Doctor Who Re-Review: Season 7 Episode 3 — A Town Called Mercy


I didn’t really do a proper full review of this episode last time round, more of a quick reac­tion post. My general feel­ings are unchanged with a subse­quent view­ing but there are some things I could address in more detail and with a differ­ent perspec­tive now.

I noted orig­i­nally that this had some of the trap­pings of clas­sic Who and it does because here we have the Doctor and compan­ions arrive in the wrong place due to TARDIS navi­ga­tion fail­ure and get mixed up in some­thing that has noth­ing at all to do with them. Nobody summoned him, no one is look­ing for him (despite the clever before cred­its teaser). It’s a welcome change.

Also the fran­tic pace of Season 7 seems just a bit less fran­tic with this episode. Perhaps because the focus is narrowed to a very small number of char­ac­ters and the others are just bit play­ers. Even the Ponds are really just minor elements in this episode. Which is a welcome change given how Pond heavy the first half of the season is.


There are some fun echoes of past and future episodes in A Town Called Mercy (hey it’s Doctor Who, we can do time travel). For exam­ple Amy calls out the Doctor on the way trav­el­ling alone affects him. The Time Lord Victo­ri­ous anyone? And the Doctor finds himself Sher­iff of a town and respon­si­ble for its citi­zens. Hmm, well that sounds a little famil­iar now doesn’t it?

Whether those echoes are delib­er­ate or fortu­itous I don’t know, but they do add an extra layer of depth to the episode on rewatch­ing which is pleas­ant.

The core moral dilemma here is a good one I think. While the Doctor’s paci­fist tenden­cies have fluc­tu­ated wildly over the years depend­ing on who’s writ­ing him (and even in the newer series he’s pretty incon­sis­tent) the notion of delib­er­ately send­ing a man to die isn’t going to sit comfort­ably with him. On the other hand it’s made clear we’re deal­ing with some­one who did monstrous things for (in his view) the greater good. And that hits a bit close to home doesn’t it?



hler-Jex seems to feel the need to justify his actions by prob­ing and push­ing at the Doctor. He knows what he’s done, but doesn’t really want to own the conse­quences. But as the story plays out he is forced to a posi­tion where he can’t really ignore them any longer.

All of which makes it sound rather heavy, but it’s not. It’s mostly light hearted and fast paced. The humor is pretty broad, a bit too broad for my tastes at times, but it keeps things up beat. And of course all the west­ern trap­pings are fun.

This isn’t an episode that’s going to go on anyone’s best of lists, but it’s solid and fun to watch. Which in real­ity is all I ever really ask of a show. Expect­ing Doctor Who to be bold, chal­leng­ing and differ­ent on a weekly basis is in my view funda­men­tally misun­der­stand­ing what the show is.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?