Is Series 7's third installment good, bad or ugly?
In simple terms, the third episode of Doctor Who's seventh series left me in a mental jumble. It made me wonder how Toby Whithouse, writer of such fantastic episodes as last year's The God Complex and the Russell T. Davies-era nostalgia fest School Reunion, could screw up something so badly to the point that even a casual viewer could rectify the flaws he creates in series 7 episode 3, A Town called Mercy. Yes, it pains me to say it, but this episode - one that had so much going for it judging from the trailers and such that preceded it - was pretty mediocre to say the least. It's kind of ironic to state that, however, because so much about this Western-themed 'epic' was executed to near-perfection, namely the direction, music, acting and the overall tone that these three things create. It's evidently clear that too much of the focus with this episode was on shoehorning in typical Western flick cliches as opposed to actually writing a sensical, brilliant tale, something that I know for a fact Whithouse is perfectly capable of doing both in Doctor Who and his own series Being Human (which, going off-topic slightly, you should all check out). It's when he overcoats a botched tale with historical or cult themes that he creates his own monstrosities - You only have to watch 2010's Vampires in Venice to see this theory in motion. At least that story made a lick of sense, though, 'cause this one's chock full of plot-holes and continuity errors the size of several Grand Canyons.
|The Doctor, Amy and Rory enter a certain town called Mercy, unbeknownst to the badly-composed and ultimately pointless tale they're getting themselves into.|
Speaking of The Gunslinger, the BBC art department have developed an absolutely wonderful and truly convincing creation with this character. Extra kudos to actor Adrian Scarborough (the guy who played a chav in PhoneShop previously... No, really) for putting on a believable performance under all that heavy costume, too. Speaking of performances, despite the confused morals of the episode (again, more on these when we get to the bad), Matt Smith works wonders alongside his fellow cast, even if most of 'em are basically stock Western characters. The three personae Mercy focuses on are the driving force of the episode, delivering their morally-split emotions with truly great acting ability. Heck, in this regard I can even compliment Toby Whithouse's writing, because while the plot as a whole is extremely flawed, he does give each of the three mains some truly great lines.
|This, right here, is called acting. Matt Smith delivers near-perfect visual prowess in many of Mercy's scenes, but he sadly doesn't quite save the episode... At least this scene is brilliant, not to mention complimented by amazing music.|
|Meet Kahler-Jex, one of the most morally confusing characters ever to grace Doctor Who.|
Casual viewers probably won't be affected by the botched character traits in this episode as they may not be quite as familiar with Matt Smith's Doctor, but if there's one thing there is absolutely no excuse for, it's the ever-gaping plot-holes the 45 minutes of western drama are filled to the brim with. I can't go too into detail with these due to spoilers, but in vein of that I'm glad - There's far too much badly thought-out writing in this episode to fit into a review that can't exceed much more than 1000 words. Oh, and you're probably wondering why I haven't yet mentioned Amy and Rory in this review. The answer to that puzzling thought is quite simple: The companions, who happen to be leaving in a few episodes' time, do quite literally nothing in Mercy. Sure, Amy fixes a problem but it's one that doesn't even need to be fixed, as you realise at the climax of the episode. As for Rory... Well, he does quite literally nothing. I counted under 10 lines for the latter character throughout the entire episode. Honestly, they shouldn't even be in this adventure... I mean, they clearly aren't enjoying it judging from what little we see of the pair.
|The Doctor gets himself into more than a few quick-draw duels in this episode. If there's one thing A Town called Mercy passes with flying colours, it's the Western vibes it emanates.|