Recap: Doctor Who S32 E1 "The Impossible Astronaut"
Doctor, remember where you are...
You're going to have to trust us this time.
You have to do this, and you can't ask why.
Written by Steven Moffat, the nightmare king.
Amy and Rory haven't seen the Doctor for two months, though they've discovered references to ridiculous adventures of his throughout history. They receive a letter through the post: a map reference and a date, inside an envelope of TARDIS blue numbered "3". In the distant future, River Song receives a similar message within the Stormcage.
The message leads them all to Utah, where they meet up with the Doctor. Even more time has passed for him since Amy saw him last. He's nearly two hundred years older, and he talks merrily about the moon landing in 1969, stating that they're going to see it now.
But first, the four have a friendly picnic on a present day lake shore, and the Doctor explains that he's been running away from something for the last two centuries. And he's got to stop running now. The camaraderie is interrupted by the arrival of a number of enigmatic figures: a tall shadow witnessed by Amy, then just as quickly forgotten; an older man carrying a jerry can; and strangest of all, an astronaut rising from the lake. The Doctor warns the others to stay back, whatever happens, before walking forward to talk to the astronaut. After a brief conversation, which neither the other characters nor the audience hear, the astronaut shoots the Doctor.
And he's quickly shot again. In the middle of regenerating. Which kills him permanently
The mysterious astronaut then sinks back into the lake, apparently unaffected by an enraged River's gun shots.
Amy can't believe it. But at this point, the old man explains that it is indeed the Doctor, and that he is truly dead. The can he carries contains gasoline, to burn the Doctor's body; Rory suggests they give their friend a proper Viking funeral
using a nearby boat. Afterwards, the old man introduces himself as Canton Everett Delaware III, adding that this is the last time he'll see them, but that they'll see him again. He explains his presence as being due to another mysterious envelope, his marked "4". After he leaves, River notices that they haven't seen anyone bearing an envelope with a "1" — who does the Doctor trust most of all?
The answer, to their shock and disbelief, is the Doctor himself — but a younger version, only slightly older than when he left Amy and Rory last series. And he's having milk shakes at the little café where they all met up earlier that day. After getting past their initial reaction of shock and anger (and after River slaps him in the face), they're able to convince him to travel to 1969. Although hesitant, the Doctor is willing to blindly trust Amy (but not River) after making sure she isn't being compelled or threatened somehow.
In 1969, a young Canton Everett Delaware III is recruited by President Nixon to investigate a mysterious daily phone call that the President receives from a terrified young girl. Canton isn't thrilled: he was kicked out of the Secret Service previously because he wanted to get married. Nixon manages to coax him into working as a freelance agent for now. They're interrupted, though, when the TARDIS materialises in the White House and the Doctor fails miserably to be sneaky about it.
Nixon: But who — but who are they? What is that box?
The Doctor: It's a police box, can't you read? I'm your new undercover agent, on loan from Scotland Yard. Code name: the Doctor. These are my top operatives: the Legs, the Nose, and Mrs. Robinson.
River: (scoffs) I hate you.
The Doctor: No you don't.
The Doctor is able to convince the President — after some difficulties with the Secret Service — that he is capable of solving the mystery. He realises that the child's "name", Jefferson Adams Hamilton, was actually answering the President's question "Where are you?". It's a little girl, and she's is at an intersection of streets each named after these of the founding fathers. (Two of whom, the Doctor remarks, fancied him
, but considering the fact that "The Doctor always lies...
Meanwhile, Amy excuses herself to go to the bathroom, because she's feeling sick. In there, she has an encounter with the shadow she saw earlier: a terrifying alien in a nice suit. The thing casually kills another woman, and warns Amy that she must tell the Doctor something. As soon as anyone looks away from these aliens, though, they forget that they have ever seen them. Amy, in a Genre Savvy
mood, manages to take a photo of the creature using her phone.
Our heroes and Canton travel to the location that the Doctor deduced, finding strange alien technology there — including an astronaut suit. The Doctor realises that when the little girl said she was scared of a space man coming to "eat me", she probably meant the suit. River and Rory investigate an underground passage, unaware that it is full of the strange aliens which they keep seeing and forgetting. River tells Rory that she lives her whole life hoping to find the Doctor again, but that each time she sees him, he's younger and he recognises her less and less. One day, she says, she'll look into his eyes and he won't know who she is
. And her sheer grief might kill her.
