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I just watched The Time of the Doctor and while the whole Silence wanting to kill the the Doctor thing now makes total sense, one thing doesn't add up. Dorium Maldovar said:

On the fields of Trenzalore at the fall of the 11th, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked

So how was the Doctor able to not answer the question? The prophecy said that it will be impossible to fail to answer a question, yet the Doctor spends more than 300 years on Trenzalore in the same place ignoring the Time Lords. So was Maldovar just trying to sound all poetic or did I miss something?

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4 Answers 4

IMO it really depends on how you interpret "fail to answer".

To me that phrase doesn't necessarily mean "to answer a question", especially in this context it could mean "can't ignore".

He stayed there, which essentially meant he didn't "fail to answer". He didn't answer the question, but he answered the call to go there.

To split the prophecy:

  • "On the fields of Trenzalore...": This is pretty obvious the location.
  • "...on the fall of the 11th...": Once again obvious as well.
  • "...when no creature can speak false...": This also has been explained as some kind of field, so you can't lie while being close.
  • "[when no creature can] fail to answer": Noone is able to ignore what's happening. The Doctor stays and doesn't go away, Clara doesn't stay away either.
  • "...a question will be asked.": This clearly refers to "Doctor Who" again.

One more note: The whole prophecy doesn't say he has to answer immediately when asked something (he just wants to on the street and screws up). Later on, in the fight vs. the wooden Cyberman he can't lie, but he ommits important information (that his screwdriver won't work on it). So you can skip parts of your answer, you just can't lie.

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It's worth noting that Clara did answer, just not with the Doctor's name. Instead she answered with a plea for help. –  Keen Dec 26 '13 at 18:20

Not really a proper answer, but the first characters the Doctor and Clara encounter say it's best not to talk until you get used to the truth field - implying with practice, it's possible to resist the temptation to just blurt everything out. Maybe he just got used to it very quickly.

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He can decide whether he wants to say something or not. But if he says something, it obviously will be the truth. So when he said he's an alien (or Clara said why she followed him) they both tried to say something, just not necessarily exactly that. He's still able to ommit stuff (maybe with some required practice; take the wooden Cyberman as an example). –  Mario Dec 25 '13 at 23:15

Didn't Clara know the Doctor's name in the episode "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS", (when she was in the library) granted time was rewritten (at the end of the episode) so she didn't remember reading the book, however, on Trenzalore, she was then later spread out through all time. Meaning the fact that she once knew it, she should have perhaps still know it and then have to say it.

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The doctor learned to lie in the truth field. He told Barnible he had a plan then told Clara he didn't. While sitting right next to the crack in space and time, which was supposedly where the truth field was strongest.

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Well, he did have a plan... it just wasn't a plan that would actually save the day. (Until circumstances changed, and he revised his plans.) –  Brian S Feb 11 at 20:02

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