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The Silence
[[File:The Silent|250px]]
Silent from the episode "The Impossible Astronaut"
Silence (Doctor Who)
First appearance "The Impossible Astronaut"

The Silence is a fictional religious order or movement in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. A specific group within this order is played primarily by Marnix Van Den Broeke with a race of aliens who resemble the central figure in Edvard Munch's The Scream.

Executive producer Steven Moffat created the Silence, intending them to be "scarier" than past villains in Doctor Who. Though the phrase "Silence will fall" recurred throughout the 2010 series of Doctor Who, the Silence was not seen until the 2011 series' opener "The Impossible Astronaut" with their name being revealed in the following episode, "Day of the Moon".

In creating the Silence shown in "The Impossible Astronaut", Moffat drew inspiration from Edvard Munch's famous 1893 expressionist painting The Scream as well as the Men in Black, figures from popular urban mythology. The Silence continues Moffat's trend of using simple psychological conceits to make his monsters more frightening. In this case of the Silence, their existence is a secret because anyone who sees them immediately forgets about them after looking away, but retains suggestions made to them by the Silence. This allows the species to have a pervasive influence across human history while being difficult to locate or resist.

Creation

Producer Steven Moffat created the Silence,[1] suggesting their level of scariness would compete with other Doctor Who adversaries from previous episodes.[2] Actor Matt Smith, who portrays the Eleventh Doctor, called these aliens "the scariest monsters in the Show's history".[3] And Karen Gillan, who portrays companion character Amy Pond, commented that the Silence could "actually rival the Weeping Angels in terms of scariness".[4]

The Silence shown in "The Impossible Astronaut" are depicted as tall humanoids with bulbous heads and mouthless, bony faces, partly inspired by Edvard Munch's The Scream.[5] Their eyes are sunken within their sockets and the skin of their cheeks stretches to the point of their narrow chins. Their large, shriveled hands resemble a human hand except where the ring and middle fingers would be is a large flipper-like finger. They speak in low, guttural voices though they have no apparent mouths. Aliens affiliated with The Silence seen to date in the series have been dressed in black business suits with an unusual texture. According to Steven Moffat, their resemblance to Munch's The Scream is not coincidental: although humans are not consciously aware of their existence, a "subconscious awareness" of the Silence manifests in such works.[6] They are also partly inspired by mythological figures known as "men in black" that became popular amongst UFO conspiracy theorists during the 1950s and 60s.[7]

Reviewers have noted that, in creating the Silence seen in "The Impossible Astronaut", Moffat again uses a psychological "gimmick".[8][9] The Silence are only perceived while being viewed; they are instantly forgotten once a viewer looks away.[10] To keep track of their encounters with the Silence, Doctor Who's characters mark tallies on their bodies or use audio-recorder devices embedded in their hands to let them know if they have seen the Silence. These Silence also use an energy discharge from their hands to displace someone, leaving behind only debris. While absorbing and discharging this energy, a depression appears where one would expect a mouth to be. The Doctor believed they had humanity go to the moon simply to create a spacesuit for their ends.

Appearances

The unexplained ominous phrase "Silence will fall" recurs throughout the fifth series of Doctor Who, in 2010. The plot thread is left open in the series finale, "The Big Bang", where the force responsible for the TARDIS' destruction is left unidentified. The Silence are then introduced—as a species rather than an event—in the two-part premiere for the show's sixth series. Later in the series, the Silence is revealed to be a religious movement composed of the species of the same name. The religion takes its name from the prophecy, that when the oldest question in the universe is answered, silence will (or must) fall. As the Doctor is predestined to answer the question, the Silence made it their goal to make his death a fixed point in time and prevent this.

