The Impossible Astronaut (TV story)

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The Impossible Astronaut was the first episode of series 6 of Doctor Who.

It brought into perspective a fiendish plot to kill the Doctor and its ultimate outcome, leading his companions to believe he was going to die in the far future. This story is perhaps most notable as the first opening two-parter of the BBC Wales series. Behind the scenes, it was notable for the significant amount of location filming with cast and crew travelling to Utah in the United States of America.

Narratively, it saw the reappearance of River Song with some insight into her backstory. Yet again, questions of her trustworthiness were posed. Additionally, it built on the references of the previous series to "the Silence". Furthermore, it featured the formal introduction of the Silent species that inspired the order in the first place.

Unknown to the viewers at the time, another adventure was taking place right before the astronaut killed the Doctor; due to the complicated nature of time, Amy and Rory retained no memory of this until after The God Complex.


Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song and the Eleventh Doctor receive a mysterious summons that takes them on an adventure to 21st century Utah and Florida in 1969.

Along the way they meet Richard Nixon, president of the United States of America, and former FBI agent Canton Everett Delaware III.


In the 17th century, Charles II furiously bursts into the painter Matilda's room, demanding to know the Eleventh Doctor's location. By her stands a painting of the Doctor covering himself with a red cloth; his clothes are strewn about the room. She asks, "Doctor who?" in an embarrassed tone. Before she can speak further, a loud sneeze comes from beneath her skirt. The king lifts its hem with his sword to find the Doctor naked underneath. With the king scowling at him, the Doctor explains that things are not as bad as they look.

In 2011, Amy Pond reads to her husband, Rory Williams, from a history book in their home; it is an account of "a mysterious doctor" imprisoned in the Tower of London on order of the king, without trial. Rory doubts it is the Doctor until Amy reads he was seen flying away from the Tower two days later via a magical sphere. With Rory now believing, Amy then notices there's more of the Doctor's exploits listed.

The Doctor is next seen taking part in a break-out from a POW camp during World War II. When the Doctor is asked by a fellow escapee if they have gotten past the fence, the Doctor pops his head down a duct. He asks if the Commandant's room is green with a big flag on the wall as dogs and angry yells are heard. The Doctor figures the answer's "yes", as he's pulled back out by the Germans.

Amy opens the TARDIS blue envelope.

Amy wonders if the Doctor is being deliberately ridiculous to catch their attention — "waving through time". However, Rory shrugs the theory off as Amy complains about watching a Laurel and Hardy film again. The doorbell rings and Amy gets up to answer it. Rory looks in the book to see if Amy is right, missing a part of the film where a fez-wearing Doctor dances with the characters. Receiving their mail, Amy goes through it to find a TARDIS blue envelope plastered with stamps and labelled with the number 3. It holds an unsigned card with a map reference, date and time. They easily deduce it's from the Doctor.

In the 52nd century, River Song has an identical letter, marked number 2, delivered to her cell at Stormcage Containment Facility. Upon reading it, she smiles. The prison goes on alert as soon as they find River packing her belongings (again). When questioned about where she's going, River tells them she's heading for America, which the guards mistake for a planet.

In the middle of the Utah desert, Amy and Rory depart a bus; Rory complains that there is nothing around them. As the bus leaves, they are happily greeted by the Doctor, now wearing a Stetson and sitting on the bonnet of a car. After exchanging greetings, Rory compliments the Doctor's hat. Just as the Doctor explains that it's the latest in his "cool" ensemble, his hat is shot off by River, who promptly greets him.

At a cafe, the Doctor and River compare diaries, finding that they have both had an adventure at Easter Island and met Jim the Fish. Rory becomes confused until Amy explains. Amy then asks why the Doctor summoned them to America. The Doctor explains that he has been running faster than he's ever had before, but he's decided to stop; they are going to have a picnic and then go on a trip to "Space 1969".

They picnic by a lake, where they drink wine; the Doctor spits it out in disgust, commenting he's 1103 years old — nearly two hundred years older than when Amy and Rory last saw him. Amy spots a figure watching them from a distant cliff, but forgets about it when she looks away. Not long after, an elderly man pulls up in a truck and waves but makes no move to join them. The Doctor seems to know who the old man is and waves back.

River gasps, "Oh my God". While everyone else is facing the old man, she has been watching the lake. The other three turn around to see an astronaut rising out of the water, wearing an Apollo-style space suit. Spotting it, the Doctor orders his friends that they're not to interfere no matter what happens. He approaches the astronaut, who waits for him at the edge of the lake. The Doctor lets the wearer of the suit know he already knows their identity, and the astronaut's visor is lifted. The Doctor talks with the astronaut for a bit, leaving his companions confused as to what they're doing. The astronaut raises its arm and shoots the Doctor.

The Doctor begins to regenerate.

Amy tries running to the Doctor, but River and Rory restrain her. The Doctor picks himself up as Amy calls out to him; he's begun his eleventh regeneration. He apologises to his friends and prepares to regenerate. However, the astronaut shoots him in mid-process, killing him before his transformation can complete. As the astronaut heads back into the lake, River scans the Doctor, finding no pulse, and empties her gun shooting at the astronaut before it submerges, failing to get a hit. Amy is distraught, hoping the Doctor is a clone/copy of him.

However, the stranger approaches to tell the group that the Doctor is truly dead and places a container of gasoline next to them; the Doctor told him they would need it. River explains that a Time Lord's body is one of the most sought-after things in the universe. Spotting a boat moored across the lake, Rory performs a Viking-style funeral to burn the Doctor's corpse. River wonders who the old man is, and he shows them an envelope like the ones they had received, labelled with a number 4. Greeting Amy, Rory and River by name, the old man introduces himself as Canton Everett Delaware III, explaining that he will not see them again, but they will see him.

Seeing the number on Canton's invitation, River begins pondering who got number 1. As they return to the cafe, Rory and River want to know what the Doctor planned. Amy insists that it doesn't matter anymore, but because it mattered to the Doctor, Rory and River say it's important to them. Across the cafe, Rory spots another invitation on a table, labelled number 1; they question an employee about who had it, but he's vague and uncaring about their question. Obviously, this letter was addressed to the person the Doctor trusted most; River wonders who it is.

Much to their shock, the Doctor steps out of the back room, which is where the TARDIS is parked. He greets them happily, surprised they are all here. Amy wonders how he can be okay, getting hugged by the Doctor, who names himself the "King of Okay" (before discarding the title) and who calls Amy's husband "Rory the Roman". Getting to River, the Doctor wonders what trouble she's brought with her this time. River slaps him in fury, prompting him to ask if it's for something he hasn't done yet; upon learning that it is, the Doctor says he's looking forward to it. They wonder how he can be there and the Doctor says that he was invited like they were. With Amy and Rory still confused, River asks the Doctor to tell them his age, which is 909; he has not even met Jim the Fish yet. River says they've been hired by someone who trusts him to investigate something involving Space 1969, and a man called Canton Everett Delaware III. When the Doctor asks who hired them, River simply answers, "Spoilers".

In the TARDIS, the Doctor prepares to enter the clues River gave him into the TARDIS navigation system. River and Amy go under the console floor. When the Doctor asks Rory if they're mad at him, Rory says that he'll find out and follows after. Out of earshot, River explains to Amy that they saw a future version of the Doctor die at Lake Silencio; they cannot tell this Doctor of his coming death. As he has interacted with his own time stream, any foreknowledge could rip a hole in the universe should he find out. Amy reminds them that the Doctor has interacted with his past before; however, Rory points out that "in fairness, the universe did blow up". They ponder if the Doctor recruited them to avenge him, save him, or something else.

Popping his head under the floor, the Doctor complains that he is being utterly brilliant and no one's around to look impressed before resuming fiddling with the console. River expresses her anger about wanting to slap him for his smugness. Amy asks her how she can be okay with the Doctor dying, and River explains that everyone dies eventually and that neither the Doctor's death nor her own frighten her, as there is a worse day coming for her. All three head back up to the Doctor. He explains that the clues he was given lead to the Oval Office 1969, April 8th. However, he says that he is returning Amy and Rory home — "Off you pop and make babies" — while River is going back to prison. He explains that he will not go on a mysterious summons, wondering who sent them and why.

