I watched this episode and at first I was a bit confused as to what I thought of it. I enjoyed it but there was something that was nagging at me. And now I think I know what it was. This episode should have been longer. Normally the new 45 minute length of episodes is fine for the stories they’re trying to tell, even when they’re almost too fast paced like last week but this week we really could’ve done with a bit more time.
The western setting is inspired, not because it’s particularly original, but just because it allows the production team to make a truly beautiful episode. This series has been billed as movie quality, and while the other weeks have been good, this is one that really shines. It also allowed us to meet what could have been some really interesting characters. I really think that if this had been a two parter, while the plot might have been a bit slower, we would have got to know the preacher, the barmaid, the guy who almost shots the Doctor and especially Isaac a lot better. It’s not that I didn’t like any of these characters the way they were, but more that I barely even knew them. Isaac’s death in particular lacked the amount of feeling that it should have had. With more time we could also have seen quite an interesting twist on Amy and Rory with them disagreeing on the Doctor’s actions. Oh well, if the main problem that an episode has is that I didn’t think there was enough of it, it must be doing something right.
Matt Smith is on top form here, as we finally get a pay-off to the darker Doctor plotline, and you really feel his anger. It’s always nice to see the Doctor being pushed into new directions and it’s surprising that there are still new things to do with such an old character. The best scenes though are those between him and Adrian Scarborough’s Jex, the alien Doctor. Scarborough gives the best guest performance we’ve seen all series and gives an intriguing moral dilemma to the Doctor. After the episode we were still chatting about it. It’s hardly Sophie’s Choice, but it’s definitely the sort of thing that Doctor Who needs more of. The connection between Jex and the gunslinger is another high point with their brief chats really showing Jex’s inner workings. The gunslinger himself is, while not terrifying in a behind the sofa sense, very intimidating and a villain with a few dimensions to him.
Strangely with the lack of completely wild sci-fi elements, the music and just the general look and feel of the episode, it seemed far more like a western than an episode of Who but it had an interesting premise and three great characters and some cracking dialogue. Not as good as the writer Toby Whithouse’s last effort The God Complex, which was possibly my favourite series six story, but definitely a great story. Just wish there was more of it.
Also, 11 in (basically) the Eighth Doctor’s coat. This was amazing.