Welcome to our second-ever, supposedly-weekly Doctor Who recap/bullshit session, which is a thing I made up in order to trick the Mercury into paying for my Doctor Who season pass on iTunes. I'm Erik Henriksen, senior editor at the Mercury, and I'm joined by Bobby Roberts, the Mercury's calendar editor. Every Monday we'll talk about the previous weekend's episode of Doctor Who, and all of our opinions will be 100 percent correct, even if they conflict with one other. Or conflict with yours. Speaking of which, if you've got thoughts of your own regarding the Doctor, Amy, Rory, or why Stetsons are cool, put 'em in the comments. Geronimo, etc.
ERIK: At long last, my dream of a Deadwood and Doctor Who crossover happened! Sort of. Close enough, anyway. While A Town Called Mercy could've used more Al Swearengen, everything could use more Al Swearengen, so I'm not going to hold that against it, and instead I'm just gonna be glad that here was an Western starring the Doctor, which combines two of my favorite genres in a way that was way better than Cowboys & Aliens.
BOBBY: Shit, now that you mention it, the BBC getting Ian McShane isn't like, an impossibility. They've gotten Toby Jones, they've gotten Bill Nighy, they've gotten Kylie Minogue, dammit. This is a deprivation I didn't even know I was suffering, and my previously sunny morning has been plunged into a leathery despair, wearing a frown named Swidgin. If there is no Ian McShane on Doctor Who (ooh! Or as the Doctor) in the next two years, Steven Moffat is going on the list.
ERIK: This episode started off clunky for me, but it kicked into gear when the Doctor decided to sacrifice... uh, the other doctor. The alien one. The other alien one. The Oppenheimer-meets-Mengele-with-a-Mike Tyson-face-tattoo one! Yeah, that dude. It was then that one of the best, and also one of the core tenets behind Doctor Who got bumped to the fore: The fact that the Doctor has an infallible need to solve problems by taking the higher moral ground, by avoiding violence, by using his brain. Seeing him lose his shit for a minute—seeing him question whether or mercy is, in fact, always the right choice—gave us a glimpse into the Doctor's head that isn't usually given, because he's usually got to be the hero. The Doctor's foray into cold pragmatism might've been brief (I feel like it could've, and maybe should've, been explored more), but it was a sharp reminder of both why he needs companions like Amy and why the whole intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism thing, idealistic as it is, is kind of the only way for the Doctor to roll.
BOBBY: I think all the episodes have started off clunky. I've got no problem with being dropped into a story in media res, but there's not even a preliminary introduction to anything so far this season. In fact, these three episodes all seem to be structured like classic Simpsons episodes: You think it's going one way, and in 2 minutes something has spun out of that initial premise that becomes the actual story. I'm hesitant to call this out as a bad thing, though. Yeah, it's disorienting, but it also gives the audience credit that they're going to catch up to where the plot is actually going. Once could argue this increases immersion into the show's fictional universe, as it allows the audience themselves to feel like how Amy & Rory must constantly feel, following this fast-talking crazy-person, forever spewing sentence fragments and rhetorical questions into the atmosphere.
ERIK: Another thing I liked about this one was how it did what the best Moffat-run Doctor Who episodes, do— it appealed first on that goofy, pulpy, macro level (aliens in the Old West! A terminator cowboy!), but did so as a way to crack open the characters. You think it's broad strokes, but it's deceptively subtle; like last week's episode, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," the ridiculousness of it all is the hook, but by its end, the episode was less about intergalactic war criminals at high noon than it was earnest character moments. "Frightened people... give me a dalek any day," says the Doctor after talking down one more inane human, but he keeps hanging around us, and this episode dug into why a bit. I kind of hope it gets dug into a little bit more further on.
BOBBY: I don't disagree with any of this, but I still found the episode kind of bland and shrug-worthy. It wasn't bad. It just didn't stick to my brain the way Asylum of the Daleks or Dinosaurs on a Spaceship did. It reminds me of Series 5, which opened with two great episodes The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below and then coughed up a dramatic non-starter featuring Churchill and some tea-peddling Daleks for its third. A couple great moments, yes ("Would you like some tea?" in that episode, the Doctor actually pulling a gun on another doctor in this one) but overall, I deem it skip-worthy when the season rewatch comes around later this year. Also, Amy & Rory seemed to exist solely to be taken hostage, and to drop hints about how they don't really gallavant with the Doctor anymore, these are more like impromptu vacations they take every now and again. Maybe that's just set-up for next week's episode (the "Next Week on" seems to confirm) but it also makes me wary that there's a twisty-turny plotty thingamajig Moffat's waiting to spring on us in a future episode that will make all these episodes tie together in some convoluted way that hurts my head, like pretty much the entirety of Series 6 did.
ERIK: I would also like to note that this episode costarred Ben Browder, who played That Guy Who Took Over for MacGyver on Stargate SG-1.
BOBBY: What the fuck is a Stargate SG-1?