One: It’s a classic story.
All the best Westerns from Destry Rides Again to High Noon involve heroes facing almost impossible odds to protect innocent townsfolk and almost as importantly, a principle they believe in. The stories involve courage, sacrifice and a moment of reckoning… That moment the audience feels must come and the characters in the drama know can’t be avoided, surging towards them like a silver bullet. Steven Moffat (Head writer and Executive Producer) said, ‘Like all the best Westerns, this is a tale of one man standing against impossible odds and his own personal demons.’ Believe us, this is a story you will never forget.
Two: Look and Location.
The Doctor Who team travelled to Spain for this episode and shot in Almeria, in a vast town/movie set where classic Westerns including The Good, The Bad And The Ugly were filmed. The sense of place, sense of heat and at times desolation really add to episode’s appeal. It was directed by Saul Metzstein (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, Pond Life) who gives enough nods to the Western genre to make it feel like the adventure belongs there, but at the same time it’s packed with classic Doctor Who motifs. Somehow the two worlds don’t collide; they meet in the saloon bar, order cups of tea and get along splendidly. Watch out for a lovely scene with the Doctor hammering and knocking and you’ll see what we mean.
Three: It’s got the Doctor, Amy and Rory in it.
That might sound like an obvious one but after Mercy there’s only The Power of Three before the Ponds’ swansong. Karen Gillan has revealed that in A Town Called Mercy we see why the Doctor needs companions, but quite aside from that plot-point there are some terrific moments that we enjoy because we know this trio of travellers so well. The dynamics between the three leads is by turns funny, dramatic and when it comes to choosing sides, unexpected. And like all Doctor Who at its best, there’s a wonderful warmth arising from a central friendship that reminds us how much we’re going to miss the Leadworth Two after The Angels Take Manhattan…
Four: It’s a rootin’, tootin’ all-guns-blazing adventure!
It’s got an alien cyborg with a right arm which is actually a gun that looks powerful enough to blow up a bungalow from twenty paces. He shouts things like ‘Face me!’ and as mentioned above, we know that events must move towards a reckoning… This one isn’t going to be settled with a quiet word and a handshake. Gunfights, explosions, tension, brawls and big decisions that will change lives forever are all part of this powder keg of a story!
Five: The Gunslinger
Doctor Who has introduced us to many scary monsters but this powerful, predatory cyborg is one of the best. He looks awesome and somehow even manages to sound unstoppable. The episode was written by Toby Whithouse (School Reunion, The Vampires of Venice, The God Complex) so you can bet this adversary will bring along a few surprises… But one thing is certain. You do not want to knock over his sarsaparilla in the Mercy saloon…
Six: The Guest Stars
One of the joys of Doctor Who is its variety, whisking us from a Dalek Asylum to a spaceship full of dinosaurs and now dropping us off in the Old West. But the variety doesn’t end there. What other show has a fugitive alien, a marshal and cyborg killer in a cowboy hat as three of its main characters? And when you have Adrian Scarborough playing Kahler-Jex you know you’re in for something special and Ben Browder is brilliant as Isaac – just perfect – reminding us why he won so many awards on Farscape. Andrew Brooke makes the Gunslinger an immense and real character and the townsfolk are all spot on.
Seven: The Music
It’s hard to imagine The Magnificent Seven without that rousing theme tune or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly stripped of Ennio Morricone’s famous score. Great Westerns don’t just have a look they have a sound and Doctor Who’s award-winning composer Murray Gold has come riding into town, all crotchets blazing with one of his most assured soundtracks. Pure Western from the ghostly whistling to the tension-tightening percussion, tomorrow’s episode is couched in stirring, soaring music that’s evocative enough to make us fall a little bit in love with this town of Mercy.