The species called the Silence is formally introduced in the "The Impossible Astronaut" / "Day of the Moon" two-parter; one Silent observes the death of a future Doctor (Matt Smith) in Utah. Soon after, and unaware that companions River Song (Alex Kingston), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) met his future self and witnessed his death, the Doctor takes them to 1969, where they confront the Silence as they manipulate the US government. By recording a Silent saying, "you should kill us all on sight," on a videophone—which the Doctor broadcasts during the Apollo 11 moonlanding—Earth's populace is conditioned to kill all Silence, though they will not remember doing so. In the process, the Doctor's group meets a mysterious girl in the same astronaut suit as the assailant who kills his future self. Later in the series, this girl is revealed to be Amy and Rory's daughter, Melody Pond, who is also a young River Song. She is kidnapped as a baby, in "A Good Man Goes to War", by Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) in order to become a weapon against the Doctor—her Time Lord-like genetic traits make her an ideal candidate to kill the Doctor. "Let's Kill Hitler" establishes that the apparent "religious order" of the Silence, and its Academy of the Question, has brainwashed her to such an end, though River goes against her programming and saves the Doctor's life. After biding their time until the conditions were right, Kovarian and the Silence kidnap River in "Closing Time", and force her to enact her role in the Doctor's death at Lake Silencio as seen in "The Impossible Astronaut". In "The Wedding of River Song", many Silence appear in a parallel universe caused by River not shooting the Doctor. The eyepatches worn by Madame Kovarian and others are revealed to be "Eye Drives"—external memory units—permitting associates of the Silence to perceive and remember the species. The Silence reveal, however, that they have the power to remotely kill the devices' wearers—as such, they betray Kovarian by killing her. The Doctor also learns why they wanted to kill him — to prevent a predestined event where he will be forced to answer the oldest question in the Universe (which turns out to be the show's name itself, "Doctor Who?"), a terrible secret he knows, after which "Silence will [or, rather, must] fall". Though the Doctor's death is thought to be a "fixed point" of history, it later transpires that only faking his death had been, and River goes to prison for murder so that the Silence will believe him dead.

The Silence's origins are revealed in "The Time of the Doctor" (2013). They are genetically modified priests belonging to the Church of the Papal Mainframe; their original purpose was so that penitents could forget their confessions immediately after giving them (the ecclesiastical purpose of their electricity and post-hypnotic suggestions powers are not explained). During the hundreds of years of stalemate above the planet Trenzalore, where the Doctor refused to give his name lest he unleash the full horrors of the Time War on the universe, the "Kovarian Chapter" of the Church, apparently led by Silents, split off from the Papal Mainframe, now known as the Church of the Silence, and attempted to destroy the Doctor earlier in his timeline, as depicted in the events of series 5 and 6. The actions of this splinter group ultimately lead to the appearance of the Cracks in the Universe that called the Church to Trenzalore in the first place. When the stalemate ends and Trenzalore is plunged into battle, the Silents still loyal to the Papal Mainframe fight alongside the Doctor to protect Trenzalore's inhabitants from the Daleks who want him and the Time Lords dead.

Analysis

The narrative device introduced by the Silence—that they are forgotten as soon as one looks away—provides Moffat with further narrative potential for retroactive continuity. MaryAnn Johanson comments on the scene in which Amy, in the space of a few seconds to the viewer, acquires dozens of tallies indicating instances of spotting Silents: "That could be happening throughout this story... indeed, through the entire history of Doctor Who. Moffat has just created a pretty much unassailable narratively sound reason for inserting retcons anywhere throughout the half-century history of the show."[11]

Reception

The Guardian's Dan Martin responded favourably to the Silence. Though he described them as "a standard Moffat psychological trick", he commended it as the "most refined to date" and praised an introductory scene that was reminiscent of the unsettling directorial work of David Lynch.[8] Alan Sepinwall (HitFix.com) wrote that though the Silence's central gimmick felt similar to previous ones, Moffat "continues to use those same tricks in such clever combinations, and with such technical flair, that I'm not tired of most of them yet."[9]

