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New Series Episodes 79 & 80:
The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon

Plot

Amy, Rory and River are summoned to the Utah desert, where they witness the Doctor's murder at the hands of an astronaut who rises from a lake. They learn that this is a future Doctor, whose final message directs them to travel to 1969 with a younger version of himself. There they meet ex-FBI agent Canton Delaware III and President Richard Nixon, who is being haunted by phone calls from a mysterious child, warning of alien invasion. But the aliens are already on Earth, unable to be captured by human memory -- and even the Doctor's companions are not immune.

Production

Since the revival of Doctor Who in 2005, each season had employed the same basic structure. The 13 episodes consisted of seven single-episode stories and three two-part adventures (one of which formed the season finale). Throughout the five ensuing seasons, there had been only minor deviations from this scheme (such as Season Twenty-Nine arguably ending with a three-part story comprising Utopia and The Sound Of Drums / Last Of The Time Lords). For Season Thirty-Two, however, executive producer Steven Moffat sought to change things up. In particular, he wanted to captivate audiences with a spectacular two-part story not to close the year, but to open it.

Meanwhile, discussions were underway with BBC America concerning the possibility of the cable channel co-producing episodes to be filmed in the United States. Doctor Who was becoming increasingly popular overseas, with Season Thirty-One breaking BBC America viewing records. The production team was keen to capitalise on this, and felt that a story set in the US would help to both broaden the programme's appeal and reward American fans. Although the notion of a US location shoot had been mooted as far back as 1981 (when Lesley Elizabeth Thomas was commissioned to write an ultimately unused story called “Way Down Yonder”), the closest that Doctor Who had achieved to date was three days of plate shots in New York City for 2007's Daleks In Manhattan / Evolution Of The Daleks.

As Moffat began contemplating ideas for the Season Thirty-Two premiere, an agreement was reached with BBC America. Consequently, he started considering iconic US times and places which the Doctor could visit. Moffat became keen to incorporate NASA: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This suggested a story set around the original Moon landing on July 21st, 1969, when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface. This, in turn, invited the inclusion of President Richard Nixon, who had assumed office earlier that year; the Oval Office of the White House was a setting that Moffat was eager to utilise. Florida (to tie into the NASA element) and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota were also considered as potential locations, but 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 Britain.

Moffat wrote his scripts over the summer of 2010. A major ingredient was the introduction of a new monster called the Silents. Moffat hoped that these creatures would become as popular as his earlier creations, the Weeping Angels, and was again inspired by a simple, everyday phenomenon -- this time, the impermanence and unreliability of memory. Visually, the Silents were based upon the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's most famous work, the 1893 painting Skirk (The Scream). Moffat also took inspiration from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, with Dr Renfrew named after the ill-fated lunatic RM Renfield.

The second episode initially incorporated two running gags, which saw the Doctor insisting on keeping his beard, and River refusing to remove his handcuffs. These eventually dovetailed when River advanced upon the restrained Doctor with a shaving razor in hand. Rory's capture by Canton was conceived as taking place at docklands near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, while the “young girl” was to regenerate in Chicago. The titles for the two scripts were originally “The Year Of The Moon” and “Look Behind You”, but Moffat began to ponder alternatives in October after these were panned by his young son. A few days later, episode one had become The Impossible Astronaut.

The two-part adventure would be made as the second block of the season's production schedule. Assigned to direct was Toby Haynes, who had just completed A Christmas Carol, the 2010 Christmas special. The first day of filming was October 13th, three days after BBC America formally announced the funding arrangement for the US location shoot. Work began in Wales, however, with Tredegar House in Newport providing Matilda's chamber and a dwelling in Grangetown used as Amy and Rory's new home.

On the 14th and 15th, TARDIS scenes were taped at Upper Boat Studios, while the effects shot introducing Apollo 11 was captured just outside. Semi-regular Alex Kingston, playing River Song, rejoined the Doctor Who team for the first time since the February recording of The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang. To aid Kingston's performance, she was given all the details of the season's arc -- including the mystery of the Doctor's apparent death and River's true parentage -- while the rest of the cast was kept in varying degrees of ignorance.

A busy October 18th in Cardiff started at Le Monde, a bar and grill which was dressed as the Washington pub. White House corridor sequences were then filmed at the Glamorgan Building, followed by River's apparent suicide dive at Cadogan House. On the 19th, the Utah restaurant was actually Eddie's Diner in Cardiff. From the 20th to the 22nd, Haynes' team was back at Upper Boat, with the first two days spent on further TARDIS scenes, and the last on material in the faux-TARDIS set originally introduced in The Lodger.

Cardiff continued to offer locations on the next two filming days. On October 23rd, material at Stormcage was taped at the Millennium Stadium, as was River's pursuit up a staircase by the FBI. On the 26th, the scene in the White House ladies' washroom was recorded at the Coal Exchange, while the girl's regeneration in a New York alley was enacted at Crockherbtown Lane. Then it was off to Monmouth where Troy House, a dilapidated former school and convent, would pose as Graystark Hall from the 27th to the 30th.