They discover a weird, TARDIS-like vessel which Amy and the Doctor might have recognised,
but before they can discover anything about it, something unseen happens to Rory.
Canton runs off after he hears the little girl again calling for help; following him, the Doctor and Amy find him unconscious, his gun lying next to him. As she struggles to remember something, Amy suddenly tells the Doctor that she's pregnant. The Doctor asks why she's telling him
, of all people. She tells him that he ought to know the answer to that one
. But before she can elaborate, the astronaut appears. Hoping to change time and save the Doctor's life, Amy immediately grabs Canton's pistol and fires at the astronaut... just as it lifts its helmet to reveal that it is the little girl.
Next time: "Day of the Moon"
- Bavarian Fire Drill: The Doctor in the Oval Office.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Averted. The Doctor says he looks forward to the reason why River Song slapped him, but does so sarcastically.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: River and the Doctor, natch!
- Big "NO!":
- Amy screams it after the Doctor is shot the first time, and River does the same when the Doctor is shot.
- At the end, the Doctor shouts "No!" as Amy shoots at the Astronaut.
- Brick Joke: In season 3 episode 8 of the original series the first doctor proclaims, "If I ever say stetsons are cool again, well, just shoot it off my head." Fifty years later, in what is probably the longest running brick joke ever, the Eleventh doctor puts a stetson on, says "I wear a stetson now. Stetsons are cool!" and promptly has the aforementioned hat shot off his head by River.
- Buffy Speak: Rory when exiting the TARDIS in the Oval Office to aimed guns: "No shooting! Very much not in need of being shot!"
- California Doubling: Averted. USA Doctor Who fans rejoiced — this was the first time the series had actually been filmed note in The United States. There was some local "California" doubling, however — some "Utah" scenes were actually filmed in Idaho.
- Call Back:
- Back in "The End of Time", the Doctor told Wilf that if he was killed before his regeneration could be completed, he would be fully dead. Over a year later (in our time), River says more or less the same when the Astronaut shoots the Doctor.
- When the companions tell the Doctor they're going to have to trust him and not ask who gave them the summons, he asks Amy to prove it by swearing on something that matters. Her choice? "Fish-fingers and custard."
- Call Forward: River's talk with Rory towards the end of the episode perfectly predicts what happens when she meets the Doctor for the final time. Apart from her fearing it more than death — and we know it's her death too. Kind of. In a reversed way. Only not really reversed.
- Can Not Spit It Out: You cannot tell someone you have seen a Silent, even if you have told yourself to tell someone.
- Captain Obvious: "Canton Everett Delaware III. That was his name. How many of those can there be? Well, three, I suppose."
- Cardboard Prison: Stormcage is starting to look like one — this is the second time River breaks out. One wonders if she's only there because she wants to be. It's got to the point that River will openly pack and inform the guards of her travel plans. This incites an armed response.
- Cargo Envy: River Song blows on the muzzle of the revolver.
- Catch Phrase: River and the Doctor have repeatedly said the same little bit of dialogue. The Doctor will say or do something that embarrasses River, River will say "I hate you," and he'll quickly retort, "No you don't." They also did it back in "Flesh and Stone" as well. They did it twice in this episode. River and the (Tenth) Doctor had a similar bit of dialogue back in "Silence in the Library":
I hate you sometimes! The Doctor: I know!
- Cliffhanger: Possibly even a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger. It is a two-parter, after all.
- Cloaking Device: The Doctor uses this to briefly hide the TARDIS in the Oval Office.
- Code Name: The Doctor, the Legs, the Nose and Mrs Robinson.
- Continuity Nod:
- In the "prequel" there is a tape rolling while a child is talking creepily just like in "The Empty Child".
- The TARDIS "decloaking" effect recalls the TARDIS being pulled into the Capitol in "The Deadly Assassin".
- The Astronaut rises out of the lake like the Dalek rose out of the river in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". Or the way Ace rises out of the lake in "Battlefield".
