Doing a Western on a TV budget is always risky. Sand dunes, ponies, fake American accents and a few Stetsons do not add up to a small screen version of High Plains Drifter.
So hats off (or Stetsons off) to the BBC for flying the Doctor Who production team to Almeria in Spain and the famous Fort Bravo studios for the latest weekly blockbuster story, A Town Called Mercy. Authentic desert landscapes, shimmering heat hazes, and a wooden frontier town convinced me that the Doctor was genuinely in the old west – though admittedly the American accents were still a little, well, fake.
At high noon, Matt Smith faced “The Gun slinger” in the dusty town square. But his opponent was no Lee Van Cleef in a long flowing black coat. This was the Terminator in a long flowing black coat, complete with cyborg arm mounted laser cannon and bionic eye with heads up display.
Despite the potential for camp pantomime A Town Called Mercy is a dark story. A war criminal finds refuge in a western town and becomes a healer. When the half man half machine Gun-slinger arrives seeking revenge we find a morality tale in which even the Doctor seems ready to wield an executioners six-shooter.
The story explores quite adult themes for a family show, but humour offsets the darkness. Show-runner Steven Moffat promised us a movie each week for this series. A Town Called Mercy isn’t quite a cinematic as A Man Called Horse, but it tries very hard and just about pulls it off, whilst at the same time also introducing us to a horse called Susan.
Over to you: Do yo agree with my review of Doctor Who A Town Called Mercy? What did you think of the Doctor’s journey back into Spaghetti Western territory? Did the BBC pull it off or was this just bad and ugly. Share your thoughts. Leave a comment and let me know.