Closing The Silence
Guest contributor Gustaff examines the long and complicated Silence arc.
The “Silence Will Fall” arc has been running since 2010 (2008 if you count River Song), almost four years ago and has turned into one, if not the most complicated Doctor Who storyline in its entire history. Many fans still don’t fully understand some of the complicated plot threads running through the arc and still procrastinate about trivial things such as “why was the TARDIS blown up” or “why put someone in a spacesuit”. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones as I am able to follow the plot and fit all the pieces together, incorporating new ideas as the series progresses. What makes the “Silence Will Fall” arc so challenging to comprehend is because the events do not occur in a linear order, so for the purpose of this article. I will attempt just that in order to help explain it.
The End Is Just The Beginning
The first affair that shocked this arc to life occurs in 1893 in Series 7 with the Eleventh Doctor foiling the Great Intelligence’s plans. Their insatiable bloodlust came about after multiple defeats later on, on-screen and off, spurring them to want to take revenge. According to the GI, they learned of a forbidden place called Trenzalore that housed the Doctor’s grave and his personal Time Scar which they wanted to use in order to rewrite every good and happy moment in the Doctor’s life, perverting it and all of history in the process, but in order to open the door to the tomb, they needed to know the Doctor’s name, knowledge only accessible to a handful of people.
Opposing them and more than three thousand years into the future, the Silence, a group of individuals who considered themselves the Sentinels of History, somehow learned of the GI’s plan and allied themselves with Madame Kovarian, the Church and the Order of the Headless. While the Silence’s agenda was to keep the Doctor from answering the Question, a prophecy linked to Trenzalore that foretold of the day that the Doctor eventually spoke his real name; Kovarian’s agenda seemed to take on a much more personal route. The reason for this is still unclear, but from her dialogue, she and her followers were somehow engaged in a struggle against the Doctor at some point in the future…or the past as time is relative. The Silence used their powers on the Church and made the Doctor their enemy, before initiating their first strategy to keep the Doctor from Trenzalore.
Cracks in Time
The only way to make sense of the Silence’s non-linear appearances in multiple time zones and knowledge of certain events is that they must possess some sort of time travel technology.
Their first mission involved killing the Doctor on 26th June 2010. The Silence took control of the TARDIS and forced it to blow up. How they were able to do that is of little concern really, but if you must have a possible explanation, then I refer you to the Silence’s incredible stealth capabilities. Whatever the case may be, they were unaware that River Song was actually piloting the craft at the time. It is also unclear if they were aware that the backlash from the explosion would collapse all reality; wiping themselves out as well, but that doesn’t really pose a problem here. Whether the Silence planned for it or not, the Alliance, a large assortment of the Doctor’s foes, some wielding time travel technology and able to see his TARDIS exploding on 26 June 2010, orchestrated a trap in 102 AD in the form of the Pandorica, a prison that would’ve kept the Doctor encaged forever. The Doctor, River Song, Amy and Rory, managed to reset the universe, thereby restoring everyone, including the Silence.
Remember when I said there wasn’t a problem, well here is the explanation: The Silence’s stratagem would’ve succeeded regardless of what happened in The Pandorica Opens. If the Doctor was supposed to be imprisoned forever, then they’d win and if they planned to blow up the entire universe, then they would’ve come out victorious as well because they’d be counting on the Doctor to erase himself from history (which he did) and reset reality, and themselves in the process. Whichever route taken, they would’ve accomplished their goal. What they didn’t count on was Amy bringing the Doctor back to life again. The above might also form part of a predestination paradox because if the Silence’s plan had succeeded, then they would’ve broken a fixed point in history which would’ve killed everything, including themselves – permanently this time! Although, it does raise the question of how can a fixed point involving the Doctor can exist if the Doctor never existed?
The Impossible Astronaut
Regardless, afterwards, the Silence, the Church and the Order of the Headless, in the 52nd century, at some point learned the date of the Doctor’s fixed death. By this time, it had become general knowledge that his death occurred on the 22nd of April, 2011 at 5:02PM. The Silence also knew River Song was the one who killed the Doctor because that too was common knowledge in the 52nd century. Using their resources, they kidnapped Amy Pond while she was pregnant with Song, which spurred the fury of the Doctor who attacked them at Demon’s Run. The Silence had already setup a counter strategy that involved the Doctor thinking he’d defeated them until they were safely away. They travelled to earth sometime in the 1960s and raised Song and supplied her with a spacesuit because history recorded the Doctor’s assassin as wearing one, but she escaped and was able to involve the Doctor and his friends.
Although the Doctor and company managed to destroy the group of Silence in 1969, Song’s conditioning was already complete. In the autumn of 2011, River Song managed to hop a ride aboard the Doctor’s TARDIS to Berlin in 1939 and kill the Doctor. It is important to note that this attack was not facilitated by the Silence as they were fully aware of where and when the Doctor was supposed to die. Luckily for them however, the Doctor managed to survive this confrontation, but the Silence lost their most valuable weapon when the Doctor managed to win River over to his side.
The Fateful Day
The Doctor and company left River somewhere in the 52nd century to recover. Afterwards, she joined the Luna University to become an archeologist. Unfortunately, the Silence were able to track her down and finally put her in the spacesuit in the lake right before the Doctor and his friends showed up. They even left one of their agents behind to make sure the assassination went through this time and properly ‘fix’ that event in time and space. The agent I’m referring to is the lone Silence Amy spotted early on. Unfortunately for the Silence though, the Doctor had managed to outsmart them yet again as he’d come to learn all he needed to about his death and fake it.
The Great Intelligence must’ve become aware that the Doctor wasn’t actually dead and instigated their plan by capturing Vastra, Jenny and Strax. This author is unsure if the GI possesses the ability to time travel, so there are several routes that lead to Trenzalore. Whichever route you want to take, you have to make a detour in 2013. Afterwards, either the GI took the slow path and waited until Trenzalore or they too came across time travel technology and skipped to the end and waited for the Doctor to show up. They were finally defeated and scattered along the Doctor’s timeline. As the GI usually behaves much like a computer, it isn’t that farfetched to assume that they made a back-up of themselves before they attacked the Doctor’s timeline.
As you can see, some of the events are looped and locked into predestination paradoxes, while others follow the bootstrap paradox. If you’re wondering why nothing bad happened when the Doctor’s name was spoken, take a look at the episode again. Every part of history touched by the Doctor’s timeline was assaulted. That counts I think. What about the prophecy? Well, it’s just a prophecy; no more true than the world ending in 2012.
A common bootstrap paradox surrounds why River Song was put inside an astronaut costume. It seems to be the one thing people can’t wrap their heads around. According to recorded history, which the Silence read since Kovarian, the Order of the Headless and presumably the surviving Silence, live more than 3000 years after the fact, the Doctor was killed by someone wearing an astronaut suit. The whole event forms part of a bootstrap paradox as the Silence only chose the suit because of what their Intel alleged, yet the only reason recorded history mentions the suit is because the Silence put River Song inside it. In layman’s terms, the idea of why River was put inside the suit has no point of origin. It just happened.
Paradoxes assist both the Doctor and the Silence as the Doctor is able to escape the Pandorica by means of a bootstrap paradox and the only reason the Silence ever learns about the death of the Doctor is because they instigated it, yet the only reason it was instigated is because they read about it or presumably, since at least two Silence agents survived in the 52nd century, the information was passed on to them by themselves. If you still don’t get it, then you’re not meant to.
A few of the paradoxes that occur during this arc are:
- Basically anything even remotely related to River Song qualifies.
- The Doctor’s escape from the Pandorica.
- Amelia’s thirst in The Big Bang when the Doctor steals past-Amelia’s drink because future-Amelia is thirsty, yet the only reason future-Amelia is thirsty is because the Doctor stole past-Amelia’s drink.
- The plot of The Big Bang in general.
- The fairy tale surrounding the Pandorica.
- The Alliance was formed because of the TARDIS exploding, yet the TARDIS only exploded because the Alliance separated the Doctor from his TARDIS. It doubles as irony.
- The Doctor’s name is a paradox. He already understood the meaning when he chose it, but due to adventuring in history in his future, we learn that the universe coined the term by watching him in action.
- River Song got the idea of sending the Doctor messages by watching her parents do it in Let’s Kill Hitler, yet the only reason they thought to do it is because they already watched River do it first.
- The only reason Clara saved the Doctor on Trenzalore is because he met her multiple times over, yet the only reason he met her was because she saved him on Trenzalore.
I hope the arc makes sense now. If it doesn’t, then don’t worry. It will someday. Maybe you need to read the article again or go open your freezer for some fridge logic.