At the end of "The wedding of River song", Dorium says that at the end, a question will be asked, and it must not be answered. Silence must fall. He then says, "Doctor Who??", hinting that the question will be the Doctor's name.

In the episode "The name of the Doctor", the Doctor goes

to his grave, and is asked to speak his name, so the inner part of the Tardis can open, and his time body (dead) be seen, and used by Dr Simeon to kill him throughout history.

But the Silence wanted to kill the Doctor anyway, so why would they want to stop the question being asked?

  • 1
    Related: Why is the Silence Falling a bad thing?
    – Izkata
    May 18, 2013 at 20:36
  • 1
    What gets me is why did River Song open the Tomb? If the Doctor knew what Simeon was going to do through the Doctor's timeline, meaning destroying all the Doctor ever did and all the people and planets he saved for the sake of 4 of his friends, why not let them die for the same of billions of lives? This makes no sense to me.
    – user16755
    Aug 18, 2013 at 2:27

9 Answers 9


As Dorium explains to The Doctor, The Silence did not want to kill the Doctor, they just did not want him to remain alive. That explanation was brushed off by The Doctor at the time, but it actually makes perfect sense now.

The Silence did not necessarily want to murder The Doctor personally. (They are not like his other enemies, e.g. Dalek, Cybermen, Sontarans, who want to kill him off as soon as possible) Rather, they wanted to stop the specific events of their prophecy, which he was directly responsible for, from happening. They believed that the only way to accomplish this goal was to kill him at some point before those events could occur. We can also speculate that The Silence don't want to erase the things The Doctor has already done. Since they can time travel, they could have selected any number of "still points" during The Doctor's life to kill him; they presumably picked Lake Silencio because it was far enough along to safely cut off his time stream.

According to Dorium, the entire prophecy was something like (from The Wedding of River Song):

"On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a Question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered. [...] The First Question, the oldest question in the Universe, that must never be answered, hidden in plain sight. [...] Doctor Who?

And that the Silence "must fall" if the question were answered.

Based on the events of "Name of the Doctor":

The Silence want to prevent The Doctor from going to Trenzalore and speaking his own name to open his grave for the Great Intelligence. Again, we can speculate that the Silence are actually trying to prevent the Great Intelligence from undoing the things The Doctor has already done.

It's not entirely clear if the Silence succeeded in avoiding whatever fate they had in store. We saw no hint of them in the episode, so its possible that whatever bad thing was supposed to happen to them will still happen. But it's also possible that they managed to achieve their goal anyway -- note that they way events played out in the episode relied very heavily on

River Song knowing everything about The Doctor and being a major part of his life, as well as being able to control the TARDIS

which arguably was the result of The Silence's meddling.

(As a side note, I still don't quite get the "cannot lie or fail to answer" bit in the prophecy, unless it was just a bit of poetic license.)

  • +1 for, "The Silence did not want to kill the Doctor." I also don't understand the "cannot lie or fail to answer" part, or the "fall of the 11th." Neither of them were brought up. :(
    – Sheph
    May 19, 2013 at 17:37
  • (SPOILERS) Well, the Doctor did fail to answer the Question, and furthermore, it was answered by a non-living creature, so it's safe to say that part is not valid anymore. May 19, 2013 at 18:40
  • @Sheph The "Fall of the 11th" part also confuses me; based on past events we have to assume that there will be at least 2 more incarnations before he "falls" for good so I don't know how Trenzalore can be his "fall"; unless they are referring to the events that almost occurred in that episode?
    – KutuluMike
    May 19, 2013 at 23:07
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    The part where "when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer" may refer to the great intelligence's threat to kill all the companions if the doctor fails to open his grave. Also "fall of the eleventh" most likely refers to eleventh's regeneration.
    – VedVals
    Jun 16, 2013 at 11:46

The Silence wanted to prevent the Great Intelligence from turning the Doctor's victories into defeats by killing the Doctor before he could get to Trenzalore. The Silence's goals are explained by two key pieces of dialogue in "The Wedding of River Song":

  • Churchill: But what was the question? Why did it mean your death?
  • Doctor: Suppose there was a man who knew a secret. A terrible, dangerous secret that must never be told. How would you erase that secret from the world? Destroy it forever, before it can be spoken.
  • Churchill: If I had to, I'd destroy the man.
  • Doctor: And silence would fall. All the times I've heard those words, I never realised it was my silence, my death. The Doctor will fall.

As explained here, "silence" refers to the Doctor's silence, which, if the Silence had succeeded in killing him prematurely, would fall when the Question was asked on Trenzalore because there would be nobody there to answer it.


  • Doctor: Silence will fall when the question is asked.
  • Dorium: Silence must fall would be a better translation. The Silence are determined the question will never be answered. That the Doctor will never reach Trenzalore.

Here, we see that the Silence will stop at no costs to ensure that the Doctor does not make it to Trenzalore (so that he can't say his name and give the Great Intelligence access to his timeline). They believe that silence absolutely must fall when the Question is asked; that the Doctor must be dead and unable to answer. So basically, the Silence believes that killing the Doctor is a much better alternative to what will happen if he goes to Trenzalore and answers the Question (since doing so will result in the Great Intelligence gaining access to his timeline and being able to undo all the good he's ever done).

It should be noted, however, that the Silence most likely do not know what exactly will happen when the Question is answered on Trenzalore and are merely heeding the warning given by the prophecy, which simply says that the Question must never be answered. If they knew the exact details, then they could have just as easily warned the Doctor about what to look out for as opposed to going to such great lengths to kill him and ensure his silence.

  • Nice thoughts, Amy.
    – Sheph
    May 20, 2013 at 3:02
  • I think this is a very good line of reasoning -- also, consider that Clara may not have been with the Doctor in some previous version of events before the Silence started interfering with the Doctor's timeline. The big unanswered question at this point, though, is if the prophecy still refers to THIS time the Doctor reaches Trenzalore, or the previous time he was there, when there was obviously a large battle. At this point there is no solid evidence I'm aware of that the prophecy might not actually refer to his earlier visit.
    – PeterL
    Jul 26, 2013 at 15:18

The Silence didn't care about the Doctor visiting his tomb. The prophecy is about the battle that resulted in the graveyard we see in The Name of the Doctor. During that battle, Silence fell. The main reason I think this is the case, is because:

when no living creature may speak falsely or fail to give answer

wasn't really part of the events of that episode. The Doctor clearly failed to give an answer, River was the one who provided the answer.

We see the events of the prophesy play out in the recent Christmas Special episode, The Time of the Doctor. In it, The Doctor and Clara go to a world revealed to be Trenzalore. The crack from Series 5 is in a building on the planet, in a small town. It is emanating a 'truth field', which prevents people from 'speaking falsely' (see above prophecy). A signal is coming from the crack, which contains an encrypted message asking a question over and over:

Doctor Who?

They come to the planet, and find many ships from various races. Each race sent one ship to investigate the signal, which is being transmitted throughout time and space. The Church got there first. To protect the planet, they setup a shield to prevent anyone from going to the planet or attacking it. When the Doctor arrived, The Church sent him down to investigate.

The signal is coming from Gallifrey, outside the universe after the events of Day of the Doctor. If the Doctor speaks his name they'll return, but in so doing, will restart the Time War. Upon learning this, The Church dedicates themselves to Silence, the silence of the Doctor, as they do not want the Time War to return. As The Church's leader proclaims:

Silence must fall.

A repeating theme of the 11th Doctor's run, and something related to the prophecy, "Silence will fall when the Question is asked" (Let's Kill Hitler).

So The Church helps maintain a truce, they help the Doctor prevent any of the races from invading the planet, and he does not answer the question. Then time passes as they maintain the truce. Centuries pass, the Doctor grows old.

At the end of the episode, the Daleks break the truce and invade the planet. Clara argues into the crack that the Time Lords don't need to hear the Doctor's true name, they just need to help him. They do so by providing him with a new set of regenerations. The 11th Doctor dies of old age, blasting the Daleks with his regeneration energy, saving the planet as his regeneration begins.

And so the Eleventh falls. This fulfills the prophecy, and explains, "what Silence?" It's the Doctor's silence; his refusal to answer the question. This gets copied into Church faith, which ends up being the source of the past events where the Silence try to kill the Doctor.

The Silence are a faction of The Church who took the new Silence dogma and went back along the Doctor's personal timeline. They attacked him earlier (i.e. by creating River Song, by blowing up the TARDIS) to kill him, preventing him from reaching Trenzalore. Essentially they sought to ensure that 'Silence would fall' by preventing the Doctor from being present.

Largely copied from my answer over on Movies & TV.SE


It is still possible that the events in that prophecy are going to be coming in the 50th, and are related to why the John Hurt doctor isn't the Doctor, and so the events of the Name of the Doctor are irrelevant to the Silence's plan. I say that because the prophecy also says when no one can fail to answer or speak falsely, and it was pretty evident that the Doctor failed to answer the Great Intelligence.