River tries to get the Doctor to trust them, but he turns the tables on her by asking who she is and who she killed to get imprisoned in Stormcage; he does not trust her. Amy then asks the Doctor to trust her instead, saying he must go on the summons and not ask why. The Doctor questions Amy to see if she's been threatened to say this, but she says no. He then asks her to swear on something that matters, to which Amy says, fish fingers and custard, their first shared meal. Smiling, the Doctor says, "My life in your hands, Amelia Pond." River softly thanks Amy for getting the Doctor to comply with his own order.

He sets the TARDIS for 1969, checking to see who's president during that time, learning it's Richard Nixon, who was not exactly his favourite due to the events that happened during his tenure. River calls him a hippy for such views. The Doctor tells his companions that he is going to turn the TARDIS invisible and put it on "silent" to avoid drawing attention. However, each time he flips switches to initiate the process, River uses other ones to turn off loud noises and lights he has activated by accident. Each time, the Doctor asks her if she did something to help, but River lies and says that she is only watching; she's secretly enjoying watching the Doctor make a fool out of himself by failing to get the settings right.

The Doctor realises he's been seen.

On landing, the Doctor explains that the monitor doesn't work while the TARDIS is invisible, deciding to exit to see what's out there. Everyone prepares to disembark, but the Doctor tells them that since they're "in the most powerful city, in the most powerful country on Earth", they're going to take things slowly; he exits by himself. The Doctor exits into the Oval Office, where Nixon is meeting with a younger Canton Delaware. Nixon wants Canton to conduct an investigation independent of the FBI, from which Canton was recently fired, to find a child who has been calling him every night, begging for help because the "spaceman" is coming to eat her. Nixon plays Canton a recording of a call, in which Nixon asks the child where she is and what her name is. The child answers, "Jefferson Adams Hamilton", which has led Nixon to mistakenly believe the caller is a little boy. Canton feels the FBI can handle this, but Nixon fears they may be in on it, which is why he called him in; he's not with them but has the training.

The Doctor, who has been taking notes, then notices that they have stopped talking and realises that they have seen him. He begins rambling as he backs up to the TARDIS. However, he bumps into it, knocking himself down. Inside, River complains about how he does this "every time". The Doctor explains the doors getting stuck happens commonly while the TARDIS is invisible. However, Canton pins him down as Secret Service agents swarm the office. He yells for them to stop and get off of him.

River gets the monitor working by hard-wiring it, laughing that the Doctor is usually wrong about how the TARDIS functions. As the monitor displays the Doctor, he asks River if she's gotten the monitor working again; this leads to their usual, "I hate him"/"No you don't" exchange. The Doctor yells for River to make the TARDIS visible again; River complies with the order, throwing switches on the console. The Doctor smiles as the Secret Service let him go and stare at the TARDIS. A shocked Nixon simply asks, "What the hell is that?"

The Doctor sits in Nixon's seat and addresses him, prompting the Secret Service to point their guns at him. He goes on to say that the mysterious caller told him everything he needed to know; they can find the child. The Doctor says he will take the case. He then taunts the Secret Service by bragging about how he broke into the Oval Office. River comes out of the TARDIS, reminding him they're Americans, prompting the Doctor to tell them not to shoot. Amy and Rory depart the TARDIS as well. When Nixon questions who they are, the Doctor claims to be an undercover agent on loan from Scotland Yard while his companions Amy, Rory and River are his top operatives: the Legs, the Nose, and Mrs Robinson. Upon hearing her codename, River tells the Doctor she hates him; the Doctor once again tells her that she doesn't.

Explaining that he figured out where the caller is from by what Canton and Nixon heard, the Doctor asks for five minutes to figure out the case. Despite protest from the head of the Secret Service in the office, Canton points out to Nixon that the Doctor got past the Secret Service with three of his friends and a big blue box; the Doctor will be given his allotted time, but with Canton promising to shoot him if he doesn't deliver a solution. The Doctor asks for a SWAT team ready to mobilise, street-level maps covering all of Florida, a pot of coffee, 12 Jammie Dodgers and a fez. Canton orders the Secret Service to get the Doctor his maps, leaving the Doctor saddened about not getting the rest. When questioned, "Why Florida," the Doctor explains that's where NASA is, where the spacemen live; he's also following another lead.

A ruthless alien murders a woman in front of Amy.

While researching the street maps, Amy sees a mysterious, suited alien standing in the doorway of the Oval Office, and remembers their encounter on the shore of the lake. However, she forgets as soon as Rory blocks her view. Feeling ill, she is escorted to the bathroom, where she finds the alien waiting for her. A woman who is also in the bathroom is vaporised by the alien after seeing and forgetting it numerous times. Amy, realising the alien's power, takes a picture of it with her camera phone. Amy asks what it wants; it cryptically says she will tell the Doctor "what he must know and what he must never know". She asks how it knows that, but immediately flees in fear. As soon as she gets out of the bathroom, Amy forgets the encounter but remembers there is something she needs to tell the Doctor.

In the Oval Office, the Doctor achieves success, pointing out that it's pretty obvious to figure out where the caller is when you think about it. Canton calls the Doctor a genius, which the Doctor says is a hobby. Nixon gets another call from the child, who says that a spaceman is coming to eat her. Fearing for the girl's life, the Doctor decides that there's no time for a SWAT team and departs with his companions in the TARDIS while Canton tails along after being told not to follow them in — reverse psychology.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor explains that Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton are the names of three of America's founding fathers; two of them fancied the Doctor. However, none of them are the child's name. At the same time, Canton is bewildered by the inside of the TARDIS and is left speechless. The Doctor goes on to explain that there is only one place in America where all three of those names are together. Amy asks where, and the Doctor lands the TARDIS. They rush for the doors but find Canton blocking the way out. The Doctor, Amy and River leave Rory to explain things to Canton as he's the newest companion.

They've materialised in a warehouse in Florida, just a few miles from Cape Kennedy; Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton are the three streets which cross right outside the window. As they explore the warehouse, the Doctor admits they have likely walked into a trap and the phone line has been cut, leading to the question as to how the girl called from there. Meanwhile, Rory attempts to explain the TARDIS and time travel to a stunned Canton, who eventually recovers; Canton tells the Doctor that he likes the TARDIS.

They discover a console made of cables, coated in some sort of slime, and many boxes of Apollo space equipment. This leads to the question as to why aliens would steal Earth technology when it could barely get to the Moon. The Doctor believes it may be because it's cooler, suggesting that aliens are cool. While the Doctor, Rory and Canton are busy examining the stolen objects, Amy suggests to River that they find some way to kill the astronaut now to prevent it from killing the Doctor in the future. River admits time can be rewritten, but it is very complicated and doesn't work in the way that Amy hopes, so there's no guarantee that the Doctor can be saved.

River finds a drain leading into a tunnel network below the warehouse. The Doctor tells her to yell if there's trouble; River jokes that she's a real screamer, a good spoiler for him. Canton asks what's going on; the Doctor misunderstands what he means and explains that he and River are just friends. Below, River sees many aliens of the same type Amy saw in the White House, but they appear to be hibernating. She forgets them as soon as she climbs back to warn the Doctor. She says that it is safe but that she wants to take another look. The Doctor sends Rory down with her this time to make sure she stays safe.

They discover a maintenance room, which River proceeds to open with her scanner. When Rory says it's easy to picture her and the Doctor as a couple, River explains her relationship with the Doctor: their timelines are mostly going in opposite directions of each other, meaning each time she meets him, he knows her less and she knows him more. She fears one day she will meet the Doctor and he will have no idea who she is, believing that it will kill her when it happens. She succeeds in unlocking the door, opening it to find a large control console like the TARDIS and the one that the Doctor encountered during his stay with Craig Owens. River tells Rory to keep a lookout for anything odd. Rory sees some of the aliens, but when he turns to tell River, he says everything is okay. Scanning the console, River learns that there are tunnels like the one they're in all over Earth and that they've been here for thousands of years. Behind Rory, electricity crackles and something approaches.

Above, Canton and Amy discuss the former agent's FBI career; he was kicked out because he wanted to get married. He questions her relationship with the Doctor, but Amy explains that he is only her friend and there was something important that she wanted to tell him, but seems to have forgotten. Still wondering who the mysterious Doctor is, Canton asks, "Doctor Who?"; Amy says that it's classified. When he asks by whom, Amy can only say, "God knows", as she has no idea. They hear the little girl calling for help and run after her. Amy crumples with pain while Canton runs ahead. Canton calls for the Doctor to hurry, and Amy tells the Doctor that there is something very important that she has to tell him.

As they run after Canton, they find him unconscious; he got a good blow to the head. As the Doctor examines Canton to see if he's been badly injured, Amy tells him that she's pregnant. Before he reacts to this, he spots the astronaut approaching them. Amy recognises it from the lakeside and turns to pick up Canton's gun. Her back is turned when the astronaut lifts its faceplate, revealing the little girl is inside. Amy spins to shoot the astronaut but is unable to stop when the Doctor tells her to and fires.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Rhys Jones is credited as a "Prop Chargehand" rather than a "Props Chargehand".  Jay Harley was credited under their deadname as assistant director.


The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor is 909, though Amy initially believes him to be 908.
  • An older Eleventh Doctor, who is 1103 years old, begins to regenerate, but is killed before the process completes.
  • The Doctor says that he is late for a biplane lesson in 1911 but gets confused and wonders if it is actually a knitting lesson.
  • The Eleventh Doctor still dislikes wine.
  • The Doctor coordinates his diary with River's.
  • The Doctor owns a 'special' straw which "adds more fizz".


  • When Joy sees the Silent, she thinks it is Ben wearing a Star Trek mask.

Art from the real world[[edit]]

Music from the real world[[edit]]

  • When the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River are in the diner before going to Lake Silencio, "Rolling in the Deep" is playing in the background.

Films from the real world[[edit]]

Fashion and clothing[[edit]]

  • The Doctor wears a fez.
  • The older Doctor wears a Stetson hat.

Foods and beverages[[edit]]

  • Amy, Rory and the Doctor all get a bottle of Coca-Cola whilst in the diner.
  • The Doctor thought wine would taste more like 'the gums', referring to wine gums.
  • The Doctor asks for twelve Jammie Dodgers.


  • The Doctor states that the year 1482 is full of glitches, but also says 1969 is easy.


  • River says that the people of Easter Island "worshipped" the Doctor.


  • The sequence with the Doctor inserted into The Flying Deuces clip is a reference to the 1992 American Academy Awards. Host Billy Crystal was digitally added into the same clip and was depicted dancing alongside Laurel and Hardy. In this version, the Doctor begins to dance with Laurel and Hardy at the end of the clip, standing in the same spot that was occupied by Crystal.
  • The repeated phrase "Space: 1969" is a reference to the British science fiction series Space: 1999, which is set on the moon.
  • The idea of tunnelling out of a German POW camp is based on actual incidents that occurred during World War II, immortalised in The Great Escape and parodied in the Hogan's Heroes.
  • Joy asks if the Silent is wearing a Star Trek mask. Star Trek was cancelled the same year this story takes place, with the last episode airing on 3 June 1969.
  • The Doctor calls River Song "Mrs. Robinson", referencing the character from The Graduate. Mrs. Robinson has an affair with a younger man, so the nickname may be the Doctor's way of teasing Song about their relationship and the fact that physically she appears to be older than he is. Oddly enough, the Doctor doesn't recognise the reference when River Song calls him 'Benjamin' (her lover) when reenacting the iconic Graduate scene in Let's Kill Hitler.


Story notes[[edit]]

A dedication to the late Elisabeth Sladen.
  • The working title for this episode was The Year of the Moon.
  • This is the first two-part opening episode of the revived series.
  • A prequel for this story was released on the official BBC website.[1]
  • The monsters in this episode were said to be "the scariest monsters yet".[2]
  • The episode was dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen, who passed away four days before the episode's initial broadcast. The dedication was shown before the episode on BBC1 and Space, and after the episode on BBC America. The dedication was omitted from the DVD and Blu-ray release. Due to a typographical error made at the start of her acting career, it displays 1948 as her birth year, when it should say 1946.
  • The version supplied for broadcast in the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, Latin America and Italy featured a voiceover introductory sequence before the main titles, with the voice of Amy explaining her relationship with the Doctor. This version is also used on Netflix.
  • While the local date and time when the Doctor is killed is the evening of the 22nd April 2011, the local date and time in Britain (a seven-hour difference from Utah) would be two minutes after midnight on 23rd April, as TV: Let's Kill Hitler establishes the point of death as 5:02pm local time. Thus, this is the third story in the revived series whose airdate coincides with in-story events, the first being TV: The End of Time on 25 December 2009, and the second being TV: The Big Bang on 26 June 2010.
  • The attempted regeneration in this episode occurs in front of six witnesses, the greatest number in the revived series (Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song, Canton Delaware, the astronaut, and a Silent).
  • This is the first episode of the revived series to feature a regeneration, albeit an unsuccessful one outside the TARDIS. However, this regeneration is unveiled as a trick created by the Tesselecta at the end of Series 6. The first legitimate regeneration outside the TARDIS took place in the next episode.
  • The Doctor asks the Secret Service agents for a SWAT team. The first SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team had only been established the year before in 1968 (by Darryl Gates in Los Angeles) and it's possible the agents might not have even known what the Doctor was talking about.
  • William Morgan Sheppard is the real-life father of Mark Sheppard; the two have portrayed father & son pairs and, as in this episode, older & younger versions of the same character.
  • Alex Kingston and Sydney Wade had come off of filming Marchlands in which they played a mother & daughter, immediately prior to filming this episode in which they portrayed older & younger versions of Melody Pond/River Song.[3]
  • The Doctor's apparent death and funeral are remarkably similar to a concept from the unproduced TV story The Dark Dimension.
  • Originally, Mark Sheppard was to wear old age makeup in order to play the 2011 version of Canton. Instead, at Mark's suggestion, William Morgan Sheppard was cast for the part. The pair had also played two versions of the same character about a year earlier in an episode of NCIS.
  • Alex Kingston had to genuinely slap Matt Smith several times in a scene because it was difficult to fake. Kingston recalled that after a few takes, Smith got red cheeked and grew frustrated at having to do the sequence over and over again.
  • Stuart Milligan found the role of Richard Nixon exciting, having played other presidents in the past, including Dwight D. Eisenhower. Prosthetic pieces were applied on Milligan's cheeks, nose, and ears to make him resemble Nixon as much as possible. He also practiced how Nixon would speak, but initially found it difficult since he had to wear fake teeth.
  • In filming the "Viking funeral" scene, Toby Haynes wanted to film it during the sunset. However, the sun set over the desert, so was instead filmed during sunrise, as the sun rose over the water.
  • Florida (to tie into the NASA element) and Mount Rushmore were also considered as potential locations.
  • In the script, Amy and Rory were dropped off by a truck. Toby Haynes altered this to a yellow school bus as he felt it was more distinctly American.
  • A scene had been written and filmed by got cut because Steven Moffat felt it was too naughty, which a naked River Song winks at an unknown man. The deleted scene could be glimpsed in the Series 6 trailer.
  • While recording the Doctor's apparent demise, Alex Kingston drew on her knowledge of the season's secrets and decided that River would react in a particularly comforting way towards Amy. Karen Gillan, however, was unaware that their characters would soon be revealed as mother and daughter, and was quietly baffled by Kingston's demeanour.
  • Karen Gillan was genuinely upset while filming The Doctor's 'death' scene and was "acting her heart out".
  • Karen Gillan and Chukwudi Iwuji would later play enemies in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
  • Florida and Mount Rushmore were considered as potential locations. However, it was eventually decided that Utah and Arizona were the best choices to achieve a setting which would be distinctly different from anything that could be recorded in the United Kingdom.
  • This two-parter formed Block Two of season six.
  • Mark Sheppard's involvement was slotted into a gap in his recording schedule for Supernatural.
  • As with the portraits seen in A Christmas Carol, the painting of the Doctor was created by Katie Pickwoad, the daughter of production designer Michael Pickwoad.
  • Steven Moffat wanted the season to start with a two-part story in an attempt to begin with more gravity and a wider scope in plot, as well as wanting the episodes to be one of the darker ones in the series. He stated that in his view, this was one of the darker episodes of the series, but still maintained the same level of humour.
  • The inclusion of the Doctor's death felt like a series ender for some of the producers, but was actually there to "kick it off."
  • In writing the death scene of the older version of the Doctor, Steven Moffat wanted to acknowledge to the audience that Time Lords are not invincible, and could still die permanently if killed before regeneration.
  • This was Mark Sheppard's first appearance in a British series.
  • Mark Sheppard described playing Canton as a "dream job," and said he wished to appear in another of Steven Moffat's works, including Sherlock.
  • For the opening shot of Utah, Toby Haynes wanted it to be epic so that the audience could recognise where the episode was set.
  • The crew wanted to add as many American icons as they could into those shots, including a Stetson hat, a 1950s Edsel Villager, and a yellow school bus.
  • Steven Moffat, having enjoyed writing episodes featuring River Song, wanted to give her an impressive entrance. Toby Haynes had Alex Kingston block the sunlight from the camera angle and blow smoke from her revolver.
  • The suit worn by the future-Doctor's killer was a fabricated replica of an Apollo space suit.
  • In filming the "Viking funeral" scene, Toby Haynes wished to film it during the sunset. However, the sun set over the desert, so was instead filmed during sunrise, as the sun rose over the water.
  • The Oval Office set was constructed at Upper Boat Studios. Because the production crew had access to several pictures and plans of the real office, they were able to replicate it in almost every detail. The main problem for building the set was the plastering; the crew normally plaster one wall at a time for normal rooms, but because the Oval Office was round, they had to do the entire set at once.


