The Doctor and friends arrive at a town in the Old West threatened by an Alien Cyborg.
Massive Spoilers abound.
The other day someone asked about the New Series of Doctor Who (and yes there are people who ask me my opinion, thank you very much). I said then that while I didn’t think the new series ever bested the classic one, it never got as bad as it, either.
A Town Called Mercy comes pretty damn close to the latter. So much so that I can honestly say it’s one of my least favorite episodes, ever. To the point where I plan to go out of my way never to see it again.
Here comes the spoilers.
See, the Cyborg has come to Earth hunting down various members of its own kind. The last of it quarry, Kahler Jex, is in the Western town of Mercy, pretending to be an ordinary doctor. More or less. Well, he’s doling out free electricity, curing the odd disease, this that and the other thing.
Pretending is, of course, the operative word. For you see, Jex created the Cyborg after going through countless experimental subjects. The other aliens killed assisted him in his effort thus for all kinds of moral grey areas and the like.
Sure. If the characters involved were actually characters and not little sock puppets mouthing whatever words writer Toby Whithouse wants them to say.
Let’s take the Cyborg for instance. He doesn’t like to hurt innocents, fine. Sets up a boundary around the town making sure no one comes in or out to force the townsfolk to surrender his quarry willingly. Despite the fact he has various technologies such as a heat sensing eye and the ability to teleport around the place.
Yeah. He can teleport around the place.
So at one point in the story, where he has finally found Jex, does he, say, teleport over to where his quarry is, grab him, then teleport away? Or just flat out shoot the man? Nope. He waits long enough for one of the townsfolk to knock Jex out of firing range, then allows the others to carry the man off.
Excuse me? Really? According to the story, this is one of many fighters that helped win a planetary war. He can’t just, say, teleport on top of a building somewhere, watch where they’re taking Jex, teleport there, and finish him off? Or at least come up with something better than a nonmilitary trained soul such as myself did?
Then there’s Jex. One moment he’s a repenting soul, wanting to atone for his sins. At least, that’s when he’s not doing Davros proud by proclaiming himself a war hero and deriding the Doctor’s morality. He even has this speech where he states he fears death, because in his faith he’s going to have to spend his afterlife carrying up all the souls he killed, which is why he’s afraid to die. Which of course means he’s going to commit suicide right when the plot requires a resolution. (And remember up to that point he seems more or less cool with the idea of the entire town being starved out.)
I’ve talked a lot about the two aliens, but not about the Doctor, or his companions. The main reason being is that the companions are utterly irrelevant to the story and probably could have been written out without too much of a hassle. The Doctor himself is only slightly more relevant, as he’s the one with a crisis of faith. But that’s so quickly resolved it’s hard to have noticed it was even there.
Not helping things is that this is another New Who episode in which the Doctor does nothing to resolve the issue. His plan is to let Jex escape off the planet in Jex’s still working spaceship. Not find a way to reason with the Cyborg or trick him into thinking Jex is dead. Just let the quarry move to another planet and allow someone else to deal with the problem.
In other words, it’s fortunate that Jex had an arbitrary conversion to repenting sinner and blew up his own ship.
But worse than all of that is how preachy A Town Called Mercy is. Violence only begets violence is the message of the day, and if only we can find a better way. How nice. And how nice it is that we have two sides who deep down don’t want to hurt anyone. Imagine what would have happened if the Cyborg was like a Dalek and Jex really was more like Davros. Two fanatical parties that won’t stop until someone stops them.
For starters, we might have something that had an ounce of emotional depth and realism. Because guess what? THAT HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE. But why put that out there when we have a GRAND AND GLORIOUS MESSAGE OF PEACE.