- The Doctor's meeting on the lake with the Astronaut resembles the meeting with the Watcher on Tower Bridge in "Logopolis".
- Creepy astronaut that may not be an astronaut? Can we say "The Ambassadors of Death"?
- Rory pokes the Doctor in disbelief and asks "How can you be here?" the same way the Doctor did to Rory in "The Pandorica Opens".
- The Silents' control room in the tunnels is the same as the proto-TARDIS on top of Craig's apartment in "The Lodger". The Doctor mentions it in the next episode, implying they're the same ship.
- The TARDIS has been invisible before, in "The Invasion".
- "Human beings. I thought I'd never be done saving you." A line straight out (tense-shifted) of "The Time of Angels".
- Right before that, the Doctor notes that "a lot more happens in '69 than anyone remembers." While ultimately, it's foreshadowing of the Silence and what they are capable of, on the surface, it's a reference to the Doctor's many adventures in 1969, most of them as the Second Doctor.
- The above mentioned Badass Boast recalls a similar response by the Doctor in when Winston Churchill threatened to take the TARDIS key by force.
- The Doctor in the diner even brought his own straw.
- When talking to the Secret Service, the Doctor refers to Mr. Delaware as "Canton 3". This is the same shorthand that was used in "The Beast Below" to refer to the Kings and Queens of England (Liz 2, Henry 12, Liz 10.)
- The last time a future version of 11 died, it was Rory who made sure the body was respected by draping his coat over him like a shroud. This time he makes sure to give him a Viking Funeral.
- The Eleventh Doctor doesn't like wine, but mocklingly replies to Amy that he must have drank it at some point on his life. The Third and Fourth Doctors were very fond of it.
- Rory's nickname: "Rory the Roman".
- "Brave heart, Canton" is a Fifth Doctor reference.
- The Doctor is having trouble remembering exactly where he parked the cloaked TARDIS again... like in "The Invasion".
- The danger of the Doctor's body being used as a commodity was seen in the Eighth Doctor novel Alien Bodies.
- It also sheds light on the Doctor's decision to give the Master a funeral pyre in "Last of the Time Lords".
- The fez in the Laurel and Hardy film.
- The Doctor's request for "twelve Jammie Dodgers and a fez".
- When we see Stormcage Prison responding to River's packing, there's an establishing shot of men running down a windowless corridor/tunnel with a wet floor, a favourite shot of Russell T Davies.
- Cool Car: The red Edsel station wagon.
- Cool Hat: "I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool."
- Cool Helmet: The space helmet.
(wearing a helmet
) Look how cool
this stuff is!
- Cool Old Guy: The Canton Everett Delaware III from 2011.
- Creepy Child: The little girl calling the President for help.
- Cry into Chest: Amy cries onto the chest of the Doctor after he was shot.
- Dramatic Pause: After the Doctor shot on the beach and we see the regeneration process starts, the music swells and becomes dreamlike — only to stop abruptly when he is shot a second time. A second later, another track, with a much more scary feeling, replaces the first.
- Eagleland: The Doctor comments on the American agents' readiness to run around pointing guns.
- Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: Apparently, in the Whoniverse, they were created in honour of the Doctor, whom they worshipped. Matt Smith does have the nose and chin for it.
River: Have we done Easter Island yet? They worshipped you there. Have you seen the statues?
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Silence seem to have built tunnels and control rooms under the whole Earth.
- Embarrassing Nickname: One of the times River says "I hate you" to the Doctor is when he gives her the codename "Mrs Robinson".
- Evil Sounds Deep: The Silents.
- Face Framed in Shadow: The Astronaut.
- The Doctor's comment about "More happening in 1969 than anyone remembers." This is because the Silents (the aliens) make you forget their existence the moment you look away.
- You can only remember things about the Silents when you see them, including past encounters. When River finds them underground right after they get to the warehouse, she looks terrified.
- Genre Savvy: While's he's being arrested by the Secret Service, the Doctor successfully predicts and appropriately responds to River fixing the TARDIS scanner and saying "I hate you."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- He Had a Name: Inverted horrifyingly with the Silents.