On November 1st, Haynes and his team relocated to Pontypool, and the Johnsey Estates in the Mamhilad Park Industrial Estate. Filming there continued until the 4th, and largely dealt with scenes in the warehouse at the corner of Jefferson Street, Adams Street and Hamilton Avenue. The last day also included the POW camp material from the start of the story. Next, MOD St Athan posed as Area 51 on November 5th, while Cardiff University served as the NASA offices on the 7th.

Later that day, cast and crew returned to Upper Boat, where the cameras would continue to roll through to the 12th. The primary focus was material in the Oval Office, although there was also filming on the sets for the Silents' TARDIS (on the 7th and 8th), the Doctor's TARDIS (on the 8th and 10th), the Doctor's dwarf star alloy cell (on the 11th), the Apollo 11 capsule (on the 11th) and various inserts and effects shots. The latter included the Doctor's performance alongside Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, which was inserted into footage from their 1939 film The Flying Deuces.

Also recorded on November 11th was a special prelude to The Impossible Astronaut, filmed by Haynes on the Oval Office set. Written by Moffat, it featured Nixon receiving a warning phone call from the mysterious girl -- unaware that a Silent is looking on. This was a return, of sorts, to a concept which had run through the 2006 season, when every episode was preceded by a brief mini-episode or TARDISode. The social media strategy for Season Thirty-Two would reprise the notion, although only select episodes would boast such a prequel.

With principal photography in the UK complete, minimal cast and crew flew across the Atlantic for a three-day shoot which would begin in Utah. Apart from Haynes, the only BBC crewmembers present were producer Marcus Wilson, director of photography Stephan Pehrsson, and brand manager Edward Russell; regulations required that other duties be fulfilled by American crew. In addition to the three regulars and Alex Kingston, the two actors to play Canton Delaware III were also present. Originally, both the young and old Cantons were to have been portrayed by Mark Sheppard, but he encouraged the production team to cast his father, William Morgan Sheppard, as the elderly Canton. The pair had also played two versions of the same character about a year earlier in an episode of NCIS.

Filming in Utah took place on November 17th, with Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods -- both popular locations for many films and television programmes -- chosen for their unique geography. The scene of Amy being pursued by the FBI was recorded, as was the reunion of the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River early in the story. As scripted, Amy and Rory were dropped off by a truck, but Haynes altered this to a yellow school bus as he felt it was more distinctly American.

The next two days were spent one state further south, at the small city of Page, Arizona. The chief venue was Lake Powell, now dubbed Lake Silencio. While recording the Doctor's apparent demise on the 18th, Kingston drew on her knowledge of the season's secrets and decided that River would react in a particularly comforting way towards Amy. Gillan, however, was unaware that their characters would soon be revealed as mother and daughter, and was quietly baffled by Kingston's demeanour. More filming at Lake Powell took place on the 19th, followed by Rory's capture by the FBI at Glen Canyon Dam to wrap up the Stateside excursion.

The only shot left to record was the appearance of the “Eye Patch Lady” in the second episode. This was completed by Julian Simpson -- the director of The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People -- on January 27th, 2011 at Fillcare, a Pontyclun-based manufacturer of personal care products. The premiere date for Season Thirty-Two was eventually fixed as the 23rd of April; this was Easter Saturday, a date now chosen for the debut of four out of the six full seasons which had aired since 2005. As broadcast neared, episode two gained the title Day Of The Moon, adapting Moffat's earlier name for part one. The prequel was released online on March 25th as part of an early wave of publicity for the new season.

Sadly, the excitement for the approaching launch was tempered on April 19th when it was learned that Elisabeth Sladen -- who had played the Doctor's enduringly popular companion Sarah Jane Smith, and who still starred in CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures -- had passed away after a battle with cancer. It was soon decided that The Impossible Astronaut would open with a title card dedicating the broadcast to Sladen's memory. Furthermore, prior to the transmission of the accompanying episode of Doctor Who Confidential on BBC3, a special entitled My Sarah Jane: A Tribute To Elisabeth Sladen would screen on CBBC. As such, it was on a melancholy note that the thirty-second season of Doctor Who took to the airwaves...

Sources
  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #29, 14th December 2011, “The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.

