The Doctor gets a Stetson (and a gun), and finds himself the reluctant Sheriff of a Western town under siege by a relentless cyborg who goes by the name of The Gunslinger. But who is he and what does he want?
The Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves in the American wild west sometime in the 19th century. The small town has a Marshal but they're not that keen on the new arrivals. They are also under threat from an alien, a half-man half-robot hunter who is out to eliminate the Doctor. Not the Doctor we know but another, Kahler Jex, who has escaped from his world. He's done many good things for the local community but his past is somewhat questionable. When the Marshall is killed, it's left to the Doctor to decide how best to proceed. Written by
The Wild West has not been a setting for a Doctor Who episode since the "The Gunfighters" in 1966. Toby Whithouse was advised not to watch The Gunfighters by the other writers, who said it was "not exactly the jewel in the crown" See more »
When Sheriff Isaac is killed he hands his badge to The Doctor who assumes his position as Sheriff. Sheriff is actually an elected position and can't just be handed from one person to the next. Although in a situation as desperate and bizarre as this, the town likely would have skipped the formalities of an election. See more »
When the Doctor, Amy and Rory land by accident in the town of Mercy in 1870, they discover a cyborg hunting an alien doctor: another alien doctor. It has the entire town besieged and waits for the other doctor to come out.
The last time the Doctor visited the Old West was in 1966's THE GUNFIGHTERS. That was a straight historical about the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Since then straight historicals, in which the Doctor and companions visit Earth's past and don't fight a lurking alien menace, have been scarce. Still, it is an excuse for Matt Smith to put on a Stetson.
The story is told in a fairly straightforward fashion, typical of westerns, at a slow, foreboding pace -- which gives the viewer time to ask all the right questions and come up with answers about what is really going on before the plot has a chance to twist. It's a little slow for my taste.
The pleasures in this episode, if you choose to look for them, are about the production values: the mobile camera that settles into occasional odd point-of-view shots; the careful costuming and understated performances that force you to pay attention far better than shouting; and even Murray Gold's score. I have not been a great fan of Mr. Gold's work, but he has been showing a bit of range this season. This time he steals a bit from Morricone and marries it with fiddlework for an appropriate score -- although he does pull up his favored chorale work too readily.
This is Toby Whithouse's fourth script for Doctor Who -- mostly he has been busy with his own series, BEING HUMAN. His rhythms of storytelling here are not the typical rhythms of Doctor Who. It seems as if he is trying to operate within the framework of westerns, where little is said and much is already known. Even the plots are limited in number. In sf, particularly Doctor Who, there is a constant stream of exposition. It's an interesting experiment in mixing the two sets of tropes that doesn't quite work. I'm glad they tried it, though.
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