We’re now into the third of the five episodes with Amy Pond-Williams and Rory Williams as the Doctor’s companions. As seen in the last episode, the Doctor’s visits are getting farther and farther apart but what wonderful adventures he’s having with them! This week, there’s a new sheriff in town as the Doctor takes his companions to the old West to the town of Mercy which is under siege by a cyborg cowboy.
(AS WITH ALL OUR RECAPS, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW)
A voice over begins the episode telling about the narrator’s favorite story about “a man who lived forever but whose eyes were heavy with the weight of what he had seen…a man who fell from the stars…”
The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive at the border of the town Mercy. As the Doctor walks toward the town, Rory tells him there’s a sign that says ‘Keep Out.’ The Doctor tells him he feels that is merely a suggestion than actual orders and proceeds to go in.
The three walk into the saloon and when the Doctor reveals who he is, everyone inside stands and takes a step back. An undertaker begins to measure him for a new suit. When he confirms he’s an alien, the townspeople take the Doctor and throw him out beyond the border of the town marked with rocks and sticks.
Beyond him a flash occurs and the Preacher panics saying “Oh, God, he’s coming!” and begins to recite the Lord’s Prayer. As the Doctor turns, he sees a flash and someone coming towards him as though walking through a time portal. He tries to go back inside the town’s boarder but the townspeople aim their guns at him to stay put.
Sheriff Isaac (played by sci-fi fave Ben Browder!) comes to the rescue and orders the townspeople to lower their guns and allow the Doctor to cross the border line. Once the Doctor does, the cyborg Gunslinger disappears.
At the Sheriff’s office, Isaac fills the Doctor in about the Gunslinger who appeared three weeks earlier about the same time the border line appeared. The town has been trapped ever since with no one getting in or out of that border. No supplies have been delivered and if anyone tries to get out, they get shot. Isaac tells them that the Gunslinger wants the alien Doctor.
But that’s too easy to assume that our Doctor is the one that the Gunslinger wants. With skills that would make even Sherlock Holmes jealous, the Time Lord deduces that there is another alien doctor in the midst.
The real alien doctor wanted by the Gunslinger reveals himself from his hiding place and says he’s Kahler-Jex. Jex tells the three travelling companions that his spacecraft crashed and if it wasn’t for Isaac and the townspeople, he would have died. To show his gratitude, he stayed on to be the town physician. The Doctor comes up with a plan to evacuate the town which surprises Amy as it doesn’t involve crazy schemes or negotiations. The Doctor explains that he’s matured now that he’s 1,200 years old.
Isaac and Rory divert the Gunslinger’s attention as the Doctor rides a horse towards his TARDIS. Before reaching the TARDIS, the Doctor finds Jex’s space pod undamaged and sets off its alarm as he tries to get inside. The Doctor manages to gain access to the helm of the ship as well as to Jex’s personal files. What he sees in those files disturbs him greatly. As he exits the space pod, the Gunslinger has his weapon aimed at him.
The Doctor realizes the Gunslinger’s motives. He tells him that he knows he wants justice and deserves it but why not do it peacefully with a trial? The Gunslinger retorts that when Jex kills all his people then the Doctor can use his justice. He then tells the Doctor that the next person who steps over the border line will be shot dead.
Jex’s space pod alarm can be heard all the way back to the town which concerns Jex when he realizes that the Doctor is not following the agreed upon plan. In a panic, he pulls a gun on Amy. Jex tells her that now that the Doctor has found his space pod, certain aspects of his past may be considered unforgiveable so it’s best that he leave with Amy as a hostage. Just as Jex is about to go out the door, Isaac and Rory return to town and ask Jex what he is doing.
Jex tries to talk his way out of the situation but the Doctor comes in and calls him a liar. The Doctor is furious and calls Jex a murderer but Jex considers himself a war hero. Isaac doesn’t understand so the Doctor explains that the Gunslinger is a cyborg, a weapon created by Jex and his team who took volunteers under the pretense of special training then experimented on them by fusing weapons on their body and programming them to kill.
Jex tells them that the experiments were a means to find peace on his world that has been at war for nine years and half his planet was already decimated because of it. Within a week of creating the cyborgs, the war stopped. The Doctor counters died on the operating table before he finally found the right procedure to create the cyborgs. Jex replies that the politics of peace do not apply during war. After the war ended, the cyborgs were to be decommissioned but due to some circuitry damage, the Gunslinger went off line and started killing everyone on the scientific team.
Rory wonders what should be done with him as he is a war criminal. Isaac tells him he sees Jex as a good guy who saved the townspeople from Cholera and gave them heat and light. Amy agrees that another solution should be found due to the good he’s done for the town and turns to the Doctor for support.
The conversation seems to hit close to home and Jex intuitively sees that the Doctor can empathize with this situation. He tells the Doctor that he is like him, filled with rage, guilt and solitude but what he lacks is the nerve to do what needed to be done to save a planet. He twists the knife by taunting, “Thank the gods that my people weren’t relying on you to save them!”
Them’s fighting words as the Doctor, who has allowed himself to be pushed into anger, grabs Jex and proceeds to take him to the borderline. The townspeople follow as they watch the Doctor throw Jex beyond the rocks. The Doctor grabs a gun to prevent Jex from entering back. Jex challenges him and says he wouldn’t pull the trigger. The Doctor answers, “I genuinely don’t know.”
Amy grabs a gun of her own and fires it in the sky ordering the Doctor to allow Jex to return. She is shocked at the change in the Doctor. He tries to reason with her but she counters by asking when did killing someone become an option? The Doctor insists that Jex must answer for his crimes and that he’s tired of trying to understand and negotiate with evil like the Daleks and the Master who continue killing because he allows them to live. Amy reminds the Doctor that they need to be better than that and to send Jex to death only makes him like his them.
Realizing what he has done, he tells Jex to come back over the line but the Gunslinger has already reached him. Jex begs for mercy but the Gunslinger will not accept. He fires at Jex but Isaac jumps in the way and is shot. With his dying breath, he begs the Doctor to stay and protect Jex and his town. He knows they are both good men who forgot they were good.
As the new Sheriff, he orders the townspeople to take Jex back to a cell. The Gunslinger warns the Doctor the town has until high noon to turn over Jex or everyone dies.
Jex continues to taunt the Doctor. A decision would be easily made if he was just one thing: either a mad scientist versus a healing physician. The fact that he’s both is perplexing. This just angers the Doctor more as he tells Jex he doesn’t get to decide how his debt is paid. Jex explains that he is afraid of death because his people believe that when they die, their spirit has to climb a mountain carrying all the souls they have wronged in their lifetime. Image the weight he would have to carry when he dies. He tells the Doctor that everyone carries their prisons with them – his is his morality.
The next day, the Doctor waits for the Gunslinger in the middle of town. In the spirit of an old gunfight, we watch as they both are about to see who has the quickest draw. Just before the Gunslinger can discharge his weapon, the Doctor pulls out his sonic screwdriver which causes a high pitch noise that breaks windows and stuns the Gunslinger.
While distracting the cyborg, Jex is let out of prison by Amy who is told by the Doctor to escape. Jex reaches his pod and speaks on a loud speaker to the Gunslinger. He asks the cyborg if he’ll go back home when this is all over but the Gunslinger tells him he can’t as he is a monster. Jex replied, “So am I.” The Gunslinger tells Jex that he will hunt him down and find him wherever he goes. Jex realizes that the Gunslinger won’t stop and that could mean more innocent people could get hurt. Jex tells the Gunslinger he’s killed enough and will end this war for him. He sets the pod to self-destruct and he thanks the Doctor before the pod explodes.
As the Doctor, Amy and Rory leave town, the Doctor tells them of another trip they can go on but Amy declines. The Doctor says “Another time. No worries” but once she and Rory go inside the TARDIS, sadness overcomes him.
The voice over returns to finish the tale started at the beginning of the episode saying that whether or not the story is true, if they ask the people of Mercy why there isn’t a law enforcement person in town, it’s because they have their own arrangement and smile a Cheshire-like smile. They have their own special angel watching out for them… and angel that fell from the stars. As the story ends, the camera pans up to find that the Gunslinger now wears the Sheriff’s badge.
Few Episode Observations:
*This was a truly enjoyable episode that I felt had many layers to it. The parallel’s to some of the Doctor’s action to what Jex has done was not lost. Granted, the doctor did not do horrible experiments on other people, but he has eradicated species in the past. In the eyes of other people, he could also be considered a monster. That begs the question, should the punishment fit the crime committed or given leeway to fit the person who has changed to do good? Since they are two sides to this coin, what determines if a person is evil if there is still a measure of good in them? Does their good deeds lessen the evil they committed?
*The entire episode had a good storytelling feel to it with the narration in the beginning and end tying everything together. Kudos to Toby Whithouse for a job well done!
* Loved the conversations the Doctor has with Susan. Hope you all caught the Classic ‘Doctor Who’ nod!
*Amy declines the offer to go on another trip as their friends will soon notice that they are aging faster than them. Any thoughts?
*The Doctor seems to be aging quite a bit now too as he’s now 200 years old.
*Is the sadness that the Doctor seems to have a precursor of what is to become of his two companions? Does he already know what is about to happen to them in episode 5? In the last two episodes, he drops his guard when he knows that Amy is not looking.
* Two resounding theme occurred in this episode: One is that when the Doctor travels alone, he becomes darker. This was seen in ‘The Waters of Mars’ and alluded to in ‘Turn Left’ (where he died because he went too far in his vengeance against the Racnoss). Second, that the Doctor needs companions to make sure he doesn’t cross the line as suggested by Donna in ‘Runaway Bride.’
* “Uh, the sign does say, ‘keep out’”
“I see “keep out” signs as suggestions more than actual orders. Like ‘dry clean only.’”
* “Anachronistic electricity, ‘keep out’ signs, aggressive stares. Has someone been peeping at my Christmas list?”
* “He’s called Joshua. It’s from the Bible. It means ‘The Deliverer.’”
“No he isn’t. I speak horse. He’s called Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices.”
* “Anyone not an American, drop your gun!”
So what did you think of this episode? I’d love to hear your theories as there is only 2 more episodes before we say goodbye to the Ponds. Are you ready for their departure?