Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"A Town Called Mercy"

I was looking forward to “A Town Called Mercy.” It has been about 49 years since the Doctor had a genuine wild west adventure, so he was due. I was also curious to see ben Browder again. He seems to have fallen off the map around 2008. The verdict on the episode is a big, fat…okay. The story was rather pedestrian. A lot of care went into the setting and such, however. All style and no substance. Or to be more apt, all hat, no cattle.

The Doctor arrives in the town of Mercy with the Ponds. Mercy has many advancements such as electric lihtng that it is too early for the town to have. When he announces he is an alien Doctor, the townspeople forcibly carry him out to a border surrounding the town. He is saved from whatever nasty fate awaits him by Isaac, the marshal played by Browder. Isaac explains there is a border surrounding Mercy that has been established by a cyborg they call the Gunslinger. The gunslinger is threatening to kill anyone who crosses the border other than the alien Doctor. But he does not want the Doctor. The Gunslinger is referring to another alien who says he crashed in the desert a ecade ago and has been serving the town as a physician ever since.

The alien doctor, Kahler Jex, is under Isaac’s protection from the townspeople who are perfectly willing to hand him over to the Gunslinger. Isaac feels like he owes Jex for all the good he has done, including curing a cholera epidemic without any loss of life. Isaac’s mind is not changed about Jex even when, while in the middle of a plan to retrieve the TARDIS to save Jex, the Doctor finds his ship in working order and, what is worse, he is a scientist who helped create the Gunslinger to fight a brutal war on behalf of his people. The Doctor thinks Jex ought to be handed over because of war crimes. Isaac believes in second chances.

The episode does a 180 degree turn after Isaac is killed protecting Jex. With his dying breath, he intrusts the Doctor with the marshal’s job and insists he protect Jex. It takes a significant amount of convincing from Amy and Isaac for the Doctor to decide to not hand Jex over. I found the Doctor’s attitude far more harsh than usual. Even the Ninth Doctor was not so cold as to toss a man out on his own to face frontier justice. The Doctor does come around to helping Jex escape, but fearing he will be forever hunted, Jex commits suicide instead in order to face the punisment his religion believes awaits him in the afterlife.

“A Town Called Mercy” is definitely style over substance. The episode was filmed in Almera, Spain, a place famous for foreign westerns. Clint Eastwood’s A Fist Full of Dollars is one of the most famous westerns filmed there. The locations and sets are beautifully authentic. I am also impressed by the music. There are some definite tributes to the great composer Ennio Morricone within. I half expected to see the Man With No Name come riding up.

But style will only take you so far. The story is quite anemic. The first twenty minutes or so are quite amusing with the doctor joking fast and furious, but then things turn so dark he does way out of character. Since when would Amy have to pull a gun to keep him from sacrificing a man to a killer cyborg? I cannot imagine it, but at least he shifts back to his old self for the climax. Jex’s suicide is the only obvious conclusion. It is disappointing the end is so predictable.

Browder is wasted here. After playing such a large part of Farscape and Stargate SG-1, I was expecting a more prominent role for him here. Instead, he has a couple dialogue intensive scenes, and is killed off at about the halfway point. Come on. The powers that be should have utilized him more or else what is the point of casting him in the first place?

Other issues? Britons should not be allowed to fake Texas draws. Spend the money on some American actors. How can Amy be such a whiz with a rifle in the previous episode, but accidentally fire off two shots with a pistol now? The only rationale is for comeic effect, but contradicting the previous episode for a cheap laugh does not feel right.

I will give “A Town Called Mercy” high praise for its aesthetics. The powers that be went all out on the technical specs. I have not mentioned it yet, but the Gunslinger is impressive, too. There are hints of The Terminator and Westworld with his design. But more effort should have gone into the script. I am terribly overwhelmed by the story that goes with all the eye candy. The characterizations are a bit off and the A to B to C plot elements are way too predictable. “A Town Called mercy” is like your senior prom date--pretty, but dumb.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment