The Doctor gets to wear a stetson again and visit the Wild West for the first time in forty six years. Join me to discuss the episode and talk about morals. There’ll be spoilers so if you haven’t seen the episode yet you probably want to avoid this post- basically, run!
I was particularly excited about this episode. It was written by Toby Whithouse (creator of one of my fave shows, Being Human) and writer of some of the best Who episodes (School Reunion, The Vampires of Venice and The God Complex before this one). It’s also the first Doctor Who western since The Gunfighters in 1966, a First Doctor story which is one of the worst of the era. It was originally going to be called “The Gunslingers” which is how this week’s ‘monster’ got it’s name.
It appears that in comparison to last series, Series 7 is going for fairly simple plots. The town of Mercy is looking after Kahler-Hex, an alien Doctor who is providing the town with electricity and healthcare. He can’t step outside the town’s border though for fear of meeting with the Gunslinger, Kahler-Tec, a cyborg. Hex experimented on innocent soldiers to create cyborgs which ultimately won a horrible war. The Gunslinger wants revenge for what Hex did to him.
The Doctor sees what Hex did in Hex’s ship and then does a very un-Doctery thing. He decides Hex deserves to be executed and drags him outside of the town. It’s only because of sheriff Issac’s sacrifice that Hex survives and it takes Amy Pond to make the Doctor change his mind. She tells him to be better than Hex. The Doctor argues that because of his mercy many people have died, referencing the Master and the daleks. He knows that saving Hex would involve putting the whole town in danger and he doesn’t want to do that. Plus I get the feeling he has turned a little dark and wants people that do bad things to die- he did that in the last episode with Soloman. The situation is summed up later in the episode: “You’re both good man but sometimes you forget that”.
I suppose this episode brings up a major issue within the world. Is the death penalty right, can it ever be right? Many countries have withdrawn it from the legal system but it still remains in many others. People have strong opinions about this and some will argue that murderers and terrorists etc should die for their crimes. The Doctor was kind of taking this view in this episode but normally he turns to the other side of the argument- that killing someone for their crimes makes you no better than them. And I think he’s right about that fact.
In the end the Doctor helps Hex escape by having Rory and various residents put a Kahler symbol on their face and run around confusing the cyborg’s sensor. When Hex got to his ship though he blew himself up, wishing no more to die because of him. Let me share with you what Kahler-Hex says which really sums up how brilliant Toby Whithouse is as a writer:
“In my culture, we believe that when you die, your spirit has to climb a mountain, carrying the souls of everyone you’ve wronged in your lifetime. Imagine the weight I will have to lift: the monsters I created, the people they killed. Isaac! He was my friend. Now his soul will be in my arms, too.”
Fantastic! And the Gunslinger lives on to protect the village and everyone’s pretty much happy. Apart from a little tension from the fact the Ponds want to return home again and the Doctor looking a bit miffed about this but expect much more on that plotline next week.
There was also some great fun bits this week. Rory had a couple of good lines, although the Ponds were largely absent from the episode, but the best had to be the horse. The preacher says “He’s called Joshua” to which the Doctor replies “No he isn’t. I speak horse. He’s called Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices”.
I feel I should also mention how much like a Western the episode felt. The set was fantastic. They filmed the episode in Almeria, Spain in the same sort of area where all the classic Western films were filmed. Murray Gold did a fantastic job with the music, as always and Whithouse made it feel like a Western despite the sci-fi elements what with a stand-off at high noon and everything. All in all I think it was a great episode and it was my favourite for some time, though some may have found the episode too dark and serious. But the Doctor has always been on the edge of darkness and has carried a gun many times in the past. And if you think of what he did in the Time War the events of this episode were nothing.
Next Time: The Doctor comes to stay as the Earth is slowly invaded by cubes. UNIT make a return with a new leading lady, there’s celeb cameos and Brian is back. If you liked the Russell T Davies era you’ll love The Power of Three!