Doctor Who Recap: A Town Called Mercy

Doctor Who S07/E03 — The Good, the Borg and the Ugly

Full disclosure: I’d been waiting with bated breath for this episode ever since I saw the Series/Season 7 teaser trailer at WhoCon in Cardiff, and the more recent trailers had served only to whet my appetite.

A Doctor Who Western! What’s not to love?

In this post-2005 Who era the scope (and budget) is bigger and more cinematic. There are no more wobbly sets or trips to Camber Sands for outdoor filming. “A Town Called Mercy” was shot on location in Almeria, Spain on the sets built in the 1960s for Sergio Leone’s classic Spaghetti Westerns.

Taking their cue from Leone’s The Man With No Name trilogy, writer Toby Whithouse and director Saul Metzstein produced an episode with an epic sweep, exploring themes of crime and punishment, revenge and regret, honour and self-sacrifice.

Ben Browder and Adrian Scarborough made for impressive guest stars, and their (as always) terrific performances beg the question of why we don’t see them enough on TV these days.

Hey, let’s start a petition to cast them as Blake and Vila in the Blake’s 7 reboot. Crichton and Pritchard for the win!

I digress … “A Town Called Mercy” was true to the core Doctor Who sensibilities. There was comedy, drama, heartache and redemption. Interestingly, the Doctor was old (around 1,200 years old in fact), lonely and possibly coming a bit loose at the moral seams.

In this series/season the Doctor skips back and forth through time to visit the Ponds, and here non-constant companion Amy assumed the guise of his moral arbiter. Like many very old people the Doctor’s attitude to what is right and what is not, had hardened, he’d become more certain and potentially more unbending.

The Doctor decided that Josef Mengele Kahler Jex (Scarborough) deserved to be executed for his war crimes. Eventually Marshall Isaac (Browder) and Amy prevailed, but only at a terrible cost to the town.

Maybe I’m the only one who was surprised, but before watching this episode I’d been convinced that Browder’s character and Borg Hugh The Gunslinger would turn out to be one and the same and we’d disappear down a Westworld rabbit hole.

The clips where the cyborg yells “Face Me!” sounded a lot like Browder. A. Lot. Steven Moffat et al. intentionally misdirecting the audience? Surely not …

By the way, I loved how the stalking cyborg was a visual combo of Clint Eastwood‘s Blondie and Yul Brynner’s iconic Gunslinger, with perhaps a touch of Lee Van Cleef in the margins. If you’ve never seen Westworld or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, do so. You’ll thank me later.

Next up: “The Power of Three.” As the Ponds’ valedictory lap in the TARDIS continues, we move inexorably towards their exit in Manhattan. (Matt Smith once showed me some photos of him in the loo in a Doctor Who-themed bar in my old home town of New York City, but that’s a story I’ll share another time.)

Anyhoo, written by Doctor Who powerhouse Chris Chibnall, “The Power of Three” boasts another visit from Mark Williams as Rory’s dad. (Do viewers in the US chuckle that his character’s called Brian Williams, I wonder?)

The impressive guest roster also features Ruthie Henshall and Jemma Redgrave as well as one of my favourite actors ever, the magnificent Steven Berkoff.

Looks great and, time willing (girl’s got to find some more paid employment) I’ll preview it later on in the week.

Doctor Who Series 7 airs in the UK on Saturdays, 7:35pm on BBC1.

Doctor Who Season 7 airs in the US on Saturdays, 9pm ET on BBC America.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

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Doctor Who, A Town Called Mercy Trailers: BBC1 and BBC America

Doctor Who, “A Town Called Mercy” Trailers: BBC1 and BBC America.

This third episode of Doctor Who Series/Season 7 promises to be a-may-zing.

Shot on location in Almeria, Spain it used the same sets as Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns, and the promotional images pay clear homage to grumpy old man iconic poncho-wearer Clint Eastwood.

Snippets of the episode were featured in a trailer reel that showrunners Steven Moffat and Caro Skinner debuted at WhoCon back in March 2012, and there was more than a frisson of excitement when the crowd recognised guest star — and all-around sci fi god — Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate SG-1).

The episode also features Adrian Scarborough, who was most recently seen playing Pritchard the butler in the rebooted Upstairs Downstairs.

The two trailers below are very similar, but there is a noticeable difference in tone. The one from BBC America is darker, and has more of an emphasis on action and heavy weaponry, whereas  the BBC1 trailer feels lighter and more comedic.

In a recent interview with SFX, Browder revealed that he’s long had a soft spot for Doctor Who: “Look, in my house, I have a TARDIS. It’s a small one, but I have a TARDIS. There’s a sonic screwdriver, too.”

Check out what writer Toby Whithouse told SFX about the inspiration behind “A Town Called Mercy”.

Doctor Who Series 7 airs in the UK on Saturdays, 7:35pm on BBC1.

Doctor Who Season 7 airs in the US on Saturdays, 9pm ET on BBC America.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw