by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Impossible Astronaut"

Posted 30 April 2011 in by Catriona

This is my first live-blogging with the new computer, and my first since I drank three glasses of wine.

One of those is a lie.

Still, we’ll see how we go, shall we?

As always, please excuse typing errors until I have a chance to read through the live-blogging after the episode ends.

Discussing the rapture with my father:

DAD: I thought the dead were the first to go? And then the living followed?
ME: Not the unrighteous dead. They rise from their graves and try to eat our brains.
DAD: Bloody hell.
ME: So you should buy a shotgun. Or at least some good running shoes.
DAD: Maybe I should just start going back to church?
NICK: Well, they make a compelling argument.

Nick’s just pointed out that we paused the TiVo. So if you’re wondering why we’re not already five minutes through Doctor Who, that would be it.

Still: gratuitous rapture conversation. That’s worth being about five minutes behind the broadcast, surely?

Aw, in memory of Lis Sladen. Whimper.

But now we have people in wigs chasing after the Doctor: Mam thinks he’s Charles II. Not the Doctor: the main be-wigged chap. Anyway, the Doctor is under some woman’s crinolines.

Elsewhere, Amy is reading something from a history book to Rory, while Rory puts the groceries away.

Apparently, the books also contains the Doctor’s attempts to escape from a POW camp. Amy thinks he’s being “deliberately ridiculous” to attract their attention—and she might be right, since she just got an invitation in TARDIS blue.

So did River Song.

And this leads to the best line ever, as a security guard says, “You better get down here, sir. She’s doing it again. Dr Song, sir. She’s … packing.”

I love River so much.

They’re all off to America. Somewhere in the depths of the US, where the Doctor, reclining on an old convertible, says, “Howdy.”

He’s wearing a Stetson: “I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.”

But River shoots it off his head, anyway.

Elsewhere, River and the Doctor sync their diaries. They have a lot more in common than the usual.

Amy asks the Doctor what he’s been doing, and he says he’s been running. “Faster than I’ve ever run. And I’ve been running my whole life.”

He says that tonight, he needs them all with him.

The Amy voiceover for foreign markets is awful and patronising. We know this. We know this already.


Utah is pretty. Very very pretty.

The Doctor claims to be 1103, and to have drunk wine, but he spits it out anyway, saying he thought it would be more like the gums.

Amy sees something on the horizon, something with a domed head, and Dad says, “Oh god: what’s that?”

But that’s a story for another time.

A four-wheel drive pulls up, and Dad says, “Oh god: what’s this?” He’s easily startled by television programmes.

At the same time, an astronaut climbs out of the lake, and the Doctor tells them to stay out of whatever’s about to happen. What happens is that the astronaut lifts his visor, they talk for a while, and then the astronaut shoots the Doctor. Amy tries to run, but the others grab her. The Doctor starts regenerating, apologises, and then is shot again in the middle of his regeneration cycle.

This time, it’s River who screams and runs towards the Doctor. She knows what this means. And after she scans the Doctor, she empties her revolver into the astronaut, who doesn’t pause in his slow descent into the lake.

As they grieve over the Doctor, the man in the four-wheel drive comes down with a can of gasoline, says that this is most definitely the Doctor, and that he said they’d need the gasoline. River says they have to cremate him, because “a Time Lord’s body is miracle, even a dead one.”

River says, “We’re the Doctor’s friends, and we do what the Doctor’s friends always do. As we’re told.”

So they give him a Viking funeral.

MAM: I didn’t think he’d stay in the show for such a short time.

I love my credulous, easily frightened parents.

River asks who the mysterious, gasoline-carrying American is, and he says he got an envelope. It’s number 4.

“I won’t be seeing you again,” he says. “But you’ll be seeing me.”

River’s distracted by the envelopes. She, Amy, and the mysterious man (Canton) got numbers 2, 3, and 4. So who got 1?

Luckily, they walk into a diner where the number 1 envelope is sitting on a table.

RIVER: When you know it’s the end, who do you call?
MAM: Ghostbusters?

Of course, number 1 is the Doctor. River says this is cold, but Amy hugs him, and then the Doctor hugs Rory. And then River slaps the Doctor.

DOCTOR: Okay, I’m assuming that was for something I haven’t done yet.
DOCTOR: Good, I’ll look forward to that.

Of course, this Doctor is only 909. And he hasn’t done all the things that he and River had done when they first met in this diner.

River won’t tell him what’s going on, defaulting to “Spoilers”, but they all pile into the TARDIS.

DOCTOR: Rory, is everyone cross with me for some reason?
RORY: I’ll find out.

Instead, they have a secret discussion about how they can’t let the Doctor know he’s been recruited by his future self, because he’s interacted with his own past self.

AMY: He’s done it before!
RORY: And in fairness, the universe did blow up.

Amy can’t cope with the idea of the Doctor’s death, but River says neither the Doctor’s death nor her own frightens her: there’s a much worse day coming for her.

The Doctor is basically letting the TARDIS have her head. She wants to land in Washington in 1969, but the Doctor wants to try knitting or bi-planes instead.

DOCTOR: Don’t play games with me. Don’t ever, ever think you’re capable of that.

The Doctor wants more information before he jumps into this, but he won’t trust River.

DOCTOR: Why are you in prison? Who did you kill? Now, I love a bad girl, me. But trust you? Seriously?

He will trust Amy, though, because she swears on fish fingers and custard.

And then we get a Western version of the Doctor’s theme, and it’s fabulous.

Canton Delaware (Badger!) is being recruited from a pub, by a man who’s representing President Nixon.

RIVER: Richard Milhouse Nixon. Vietnam. Watergate. There’s some good stuff, too.
DOCTOR: Not enough.
RIVER: Hippy.
DOCTOR: Archaeologist.

The Doctor is trying stealth mode, but River is having to run after him fixing all his mistakes. Have I mentioned lately how I love her?

The Doctor leaps out of the invisible TARDIS into the Oval Office, right as the President gets his nightly mysterious phone call from a creepy child. Oh, creepy child, do you add anything to society in general? Or are you just creepy?

The President turns around in the middle of claiming that he can’t trust anyone to find the Doctor in the middle of the Oval Office. He turns to flee back into the TARDIS, but knocks himself out on its invisible door.

The Doctor has River turn the TARDIS blue again, and then tells the President that he’ll take the case. But the Secret Service want to shoot him, anyway.

The Doctor claims to be on loan from Scotland Yard, and introduces his associates: the Legs, the Nose, and Mrs Robinson. But Canton steps in to support the Doctor against the Secret Service agent who tells him “Mr Delaware, don’t compliment the intruder.”

CANTON: Mr President, that man walked in here with a big blue box and three of his friends, and that’s one of the men he walked past. One of them is worth listening to.

As the Doctor’s looking at maps, Amy spots another one of the weird people she originally saw at the lake. But as she turns back to Rory, she forgets what she’s seen. She asks to go the bathroom, and the Secret Service reluctantly comply.

In the loo, Amy sees another of the creepy intruders. She challenges this one, and asks him why she forgot. Also? The toilet is really fancy.

Someone comes out of the loo, and seems to think the alien is a co-worker called “Ben.” But she forgets the alien as soon as she turns her back on him: twice. And then the lights flicker, and the alien electrocutes her to death.

It’s probably not Ben, then.

Amy, figuring that they can only remember the aliens while they see them, takes a photo with her camera phone.

AMY: Why did you have to kill her, anyway?

Ooh, creepy.

The alien tells Amy to tell the Doctor what he must know and what he must never know, but by the time she leaves the toilet, she can’t actually remember anything.

Still, she manages to freak the Secret Service agent out with her tiny, futuristic phone.

Meanwhile, the Doctor works out where the child is calling from, declares that there’s no time for a SWAT team (or, though he doesn’t say so, a fez) and dematerialises.

DOCTOR: Canton, on no account follow me into this box, and shut the door.

The Doctor points out that the girl is not giving the President her name: she’s giving him the street address.

DOCTOR: Dr Song, you’ve got that face on again.
RIVER: What face?
DOCTOR: The “he’s hot when he’s clever” face.
RIVER: This is my normal face.
DOCTOR: Yes, it is.

Canton is mostly impressed that Scotland Yard has a machine that can travel in space and time.

AMY: Cool aliens?
DOCTOR: Well, what would you call me?
AMY: An alien.

The phones are cut off, but there’s a little girl around here somewhere, with all the alien and human tech, and the Doctor wants to find her. Amy mainly wants to try and save the Doctor in 1969 so that he doesn’t die in 2011.

River finds a tunnel and immediately heads down it, though the Doctor warns her to be careful and they flirt with each other a bit.

CANTON: So what’s going on?
DOCTOR: Nothing. She’s just a friend.

I absolutely love the growing relationship between these two for reasons that I don’t have time to cover here.

The tunnels are full of aliens, but River forgets them as soon as she turns her back on them. And then she heads straight back down the tunnels.

DOCTOR: Rory, would you mind going with her?
RORY: Yes, a bit.
DOCTOR: Then I appreciate it all the more.

I also like Rory’s “British tourist” look. Shorts FTW!

Rory and River explore the mysteriously old tunnels, and as River unlocks an irresistible locked door, Rory asks what the “worse day coming” for her is.

RIVER: When I first met the Doctor, long long time ago, he knew all about me. Impressionable young girl. Think about that. This man falls out of the sky, and he’s mad and impossible and wonderful, and he knows everything about her. Imagine what that does to a girl.
RORY: I don’t think I have to.

River explains that they’re travelling in opposite directions. Some day, she’ll meet the Doctor, and he won’t know who she is, and she thinks it will kill her.

And we know it will, because we’ve seen that day.

I love her so much.

But they open the door, and though Rory can’t remember the aliens any more than anyone else can, they find a control room that shows that the tunnels run under the surface of the entire world.

Wait, Canton is gay? Nick reckons that’s the reason behind the “I just wanted to get married”/“That’s not a crime, is it?” discussion. I did not get that.

Also, a child is screaming somewhere, Canton is knocked out, and Amy is pregnant.

DAD: Well, why is that so important now?

Dad doesn’t really get “sexual tension”, thank goodness.

But the astronaut turns up, and Amy grabs Canton’s gun and shoots … what turns out to be a child.

DAD: But it’s not a real child?
ME: Well, we don’t know.
DAD: It’s too much for me, this.

Me too, Dad. Me, too.

Share your thoughts [17]


Emma Gunders wrote at Apr 30, 12:14 pm

Nice live-blog tonight. I did not pick up on the Canton being gay thing. I just assumed it was because the FBI have stupid laws about secrecy and all that.

I tried to do a little live-blog of my own on twitter which went quite well (except for the people who didn’t understand my last joke tweet) so I’ll probably continue that in the coming weeks. Of course that won’t mean I won’t be reading yours!


Catriona wrote at Apr 30, 09:34 pm

I saw the live-tweeting, but of course I could read it while I was frantically live-blogging. I read through afterwards—and I definitely got the last tweet. I’ll read yours afterwards if you read mine afterwards. Deal?


Drew wrote at Apr 30, 10:01 pm

CANTON: So what’s going on?
DOCTOR: Nothing. She’s just a friend.

I absolutely love the growing relationship between these two for reasons that I don’t have time to cover here.

Ok, then cover them here. :) You’re talking about The Doctor and River I assume, not him and Canton? I absolutely love River as well but I suspect my reasons are different from yours.

On a side issue, I suspect River of being Romana.


Catriona wrote at Apr 30, 10:30 pm

I don’t think River is Romana. I think Romana is dead. Nick wants to talk me out of this position and I don’t want her to be dead, but I genuinely think she’s dead. We know she stayed in E-space to help free the Tharils from their bondage on various planets. But then we know from the books (the New Adventures, which I believe are largely but not exclusively treated as canonical) that she returned to Gallifrey, where she became president.

Now, would Romana, as president of Gallifrey, have agreed in any way, shape, or form to what Rassilon was planning? Even if he was planning it in a two-part episode that, frankly, was awful? Rassilon is Rassilon, but would she have stayed silent when he was planning the extermination all all other lifeforms? Not Romana. So I think she’s dead. (I’m not saying that she was killed by Rassilon, by the way. I just think she died, probably in the Time War.)

And I don’t really want to fit River into a pre-existing pattern. I want River to be awesome all on her own, rather than just being another version of a pre-existing awesome person. That would be a bit of a zero-sum game, don’t you think?

I love the growing relationship between River and the Doctor because (at a basic level) it’s growing. I suppose it makes sense, because River is Moffat’s creation, and I find what’s he’s doing with her just fascinating. Even before River gave that speech to Rory, I can see them moving towards one another from different directions, so that their relationship is getting closer incrementally: the Eleventh Doctor’s much flirtier with River than the Tenth Doctor ever was. (Which reinforces Sam’s reading, which he posted here on the live-blogging for “Forests of the Dead”, I think it was, about how even then, it seemed that River’s real Doctor was another regeneration altogether.)

We started with an end-point, and River’s death. And now we can see them coming to some sort of mid-point, where their strange relationship can mimic an ordinary, linear relationship for a little while. But at the same time, it’s this lovely, complex, tragic non-linear relationship, and I love how that’s being built up.

I also think River just rocks, of course. I still think my favourite line in the episode is “Dr Song, sir. She’s … packing.”


Wendy wrote at Apr 30, 11:18 pm

I definitely didn’t pick up Canton was gay…I liked this episode most of all the Matt Smith episodes so far…I’m quite a fan of Rory actually! River? I think it’s her amazing hair that makes the character for me :-)


Catriona wrote at May 1, 12:17 am

She does have fabulous hair.


Drew wrote at May 1, 12:42 am

As I have said before, the idea that you could meet someone and that they already know you is intoxicating, that is River’s appeal to me, although of course now we know that for them it works both ways. The Doctor knew all about her when she first met him as well. I have to say that in episode 2 of this current season she absolutely Rocks!!

I agree with you Treen, it’d be better if she wasn’t Romana.


Drew wrote at May 1, 12:49 am

These episodes are also reforcing two ideas that I’ve believed for a long time with regards to the Doctor:

1. When the Doctor pops into the Tardis and says I’ll be right back, not matter what storyline is happening, it’s highly likely that he’s not telling the complete truth. He’ll be right back by our terms, for him he could be gone for years before returning.

2. A Time Lord’s physical form ages very slowly, so not only can they cheat death, but death in terms of old age for each regeneration is a long way off. By that reckoning then 909 years of age is still actually very young by Time Lord standards.


Catriona wrote at May 1, 01:32 am

Did the Doctor know all about her when he first met her? Both “Silence in the Library”/“Forests of the Dead” and her speech to Rory in “The Impossible Astronaut” seem to undercut that reading. Of course, he gets (in “Silence”) the intoxication of meeting someone who knows all about him, just as River did back when she first met him, but I don’t think he knew all about her. I thought that was part of the tragedy of her death in that episode: that she was dead and he didn’t really know a thing about her.

Unless I’m mis-reading the argument there, of course …

As to the other points:

1. Absolutely. They’ve played with that idea a few times, and it complements the idea that while the show plays out (by and large) in linear time for us, we definitely don’t get the whole story: the Doctor and his companions are always showing off about the great adventures they’ve had in between episodes. But I don’t think it’s a question of not telling the complete truth. I think it’s just a question of a completely alien perspective. For a Time Lord, “I’ll be right back” doesn’t mean “I’m just popping out for five minutes.” It means “I’ll return to this point in the space-time continuum.” It would be bloody annoying if they nipped out to make a cup of tea in an ad. break and came back wearing a feather boa and clutching a banana daiquiri, I know that.

2. That also makes sense. Because although the Doctor was an old man by our standards in his first regeneration, he himself considers himself an impetuous young man in those days. He must have been about 450 or so, I suppose, though it might have been 402. I forget these details. But I think the Fourth Doctor mentioned he was some 700 years or so old. Of course, he did start burning through his regenerations much faster once he was out exploring space and time, not sitting in the junkyard in 1960s’ England or safely underneath the dome on Gallifrey.

Nick points out that (as Moffat insists), the Doctor lies about his age all the time. And why wouldn’t he? There’s no evidence of clocks in the TARDIS—and what clock could cope with that environment? And the Time War probably blew everything out of context. So 909 is probably either his best guess, or just a nice round age that he likes the sound of.


richard wrote at May 1, 01:43 am

There were a lot of things I loved about this episode. The slap in the face with the series story arc in the first reel; great dialogue (with some cringe-worthy exceptions); great relationship maintenance/development… but to me there was something off about the pacing of it all.

I’m going to assume it was because they’re trying to bring new – especially American – audiences into the show, so a bit more Who-exposition was required, but some of it seemed ham-fisted. In the Oval Office, in particular, I thought the script overplayed the zany-genius aspects of the Doctor and I found that a bit jarring.

Having said that, there were some awesome set pieces – the scene with poor Joy in the bathroom was sublime – and little surprises like the control room from the 79B Aickman Road turning up under Florida. The diary syncing scene, and the palpable excitement between the older Eleventh Doctor and River, was lovely.

Oddest bit of the episode was the timing of Amy’s revelation… Hmm, perhaps the Doctor has to be told the things he mustn’t know and the things he must in time for each cliffhanger this series.

Can’t wait for ep 2… And probably won’t ;-)


richard wrote at May 1, 01:49 am


In comment 7 Drew’s saying “The Doctor knew all about her when she first met him as well.” When she first met him – that is, when she was an innocent youngster and the older Doctor (of some future regeneration, presumably).

You’re thinking is strangely three dimensional this morning ;-)


Catriona wrote at May 1, 05:06 am

Ah! Thanks, Richard. So I did completely mis-read Drew’s comment: I was worried I might have.

I just like the fact that (and River doesn’t know this yet) her reaction to her first meeting with the Doctor (which we’ve never seen) is paralleled by his first meeting with her (which we have seen). So we don’t have to imagine what the effect on a young girl might be, not just because (like Rory) we’ve seen it happen with Amy and (unlike Rory) we’ve seen it happen with dozens of companions before Amy, but because we’ve seen it happen to the Doctor, with that reluctant, uncomfortable, but irresistible attraction to River in that first double-parter, because she was this gorgeous, mysterious woman who dropped out of the sky and knew everything about him.

Sigh. I love her so much.


Tim wrote at May 4, 11:41 am

(Decides not to say something snarky about River Song.)

I’m trying to hold off judgement until I watch the second part, but I’m not liking this episode much. The pacing was off, the Silents are pretty unimpressive, Badger seems miscast, and why oh why not tell the Doctor they’ve seen him die? I know what Rory said and I don’t care.

A minor quibble: I liked seeing a black Secret Service agent (and it’s historically plausible), but having him be shaking and nervous while all the white people remain calm made me just a little uncomfortable.


Catriona wrote at May 4, 01:17 pm

I agree with you and Richard, Tim, that the pacing seemed off. I can’t remember if I said this upthread, but the episode seemed really slow to start, to me. But it picked up once the younger Doctor came into the storyline. I actually don’t have a problem with casting Mark Shepherd: he has a calm but frightening implacability to him that works for me here. I also thought casting his father as his older self was a lovely touch.

I also don’t have much of a problem with them not telling the Doctor that he died. The Doctor’s relationship with his companions in this new series has been very strongly marked by an awareness of mortality, and this seemed to play into that: they don’t cope well with the idea that the Doctor might be mortal. It’s an inversion of the earlier episodes’ focus on the Doctor’s concern that his companions (especially Rose) are mortal (and, in their case, short-lived). (I particularly liked the fact that Amy panicked when the Doctor was shot, but River panicked when the Doctor was shot while regenerating.)

(I’m sure I had something else intelligent to say here, but Nick distracted me with a YouTube video of all Hudson’s lines from Aliens spliced into a single video, and now all I can think is “Game over, man. Game over.”)


Heather wrote at May 6, 02:25 am

I am so sad that you didn’t incorporate my favourite bit of dialogue (though recent events may have prevented you from mentioning it – so i will now!) which was along the lines of

Doctor (feet on Nixon’s desk): You’re not going to shoot me.
River (bursting out of the Tardis): THEY’RE AMERICANS!!!


Catriona wrote at May 6, 12:42 pm

I did leave that out! But I did do your impression of Americans steppin’ in and takin’ charge (just like in Dubya Dubya Two) for my parents as we watched this episode. That’s probably why I didn’t have time to actually type out the dialogue, now I come to think about it.


Tim wrote at May 10, 04:23 am

I forgot to mention that this episode seems to finally kill my pet theory about River, though I may have missed prior evidence through selective viewing.

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