To answer the question of why the Silence didn't want the Doctor to go to Trenzalore and answer the question, we must first figure out what "Silence" is referring to in the prophecy. It could be either of the following, which contain spoilers from The Name of the Doctor:

Silence could mean that nobody present at the event hear the Doctor's name spoken aloud. - In this case, the Silence succeeded, but only by luck, or arguably another manipulation of River Song. This would mean that the Silence don't care about the events that transpire within the tomb itself and we will probably see them in season 8.


Silence could mean that the name never be spoken and that the tomb never open. - In this case, the Silence fail in their attempt, but we don't know their reason for wanting the tomb to stay closed. We also don't know if the end result was good or bad for them. We might find out in season 8 if the writers didn't forget about the Silence.

The primary goal of the Silence was to use Time Lord DNA as a means to gain power, which would be impossible if the Doctor is destroyed throughout history and the Time Lords still existed. They don't want to kill the Doctor, but they will try to do so if it is within their best interests. They also only try to kill him in his eleventh or further incarnation, meaning he needs to have existed up until a certain point for them to acquire their weapon.


Well we know the Doctor some time in the future will actually die on Trenzalore. So it's possible the prophecy could be pertaining to the last time he goes there.

We know the 11th Doctor will die soon so maybe he goes back there in the Christmas Special or 50th Anniversary and then more will be explained. That will fit in more with the prophecy that "at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered. Wikipedia says that "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."

I think it could be building to his death or something really big because ever since season 5 the silence have played a part. They interfered with the TARDIS in the Pandorica season finale. They tried to kill the Doctor again in the next season with River. But in the 7th season they didn't appear even though they are still alive but the Doctor still ended up going to Trenzalore so its somewhat connected. Maybe Moffat wants to actually end the Doctor for real on Trenzalore.

  • “They interfered with the TARDIS in the Pandorica season finale.” Did they? I don’t remember any reference in the show to The Silence doing that. Dec 21, 2013 at 23:28

It is improbable that the silence wanted to prevent the events in the Name of the Doctor, or even that they were aware of the events.

The utterance of the words and question "Dr. Who?" by the Great Intelligence is not enough to conclude that this is the situation referred to in the prophecy. The prophecy refers to other circumstances that also have to exist for the utterance of those words to be the true manifestation of the events set out in the prophecy.

References to "the fall of the eleventh" and "fields of Trenzalore" although they may admit many reasonable interpretations still imply the existence of a war (not its aftermath). The events of the Time of the Doctor which deals with a long war on Trenzalore seems to fit much better with the details of the prophecy. Also, the Doctor does resist answering the G.I's question and despite extreme duress doesn't answer it. That behaviour does not agree with what is described in the prophecy. The prophecy says the question will be asked at a moment "when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer".

So, it is reasonable to conclude that the prophecy does not refer to the Doctor's encounter with the G.I. at Trenzalore and that it is not meant to prevent those specific events.

  • Thus is now answered, or partly so. Responding to a question from Doctor Who Magazine (Issue 468, pp. 15-16) Moffat says,"people thought that was us [asking the question] in The Name of the Doctor...I didn't intend that...That wasn't the occasion when the question was asked...now, finally [the Doctor], is going to arrive at the battle [on the fields of Trenzalore]". So, Moffat says explicitly that the encounter between the G.I. and the Doctor is not the occasion referred to in the prophecy. So having withheld the answer to the question for this long does anyone suppose it won't be explosive?
    – ChrisG
    Dec 23, 2013 at 7:20

I think yous arent really looking at the prophecy that well or what Dorium said to be in fact. "On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a Question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered." On the name of the doctor someone did actually answer the question, River and that River was actually the saved one from the Libary meaning she was actually dead then and was only a saved piece of data the Tenth Doctor had done to keep her. So basically no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer meaning something that isnt alive no more will have to speak the true answer which the only dead thing their amongst all the graves i mean that could actually speak was River! hope i helped


One thing no one seems to have mentioned is that the 11th Doctor did "fall" at Trenzalore. Remember, the TARDIS parked in orbit and refused to land on the planet, and so the Doctor disabled the anti-gravity and let the TARDIS fall to the planet. I believe that this is the "fall of the 11th" from the prophecy.

  • Ben, this is more of a comment. Do you want to add it as a comment? Aug 28, 2013 at 8:29

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