  • 8.86 million. (43.3% market share; UK final)[4]
  • Viewership for the episode on BBC America was 1.3 million, breaking the station's previous viewership record which had been set by the premiere of The Eleventh Hour.[5]
  • The episode was the most recorded show in UK history with 4.1 million viewers.

Filming locations[[edit]]


  • Fans speculated that the Doctor survived the astronaut's attack because of the events of Miracle Day in Torchwood. This was proven false by the season finale and in the series 4 episode of Torchwood, The New World, when it stated only humans were under the effect of Miracle Day.
  • A minor fan outrage was sparked when initial trailers for Series 6 showed the TARDIS appearing in the Oval Office using what was believed to be a new materialisation effect. This was, of course, revealed to be the TARDIS decloaking.

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • While the Doctor appears in the Laurel & Hardy film, The Flying Deuces, Rory shifts through the pages of the history book which appear behind the screen image, revealing that the film footage was overlaid onto the shot.
  • As the Doctor waves to the camera in the Laurel & Hardy film, part of his left arm vanishes in an overlay error.
  • When Amy first sees a Silent and Rory asks what her about it, she turns her head toward him twice.
  • When the Doctor approaches the astronaut, he leaves the picnic with a wine bottle in his hand. In the next shot, the bottle is gone.
  • While River is shooting at the astronaut, the Doctor's hands change position. His left hand, which was spread out to one side, is on his stomach when the shot changes. It swaps back and forth a couple of times.
  • The astronaut does not put their visor back up as they walk back into the lake.
  • When Amy is talking to the agent outside of the toilet, a boom mic can be seen over his shoulder.
  • When the Doctor exits the TARDIS control room, he opens the right door, but when he walks out to the Oval Office, he goes out the left.
  • When Amy and Rory get off the bus, it drives away, but when the Doctor and Amy hug, the bus is nowhere to be seen.
  • In the scene where the Silent gets ready to kill Joy, electricity can be seen flying into its body, but not in the mirror next to it.
  • When the astronaut first raises its visor, advancing frame-by-frame reveals there is just another identical visor underneath.


Home video releases[[edit]]

Series 6, part 1 DVD cover

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • The Impossible Astronaut was released in Series 6 Part One on DVD and Blu-Ray in region 1/A on 19 July 2011, in region 2/B on 11 July 2011 and in region 4/B on 4 August 2011. It is a collection of the first seven episodes.
  • The episode was later released in the Complete Sixth Series boxset on both DVD and Blu-ray, in region 1/A on 22 November 2011, in region 2/B on 21 November 2011 and in region 4/B on 1 December 2011.

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[[edit]]