes of the series, as the Doctor’s humanity and compassion are tested to their limits.
Smith delivers an excellent performance, exhibiting icy rage one moment and farcical comic touches the next, although Darvill and Gillan feel slightly superfluous to the action, with Amy spending much of the episode seemingly twiddling her thumbs – although that could perhaps be forgiven in the wake of her prominent gun-toting role in last week’s ‘Dinosaurs On A Spaceship’.
The real strength of ‘A Town Called Mercy’, however, lies in its thought-provoking themes. Are there some sins that simply can’t be atoned for? Do villains deserve redemption? And are victims entitled to revenge? ‘Doctor Who’ continues to throw up challenging moral questions, test the boundaries of family viewing and assert itself as one of the most interesting shows on TV.
Watch 'A Town Called Mercy' on BBC iPlayer until 20:19, Sat 6 Oct '12.