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After two adventures set in the depths of space, Doctor Who comes down to Earth for a historically set adventure, which takes The Doctor to the wild wild west. While on route to Mexico for the Dead of the Day Festival, The Doctor and his companions land in a strange American Frontier town held under siege by a cyborg, The Gunslinger (Andrew Brooke), wanting the alien doctor.
Previous seasons of Doctor Who have had an interlinking, underlining theme/threat, something the series is building up to. The seventh series so far has felt more like a collection of standalone adventures and “A Town Called Mercy” has continued this thread. As a standalone episode, it's fun enough since it takes a humorous approach with the material and theme of the episode.
The biggest strength of this episode is the moral dilemmas along with the themes of guilt, forgiveness, and redemption... even though the writing is very much on the nose. There are big blurs of gray instead of a being a clear line between good & evil. It's easy to sympathize with both the Gunslinger, a creature who had been wronged with a mission of revenge and unwilling to hurt innocent, and Kahler Jex (Adrian Scarborough) who's a character who has done bad things in his past, but has ended up being useful and offered a social good to the town. The conflict and relationship between the two is similar to V and Dr. Surridge from V for Vendetta, one being the creator of the other for an evil cause, but the creator ended up becoming a good guy. That was despite the writer’s best efforts to try and make Jex unlikable with his actions.
The episode embraces the western setting and clichés, particularly in the later half as The Doctor becomes the town’s marshal or when the Gunslinger demands for Jex and a showdown at high noon. There is also very a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it plotting and action wise.
Previous Doctor Who episodes set in the past have been about some sort of secret alien invasion or aliens hiding in human society. “A Town Called Mercy” fortunately dispenses with this tried premise and just runs with a fun sci-fi Western premise and has no pretense of doing an investigation to find the aliens, they are there right at the beginning and in the foreground.
There is an acknowledge in the episode of previous events in the Doctor Who canon, but this is when The Doctor acts the most out of character, such as being overly angry and aiming a gun at Jex. The Doctor would never use physical force or firearms; what would make Jex so special to break this rule? Especially when The Doctor has faced much worse in the past. “A Town Called Mercy” is at times goofy, but Doctor Who is like that some times. This is simply a light hearted, entertaining little episode with a few flaws.