The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps wrote favourably of Moffat's handling of the species in "Day of the Moon". In particular, the introduction of a hand audio-recorder conceit as particularly clever, as it allowed for developments in Rory's paranoia concerning Amy's feelings for the Doctor, although Phipps reflected that he was confused by the montage that connected the Silence to other mentions of "silence" in previous episodes.[12]

Following concerns being raised about whether the Silence had made Doctor Who too scary for children,[13] Moffat responded by saying, "I emphatically think that's not the case," adding, "children like to be scared—like on a ghost train or a rollercoaster." [14]

Some reviewers noted favourable comparisons with monsters from American fantasy series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "the Gentlemen" from its critically acclaimed fourth series episode "Hush" (1999). Mike Moody for AOL TV wrote of the Silence, "They're pretty damn scary, and they remind me of The Gentleman from Buffy. (Anything that recalls Buffy is a plus for me.)"[15] A Television Without Pity reviewer described the Silence as monsters which "look essentially identical to the Gentlemen from Buffy.[16]

References

  1. Fuller, Gavin (23 April 2011). "Doctor Who, episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut, review". Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8465668/Doctor-Who-episode-1-The-Impossible-Astronaut-review.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  2. "Is Doctor Who's Karen Gillan going to be killed off by show's new scary aliens?". Daily Mail. 11 April 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1375696/Is-Doctor-Whos-Karen-Gillan-going-killed-shows-new-scary-aliens.html. Retrieved 2011-04-22. 
  3. "New Doctor Who series 'darkest ever' says Steven Moffatt". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). 6 April 2011. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/tv/new-doctor-who-series-darkest-ever-says-steven-moffatt/story-e6frexlr-1226034849163. Retrieved 2011-04-22. 
  4. Morgan Jeffery (April 5, 2011). "'Doctor Who' star: 'The Silence are terrifying'". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.com/british-tv/s7/doctor-who/news/a312870/doctor-who-star-the-silence-are-terrifying.html#article_continue. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  5. "Doctor Who opener watched by 6.5m". BBC News. 24 April 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13180650. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  6. Oglethorpe, Tom (15 April 2011). "He's a real scream! Get ready to dive behind the sofa as Doctor Who's new enemy makes the Daleks look like Dusty Bin". Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1377089/Doctor-Whos-new-enemy-The-Silence-makes-Daleks-look-like-Dusty-Bin.html?ito=feeds-newsxml. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  7. "The Silence". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/characters/The_Silence. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Martin, Dan (23 April 2011). "Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut - Series 32, episode 1". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/apr/23/doctor-who-the-impossible-astronaut. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sepinwall, Alan (1 May 2011). "Review: 'Doctor Who' - 'Day of the Moon': One small step". http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/doctor-who-day-of-the-moon-one-small-step. 
  10. Sheldrick, Giles (11 April 2011). "Doctor Who: Who's Scariest Foe ... Aliens in Suits". Daily Express. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/239945/Doctor-Who-Who-s-scariest-foe-aliens-in-suits-. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  11. Johanson, MaryAnn (Mat 1, 2011). "‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Day of the Moon”". Flickfilosopher.com. http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2011/05/doctor_who_blogging_day_of_the.html. Retrieved May y, 2011. 
  12. Phipps, Keith (30 April 2011). ""Day of the Moon"". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/day-of-the-moon,55170/. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  13. Hann, Michael and May, Pete (May 4, 2011). "Is Doctor Who now too scary for children?". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/may/04/is-doctor-who-too-scary. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  14. Frost, Vicky (May 6, 2011). "Are Doctor Who's latest aliens The Silence just too terrifying for words?". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/may/06/doctor-who-aliens-the-silence. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  15. Moody, Mike (April 24, 2011). "'Doctor Who' Season 6, Episode 1 Recap". AOL TV. http://www.aoltv.com/2011/04/24/doctor-who-season-6-episode-1-recap/. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  16. Jacob (April 23, 2011). "Goodbye Sarah Jane". Television Without Pity. Bravo network. http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/doctor_who/the_impossible_astronaut_1.php. Retrieved 16 June, 2011. 

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