Amy: You didn't have to kill her, she couldn't even remember you.
Silent: Her name was Joy.
- Heroic BSOD: When Amy returns to the diner, she staggers in with a thousand-yard stare on her face, and can't concentrate on what River and Rory are planning.
- Hurting Hero: The Doctor cannot convince himself he is the King of OK.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Alluded to by River Song.
- In Memoriam: Dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen. Unlike past dedications in Doctor Who, this dedication card opens the episode rather than ending it. Meanwhile, BBC America placed it at the end of the episode. BBC America also made one other change to their version: rather than just the black slate, they added a shot from "School Reunion" of Elisabeth Sladen walking away from the camera, only to turn around and wave at the audience before the card faded to black.
- In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Averted Trope. The astronaut's visor is almost always shown down, and is very reflective. When it is raised, it's in broad daylight, but the camera cuts away before we can see it. The second time, it's dark.
- I Thought It Meant: In-universe example.
- Kick the Dog: The Doctor twists the knife on River Song's heart when he says he doesn't trust her, but by the time the Future!Doctor gave her the envelope to set off this plot, she's the most trusted companion of the Doctor.
- Lampshade Hanging:
- Line-of-Sight Name: Jefferson Hamilton Adams is taken from a set of street signs at a three-way intersection. It isn't actually an example, Nixon asked his mystery caller where and who she was; only the former was answered but Nixon mistook it for an answer to the latter.
- Meaningful Name: The Doctor is shot at Lake Silencio (named in the latter half of the season). Really?
- Metaphorgotten: The Doctor is not sure whether he wants to fly or knit in 1911.
- Merlin Sickness: River and the Doctor aren't just meeting in random order; they're travelling in opposite directions. Every time they meet, it's later for one and earlier for the other.
- Mind Screw: Plenty. The Doctor is truly killed at the lake (according to River and old Canton at least), Amy says she is pregnant, the Silence have an Elaborate Underground Base under the whole Earth, and the Astronaut is the little girl, whom Amy shoots. And the Silents themselves, who are Mind Screw incarnate.
- Mood Dissonance:
- The Doctor has died, seemingly permanently, and the surviving companions are fiercely debating what to do now. Cue younger Doctor stepping out of the gents' to crack jokes and ask what everyone seems so broken up about.
- A little bit earlier, too. When the Doctor is shot, he begins to glow, and like all regenerations, it is painted as a scene of mournful beauty. Beautiful golden flames wreath his body, powerfully sad music rises — then bang, the music stops.
- Mood Whiplash: The scene in the bathroom, flipping between comedy and horror each time the woman turns her head. She asks the Silent if he is wearing a Star Trek mask, and is then electrocuted.
- Morning Sickness: Amy feels sick in the White House, then feels very sick in the warehouse, prompting her to tell the Doctor she is pregnant. The nausea may also be an effect of the Silence.
- My Death Is Only The Beginning
- My Friends... and Zoidberg:
Nixon: But who — but who are they? What is that box?
The Doctor: It's a police box, can't you read? I'm your new undercover agent, on loan from Scotland Yard. Code name, the Doctor. These are my top operatives, the Legs, the Nose, and Mrs Robinson.
River: I hate you.
The Doctor: No, you don't.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Amy after she shoots at the Astronaut, who is also the little girl.
- Mythology Gag:
- "A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers" may be a reference to the 1969 episode where Jamie and Zoe get their memories wiped.
- Not to mention, this isn't the only Moffat episode set in 1969. Ten and Martha got stuck in that year in "Blink", and Martha mentions that they went to see the moon landings four times.
- This line is also probably Foreshadowing considering this is a Future!Doctor, especially because he uses the word "remembers" possibly referring to the the Silence's forget-me effect
- And, of course, the repeated question, Doctor who? Turns out to be Foreshadowing, as well.
- Nausea Fuel: An encounter with a Silent seems to elicit this reaction in people after their memories have been wiped. May be linked with the adrenaline rush caused by their sight, and the ensuing confusion as to why when they are forgotten.
- Nice Hat: "I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool."
- Nightmare Face: The Silents. Especially when one kills Joy in the restroom and it looks like it's growing a MOUTH.