Original Transmission
1: The Impossible Astronaut
Date 23rd Apr 2011
Time 6.02pm
Duration 43'28"
Viewers (more) 8.9m (6th)
· BBC1/HD 8.9m
· iPlayer 1.9m
Appreciation 88%
2: Day Of The Moon
Date 30th Apr 2011
Time 6.01pm
Duration 45'58"
Viewers (more) 7.3m (15th)
BBC1/HD 7.3m
iPlayer 1.6m
Appreciation 87%


Cast
The Doctor
Matt Smith
Amy Pond
Karen Gillan
Rory
Arthur Darvill
(more)
River Song
Alex Kingston
Canton Delaware
Mark Sheppard
Old Canton Delaware
William Morgan Sheppard
The Silent
Marnix van den Broeke
President Richard Nixon
Stuart Milligan
Carl
Chuk Iwuji
Phil
Mark Griffin
Little Girl
Sydney Wade
Joy
Nancy Baldwin
Prison Guard
Kieran O'Connor
Captain Simmons
Adam Napier
Matilda
Henrietta Clemett
Charles
Paul Critoph
Busboy
Emilio Aquino
Doctor Renfrew
Kerry Shale
Gardner
Glenn Wrage
Grant
Jeff Mash
Sergeant
Tommy Campbell
Doctor Shepherd
Peter Banks
Eye Patch Lady
Frances Barber
Tramp
Ricky Fearon


Crew
Written by
Steven Moffat
Directed by
Toby Haynes
Produced by
Marcus Wilson
(more)

1st Assistant Director
Martin Curry
2nd Assistant Director
James DeHaviland
3rd Assistant Director
Heddi-Joy Taylor-Welch
Assistant Directors
Michael Curtis
Janine H Jones
Location Manager
Iwan Roberts
Unit Manager
Rhys Griffiths
Location Assistant
Geraint Williams
Line Producer (US)
David Mason
Production Manager
Steffan Morris
Production Coordinator
Claire Hildred
Asst Production Coordinator
Helen Blyth
Production Secretary
Scott Handcock
Production Assistant
Charlie Coombes
Asst Production Accountant
Rhys Evans
Script Executive
Lindsey Alford
Script Editor
Caroline Henry
Script Supervisor
Caroline Holder
Camera Operator
Joe Russell
Focus Pullers
Steve Rees
Jon Vidgen
Grip
Gary Norman
Camera Assistants
Simon Ridge
Svetlana Miko
Matthew Lepper
Assistant Grip
Owen Charnley
Sound Maintenance Engineers
Jeff Welch
Dafydd Parry
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Best Boy
Pete Chester
Electricians
Ben Griffiths
Bob Milton
Stephen Slocombe
Alan Tippetts
Stunt Coordinator
Crispin Layfield
Stunt Performer
Jo McLaren
Supervising Art Director
Stephen Nicholas
Set Decorator
Julian Luxton
Production Buyer
Ben Morris
Standby Art Director
Amy Pickwoad
Assistant Art Director
Jackson Pope
Concept Artist
Richard Shaun Williams
Props Master
Paul Aitken
Props Buyer
Catherine Samuel
Prop Chargehand
Rhys Jones
Standby Props
Phill Shellard
Katherine Archer
Dressing Props
Martin Broadbent
Kristian Wilsher
Graphic Artist
Christina Tom
Draughtsman
Julia Jones
Design Assistant
Dan Martin
Petty Cash Buyer
Kate Wilson
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Rigger
Bryan Griffiths
Standby Painter
Helen Atherton
Store Person
Jayne Davies
Props Makers
Penny Howarth
Nicholas Robatto
Props Driver
Medard Mankos
Practical Electrician
Albert James
Construction Manager
Matthew Hywel-Davies
Construction Chargehand
Scott Fisher
Graphics
BBC Wales Graphics
Assistant Costume Designer
Caroline McCall
Costume Supervisor
Bobbie Peach
Costume Assistants
Jason Gill
Yasemin Kascioglu
Emma Jones
Make-Up Supervisor
Pam Mullins
Make-Up Artists
Vivienne Simpson
Allison Sing
Choreographer
Ailsa Berk
VFX Producer
Beewan Athwal
Casting Associate
Alice Purser
Assistant Editor
Becky Trotman
VFX Editor
Cat Gregory
Post Production Supervisor
Nerys Davies
Post Production Coordinator
Marie Brown
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
Dialogue Editors
Matthew Cox
Darran Clement
ADR Editor
Matthew Cox
Sound Effects Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Jamie Talbutt
Online Editor
Jeremy Lott
Colourist
Mick Vincent
Online Conform
Mark Bright
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Production Accountant
Dyfed Thomas
Sound Recordist
Bryn Thomas
Costume Designer
Barbara Kidd
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Music
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Special Effects
Real SFX
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
Tim Porter
Production Designer
Michael Pickwoad
Director Of Photography
Stephan Pehrsson
Associate Producer
Denise Paul
Line Producer
Diana Barton
Executive Producers
Steven Moffat
Piers Wenger
Beth Willis


Working Titles
Episode 1
The Year Of The Moon
Episode 2
Look Behind You


Media
DVD Release
Doctor Who: Series 6 Part 1 (double disc; 2011)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series (2011; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Blu-ray Release
Doctor Who: Series 6 Part 1 (double disc; 2011)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series (2011; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA

Updated 11th July 2014