Previously on Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
From dinosaurs to saloons and shoot-outs, Doctor Who zaps from one end of the story-telling spectrum to the other. In a grand mash-up of Skynet terminators, Stephen King-esque gunslingers, and old school spaghetti westerns, the Doctor and company find themselves in a sticky dilemma packed with as many delicious moral intricacies as gaping plot holes.
- The TARDIS accidentally lands in Mercy (“I always took you where you needed to go”), a town protected by a circle of stones from an alien gunslinger intent on killing the space doctor.
- Guess what? Our Doctor is somewhat surprisingly not the doctor in question. Kahler-Jex, an alien, crash landed on Earth a while ago, added some electricity to Mercy, and cured the whole town of cholera – making him as much a doctor as anyone else.
- The Doctor figures out that Kahler-Jex isn’t the greatest guy – he developed murderous cyborgs back on his home planet to help his people win a war. The alien gunslinger is actually one of the cyborgs, and he wants to exact bloody vengeance upon his maker.
- The Doctor has trouble reconciling Kahler-Jex’s murderous past and his benevolent present.
- Amy helps the Doctor realize they need to be better than their enemies by giving people second chances (just like America, some British actor playing an American says knowingly).
- The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to befuddle the gunslinger, allowing Kahler-Jex to escape to his ship.
- Kahler-Jex dies “honorably” by committing suicide, self-destructing his ship after delivering an impassioned speech about his guilt and his belief in the afterlife.
- The alien gunslinger stays to protect Mercy – presumably for centuries since he’s a cyborg who may or may not ever die.
You Look Familiar
Doctor Who knows its fan base – just look around. Cobbled together from the recycling bin of some of science fiction’s most loved and loathed content, A Town Called Mercy gave nerdy boys and girls plenty to recognize. It’s a space western, after all, a sub-genre responsible for such sci-fi notables as Firefly and Star Wars – as well as lesser gems like Cowboys and Aliens. It’s nice to get a nod every now and again from the Doctor Who writers. This episode said to me, “Hey, we get you, we know who you are, and like it or not, this one’s for you.”
Mind the Gaps
There are plot holes in this episode, okay? The cyborg gunslinger has no reason to teleport in such an idiotic way. It’s inefficient, and I’m certain cyborg killing school taught him better. Also, what’s up with the stone circles of absolutely zero protection? And does it bother anyone that everyone in Mercy should be dead? Seriously, without Kahler-Jex they all would have succumbed to cholera. I’m not even going to touch the fun if historically disastrous inclusion of anachronistic electricity. But you know what? I’m okay with all these funky elements. The Doctor careens through space and time without a good grasp on consequences, so why should the episodes that document his adventures be any different? Carry on, good Doctor – I see your plot holes and choose to ignore them.
Doctor Who? Part Three
I really can’t express how much I enjoy ranting about morality. I need to stop. It’s actually embarrassing how much I wrote on this subject before realizing none of it needed to be read by anyone anywhere. Instead, I’ll do something different: I’ll talk about what I liked. I liked how the Doctor acknowledged that his mercy ultimately seems to lead to more condemned lives than saved ones. I appreciated Amy’s insistence that the Doctor’s a danger to himself and the whole universe when not accompanied by a stabling presence (i.e. a human companion). I’ll just say one negative thing: I don’t think the writers allocated enough time or philosophical depth to this subject. I want 43 whole minutes of morality talk – we can skip the monsters and time travel for just one episode, right? I’m sure loads of people would be on board with this idea. We could just sit the Doctor down and let him talk about ethics — like a lecture! (It may be correct to say that I’m having college withdrawals.)
The Doctor: Anachronistic electricity, keep out signs, aggressive stares –has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?
Kahler-Jex: Looking at you, Doctor, is like looking into a mirror . . . almost. Well, there’s rage there, like me, guilt, like me, solitude — everything but the nerve to do what needs to be done.
The Doctor: Today, I honor victims first — his, the Master’s, the Daleks’ — all the people who died because of my mercy.
Kahler-Jex: We all carry our prisons with us. Mine is my past. Yours is your morality.
Security system: Thank you for choosing Abaraxas security software, incinerating intruders for three centuries.
Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.