Saturday, May 05, 2018

Cinco de Cyborg

I wanted an appropriate Doctor Who episode to watch for Cinco de Mayo but I guess there really isn't one. I suppose the best would be The Aztecs from the First Doctor era but I'd already rewatched that one kind of recently. So I looked up "Mexico" in the TARDIS wiki and was reminded the Eleventh Doctor had been trying to go to Mexico in the 2012 episode "A Town Called Mercy". So I watched that. It is kind of Cinco de Mayo-ish, it's set in 1870, less than a decade after the battle Cinco de Mayo commemorates. Written by Toby Whithouse, it's a decent Western homage episode.

It's set in the U.S. but filmed in Spain like several of the greatest Westerns ever made. With a presumably modest budget the show manages to get something of a Spaghetti Western feel using a standing backlot. It might have been much more effective as a Twelve Doctor story as Matt Smith in his irrepressible pluckiness never conveys the weight of conflicted conscience like Capaldi. Unexpectedly confronted with essentially an intergalactic Josef Mengele, we see the Doctor uncharacteristicly ready to blow someone's head off with a revolver.

He's stopped, of course, by Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), who seems absolutely sure he shouldn't execute this guy. I think it would've been nice if she'd come off as more conflicted but it is nice to see her again.

This is from her big shoulder pads period, though. I don't quite understand this. Was it to make her look more mature? There had to be a better way.

The episode also features Gillan's costar from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Ben Browder. Well, he had a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. There as here his presence is likely a nod to the great and most underrated Science Fiction series of the 21st century, Farscape. That show will exert its influence for a long, long time to come.

Browder is good as the sheriff of a little Western town and hearing him deliver dialogue about the town's name being Mercy reflecting their philosophy of acceptance feels very classic Western. It's too bad he's not in the episode for very long. Well, it's too bad there hasn't been a Farscape revival.

The end feels like it could've used more time to develop properly--the Doctor's final decision on the moral question seems kind of odd, as does how he decides to leave things with the cyborg. I was so happy the Twelfth Doctor's second season was primarily two part episodes, I still hold out some hope they'll switch back to a serialised format on a permanent basis. This show needs those wide open spaces.

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