- Nobody Over Fifty Is Gay: Averted retroactively.
- Non-Action Guy: Rory is very reluctant to explore the cave with River, yet he is rather put out when he's relegated to explaining the TARDIS to Canton.
- Noodle Incident:
- The trip to Easter Island and Jim the Fish. Then again, given the Doctor and River's track record, this could just be Foreshadowing instead.
- The Prison guard remarks imply that River has broken out before, after "packing".
- The first minutes of the episode are filled with references to the Noodle Incidents the future Doctor gets into after seemingly dropping Amy and Rory off for a while.
- Not So Invincible After All: Word of Moff has this trope as part of the reason behind killing the Doctor. Regeneration is more like a saving throw than anything else: Time Lords can be killed (almost) as simply as humans, and the Doctor has only survived so long through guile and wit. Or hiding in the TARDIS, as a good 80% of his regenerations have taken place there.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Just because you can't remember doesn't mean there's nothing there.
- Not What It Looks Like: The Doctor on being found naked hiding beneath a woman's skirts by a sword-wielding Cavalier. "You know, this isn't nearly as bad as it looks."
- Ominous Walk: The Astronaut has a very creepy Slow Walk, natural because a space suit is heavy. Also, in a later episode it is revealed the suit wasn't entirely under the wearer's control.
- One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Averted Trope. However, viewers asked why Amy, who thinks she is pregnant, is drinking wine during the picnic. Steven Moffat replied "She's Scottish".
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Secret Service are played by fairly transparent non-Americans. Also, Canton says "Scotland Yard have..." instead of the American "Scotland Yard has..." when the Doctor gives his alibi. Also, Canton seems to pick up a bit of Cockney accent in the 40 years since the space program....
- Over Crank: Used in the final scene.
- Papa Bear: When the Doctor asks if his companions are being threatened, you can practically feel him ready to kick some ass.
- No Peripheral Vision: It's pretty well established that there wasn't a whole lot around Amy and Rory's bus stop in Utah. How they missed the station wagon with the Doctor on the hood as the bus came to a stop stretches the mind a little.
- Phrase Catcher: The always-popular "it's bigger on the inside" line in regards to the TARDIS, and good ol' "Doctor Who?"
- Please Wake Up: Said by Amy to the future Doctor.
- Politically Correct History: Averted. Nixon actually did have at least one black Secret Service agent.
- Power of Trust: Subverted; when River tells the Doctor that he has to trust her not to reveal what's going on, he bluntly points out that, as much as he likes her, he knows barely anything about her — and what he does know suggests that she's a murderer, and has possibly murdered him at some point. She might be many things, but "trustworthy" isn't exactly one of them. He is, however, willing to trust Amy.
- The Public Domain Channel: Apparently Rory is watching it at the beginning; "The Flying Deuces" is out of copyright. Presumably, getting permission from a rights-holder to show a digitally altered clip from their movie would have been just too much of a hassle.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Nixon actually did have at least one black Secret Service agent.
- Real-Life Relative: Mark Sheppard plays Canton Everett Delaware in 1969. His father William Morgan Sheppard plays old Canton for the scene at Lake Powell in 2011.
- Rebel Relaxation / Leaning on the Furniture: The Doctor leans on the hood of the Edsel. And makes himself comfy in the Oval Office. In Nixon's chair.
- Reverse Psychology: "Canton, on no account follow me into this box and close the door behind you!"
- Revolvers Are Just Better: River Song, Canton, and the Secret Service agents wield revolvers. Amy grabs Canton's revolver and fires it at the Astronaut at the end.
- Running Gag:
- From bow tie to fez to Stetson.
The Doctor: I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.
- Also, River killing the Doctor's hat. First the fez, now the Stetson.
- The old "Doctor who?" gag gets used twice.
- The fez gets mentioned, and the Doctor wears one in a "blink and you'll miss it" moment during the Laurel and Hardy film.
- And the Doctor repeatedly says something that prompts River to state "I hate you." Following which he replies, "No you don't."
The Doctor: (lying on the floor of the Oval Office) River, have you got my scanner working yet!?
River: (in the TARDIS) Oh, I hate him.
