I have just finished Season 6 of Doctor Who, in which he tricked death (again) by (spoilers)

using a Teselecta which is looking like him.

As far as I understand, a Teselecta is a robot - so how did touching River Song as the robot fix the time which was falling apart? It is the death of the doctor which is a fixed point in time, so he would have to be the one touching River, not a machine looking like him.

Was this somehow explained in-universe or is it a deus ex machina way out for the writers?

  • 5
    Very well, thank you! Jan 29, 2017 at 8:34
  • Related, possible duplicate: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/66296/… Jan 29, 2017 at 8:39
  • Related indeed, but I do not feel like this is a duplicate. That question asks why he uses a Teselecta, I am asking why using the Teselecta actually works.
    – Marv
    Jan 29, 2017 at 9:02
  • 2
    The last paragraphs of Jason Baker's answer make it clear - it was never the Doctor that touched River or was killed, it was always Teselecta. Or it's just wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey. Probably both. Jan 29, 2017 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


When dealing with a fixed point in time, it's what is witnessed that is important.

The events of Lake Silencio were the fixed point, who was there, what they saw, and what the end result was. The Death of the Doctor is not the fixed point in time. Everyone witnessing the Death of the Doctor and believing he was dead was.

So when River Song refuses to shoot, it doesn't matter that it's not the Doctor in front of her, nor does it matter that it's not the Doctor she's touching later. As far as anyone knows, it's the Doctor, and it's her target regardless, and that's enough to fulfill the conditions.

The trope is common enough when dealing with time travel, in plots where paradoxes are possible. This is in fact the same strategy that he uses later...

... during The Day of the Doctor, when re-entering the events of the end of the Time War, where Gallifrey and the Daleks were supposed to have all been destroyed and does actually appear that way, and what actually happens is quite different

In fact, as pointed out in the comment linking the similar question, the currently top-voted and accepted answer mentions proof that the Doctor never could have been dying when we saw him at Lake Silencio...

... because The Time of the Doctor shows that his regenerations are actually completely exhausted, as both the War Doctor and Ten's Hybrid counted as full regenerations that weren't acknowledged as such. Eleven never could have started regenerating at all, so it was always an illusion in play (even if the writers couldn't have known that at the time, it fits quite nicely in retrospect).


1) The paradox of the crazy-time world was not cause by the death of The Doctor, but River Song's attempt to PREVENT the death. Small problem: The Silence have created a Fixed Point in time, a point that must occur, or like removing a pillar from a bridge, the whole structure will collapse. So by changing it, she's killed time, instead of The Doctor. River considers that a fair trade, but The Doctor doesn't, and must find a way back to the point and let it occur as it should.

2)The Doctor and River were interacting, even if The Doctor was piloting a robot at the time. imagine using a stylus on a tablet - the stylus conducts your body's electric field, allowing you to use the screen's interface. The Teselecta likely had (either added by the Doctor or not) an interface that directly connected the pilot to the ship, allowing him to sense things being touched. That might explain how it "counted" as

If you want to explain how the Teselecta can grow a beard, or be shaved, or just plain work so much better than it did before, not to mention how it survived being thrown into the new timeline at all, well… that might take a bit longer.

  • The Teselecta is usually controlled by multiple Pilots, so I do not think that it is connected to any person directly. Another argument against that might be that during critical phases, the Pilots inside the Teselecta are sharing status reports, which they seem to read off of screens. The accepted answer noted it pretty well, that the fixed point in time was never about the doctor himself dying, but everyone thinking that he died. This would not require to touch the doctor, therefore touching the Teselecta which was the core of this fixpoint worked out.
    – Marv
    Feb 22, 2017 at 17:33

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