Doctor Who Writer Praises Ben Browder And Dishes About A Town Called Mercy
Doctor Who will be serving up its third episode of the season tomorrow night, an adventure that sends the Doctor and the Ponds to the Old West, and specifically to a town that has a bit of a cyborg problem. In a new interview to get people ready for the new episode, writer Toby Whitehouse reveals how the idea of the episode germinated, and sings the praises of Farscape‘s Ben Browder.
Here’s the official synopsis for tomorrow’s episode, “A Town Called Mercy”:
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 answer seems to lie with the mysterious, Kahler-Jex, an alien doctor (yes another one!) whose initial appearance is hiding a dark secret.
In an interview with SFX, Whitehouse has nothing but praise for Farscape‘s Ben Browder, who plays a key role in tomorrow night’s episode:
He was fantastic. I was really, really pleased that we got him because it’s an odd part, that character Isaac, and you need somebody who has… Ben has this rather beautiful innate nobility that he manages to just convey, very simply and very economically. It was absolutely how I saw the character, so I was really thrilled with him, and delighted with his performance.
Whitehouse says that “Mercy” began with showrunner Steven Moffat wanting to drop the Doctor into the Old West. That idea fit with the feel they were going for in this first batch of episodes, which are intended to be “movie marquee ideas.” Hence the zillions of Daleks and the dinosaurs on a spaceship and, well, the Western-themed cyborgs. The bare-bones idea Moffat pitched to Whitehouse was simply that: an old town being terrorized by a robot of some sort. “I thought about what it was in the town that the robot wants,” says Whitehouse. “What if it’s a person? Then the idea kind of fell out from there.”
Whitehouse said they were trying to tell an original story in the Western setting but still tip their hat to the tropes of the genre: the Doctor on horseback, the Doctor in a Stetson, the showdown in the town square. “There are certain tropes and traditions that I think the audience would feel very cheated by if you didn’t include those,” says Whitehouse. The specific mixture of Western and science fiction iconography also brings to mind the relentless robotic villain of the 1973 film Westworld. Whitehouse thinks their cyborg antagonist has a bit more personality, however.
Rather than just a sort of soulless automaton, I wanted something that the Doctor could interact with, and also a villain that has a journey of its own. That’s very difficult to do if you’ve got something that is just cogs and gears and circuits, so I wanted it to have some kind of living consciousness. Otherwise it would be very difficult to write, and it’s nothing for the Doctor to sort of play against.
“A Town Called Mercy” premieres tomorrow night on BBC America and BBC One.