The Doctor: No you don't!
- "Archaeologist" as an insult.
- The Doctor eating or drinking something, and then spitting it out.
- Scenery Porn: Have you seen the shots of Utah?
- Schmuck Bait: Doctor to Canton: "Under no circumstances follow me into this box and close the door behind you!"
- Shock and Awe: One of the ways in which the Silents attack.
- Joy asks the Silence in front of her whether it's "some kind of Star Trek thing".
- Also, the Doctor swears he ended up in the Oval Office by accident; he was looking for the Oblong one.
- The underground tunnels seem borrowed from the Alien franchise.
- The sound the aliens make sounds quite a bit like the Predator.
- The Doctor calls River Song "Mrs. Robinson". Also possibly a reference to his recently having met Frank Sinatra. Not to mention that The Graduate was a fairly recent release at the time this episode is largely set in.
- A major song from The Graduate? "The Sound of Silence".
- The Viking Funeral resembles Darth Vader's funeral at the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, using the same shot, except with the Doctor's face instead of Vader's helmet.
- It also closely parallels the Master's funeral a couple of seasons ago.
- The Silents are a lot like the Gentlemen from Buffy, who could make people silent. They also resemble the Slender Man, quite a bit.
- The tapes of Nixon's telephone calls are a nod to his real-life taping of practically every conversation he held in the White House, which later came to bite him in the ass during the Watergate scandal. The next episode shows that the Doctor actually gave him the idea first.
- "Space. 1969."
- Mark Sheppard's Character is named Canton.
- The Tunnel King Thwarted Escape scene is of course a shout-out to all those WWII POW escape movies.
- Mark Sheppard's character is a carbon copy of his one from Dollhouse at first.
- The Space Race: The episode is set in 1969, just before Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The Astronaut wears the old A7L suit used by the Apollo astronauts.
- Stable Time Loop: The Doctor is trying to pull off one of these.
- Stage Whisper: Amy, Rory and River discuss an Awful Truth that they absolutely cannot tell the Doctor... under the glass floor of the TARDIS console room, with him directly above them.
- Sting: River slaps the Doctor hard enough for the background music to temporarily stop and change track.
- Take That:
- As revealed in "Day of the Moon", Amy and Canton's exchange about marriage is about same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.
Amy: And [getting married]'s a crime?
- And when the Doctor appears in Nixon's office:
The Doctor: (nonchalantly) I just walked into the highest security office in the United States, parked a big blue box on the rug and you think you can just shoot me?
River: They're Americans!
The Doctor: Don't shoot!
- Timeshifted Actor: The Sheppards as Canton Everett Delaware III.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: In Moffat tradition. We have the Doctor inviting his companions to attend his death which he already knows will happen; invites someone else who they haven't met yet, but he's met them; and also invites his past self to meet up with them after everyone's seen him die. Make sense?
- Title Drop:
- Tonight Someone Dies: It was stated that someone on the main cast would die. Amy? Rory? River? The Doct — no, wait, Matt Smith still has the rest of the season on his contract. It's the Doctor. Specifically, one 200 years older than the usual one. Team TARDIS has to convince Current Doctor to try and save Future Doctor without Current Doctor knowing who he's saving or why. If you're confused, blame Moffat.
- Transformation Is a Free Action: Averted. We see a regeneration sequence by the lakeside. According to River, the extra shots by the Astronaut halted the process, killing the Doctor.
- Tranquil Fury: The Doctor is very, very annoyed that his companions are hiding who their recruiter is, a future Doctor, and says, quite calmly, "don't play games with me. Don't EVER ever think you are capable of that."
- Vader Breath: The astronaut.
- Viking Funeral: For the Doctor on the lake.
- Wham Episode: What all the signs are pointing to. Big Bad of the series making a first appearance? Check. Main character seemingly Killed Off for Real? Check. On top of this, the fake TARDIS returns, probably connected with the Silence; and Amy is pregnant.
- Wife Husbandry: River says she first met the Doctor when she was pretty young and the Doctor knew everything about her at that point, which is beginning to worry her. Rory also seems troubled by the implications of this for Amy.
- William Telling: River shoots the Doctor's hat off.