That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
The Doctor's heaviest guilt comes from that question of whether, sometimes, perhaps he should have shown mercy... and, others, he should have enforced a justice that otherwise would never have been upheld. So many times, he has let the most horrific villains escape death. Was his mercy in allowing the Master to live all those times worth the price of the billions (or perhaps trillions) who died in Logopolis? Or his mercy with the Daleks in Genesis worth the untold numbers murdered by their deathrays? Should he have dispensed his own justice against them instead, or was he in the right?
And what of those times when he did destroy his adversaries? Was he right to eradicate both the Time Lords and the Daleks at the end of the time war, even if it did seem the only way to save every other life? Or, more recently, what of his cold killing of Solomon? Well, okay, Solomon killed that Triceratops for no reason. He deserved to die. But even so, the Doctor's attitude was a bit more ruthless than usual even when he has killed.
The Doctor, on realizing who he's facing, does that rarest of moves and pulls a gun. Amy tries to talk him down, but as the Doctor says, he honestly doesn't know what he's going to do. It's a terrifying, powerful scene. In this centerpiece scene, A Town Called Mercy is brilliant.
The Doctor's plan is a minor let-down. It's a bit clever, and his use of the Sonic in the duel is nice (although you'd think that would do more damage to the townspeople's ears than the Cyborg's), but it's not really a ruse worthy of him, nor as exciting a scene as it should be. Jax's final decision and the Cyborg's fate both make for a good enough ending to redeem the limp climax, but it's still a bit disappointing.
The real flaw, though, is that after that showdown halfway through, it never really engages with the ideas at its core. Amy simply says that they can't be like Jax, and that's the end of the argument. But it really is a complex question - after all, they can't be certain Jax won't end up doing other horrible things, and that's precisely the sort of consequences they fear. There's a reason the Doctor does sometimes kill. And it should be a more difficult conflict.
Regardless of its somewhat weaker second half, A Town Called Mercy is a solid, compelling, and highly entertaining yarn. Can't complain too much about that.
* * *
- Rory has some fun moments in this, but it's the second episode in a row where he's mostly sidelined. Given how short his time on the show apparently is, it's a bit disappointing that he hasn't been getting more to work with. Regardless, full points to Arthur Darvill's ability to create a complete and awesome performance purely with his face. His ability to feel like a much bigger part of the script than he really is reminds me here of Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven, where McQueen gets less than a dozen lines and has to share the screen with Yul Brynner almost constantly, yet still almost feels like the star of the film.
Yeah. Darvill makes Rory so awesome he's comparable to Steve McQueen.