Whereas Dinosaurs on a Spaceship seemed to try and eradicate the memory of the awfulness of Invasion of the Dinosaurs (well the dinosaurs aspect anyway), A Town Called Mercy is designed to try and make people forget The Gunfighters which was a William Hartnell story which tried to do what they did in ATCM but in a tiny studio on a flimsy BBC budget. The story sees the Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in Mercy where the locals are being terrorised by a cyborg which when I first saw it I thought that it looked like Kryten from Red Dwarf.
The thing about this story is that there are moments of action but there are several moments where it feels like a fair amount of padding has been put in. You look at it and think ok so we know that the Cyborg is after Kahler Jex and he is going to be handed over in some form and so this is realised quite early on so we have scenes where people just talk. The performances of certain people were particularly strong. I thought that Adrian Scarborough (Kahler-Jex) was very good because he starts off as the likeable Doctor who the townsfolk have become friendly with to someone who is considered some sort of medical butcher. The idea that the main threat has been created and has turned on its creator is quite a nice idea. Credit should go to Andrew Brooke who plays the Gunslinger. The make-up is very impressive despite my comparison to Kryten but it’s his performance that stands out to me as I thought that it was a nice mix between Cyborg and alien. The character starts out as the main threat but then over the course of the episode becomes a victim and by the end we are meant to sympathise with him. I thought that the ending was perhaps the most satisfactory way of ending the episode as the death of both the Gunslinger and Kahler Jex would have ended the episode of a sour note.
I did think that Amy and Rory were rather poorly served here as they didn’t really get much to do. There is a feeling that they are just in the stories to make sense to their departure. It’s a shame really as they deserve better. Matt Smith was rather good as we got to see a different side to the Doctor where he actually shouted which is not something we see from the Doctor very often. He also actually points a gun at Kahler-Jex and I did think there was a moment where it was unclear whether he would go through with it. It’s another example of the Doctor becoming less passive because in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship the fact he effectively sent Solomon off in his spaceship to get hit by the missiles.
It would be amiss of me not to mention the location work as it is what I think is the best thing about this story. They went to Almeria, Spain and used the same sets that were used for films such as A Fistful of Dollars. It’s one of the things that I like about this era of Doctor Who where they don’t just try and film it in Cardiff with a few CGI shots of a country to fool you into thinking that is where the story was filmed (like in Daleks in Manhattan for example). Every second is used to showcase this wonderful set and it’s perhaps one of the best location shoots in the new era of the show.
Due to how much I enjoyed the previous two stories, I would have to say that ATCM is the weakest offering so far. It has some good things about it but it’s the bits in between that let the story down. It’s certainly the weakest of the Toby Whithouse scripts.
Rating – 6/10