In the 11th Doctor episode Time of the Doctor, a number of long running mysteries are resolved. But one didn't seem to be explained:

When he and Clara see Silents in the line up on the Church, he tells her that they are confessors, genetically engineered so that you forget telling them anything.

When did he learn this? He obviously didn't know it at the time of his battles with Madame Kovarian, and it would seem that any subsequent explanation would also have implied a revelation of the rest of the mysteries.

Edit Also, it just occurred to me: how does this explanation of their origin fit with the fact (shown on Day of the Moon) that they have been influencing human history for thousands of years?

  • Wondered that as well, but at the same time I thought it might have become obvious enough (the whole connection considering their location etc.). Did they actually change their "doctrine" before or after that scene? Would have to rewatch to be sure.
    – Mario
    Dec 25, 2013 at 23:16
  • Well, he allied them for several years, so I guess he's bound to learn a thing or two about the Silents.
    – Saturn
    Dec 26, 2013 at 9:53
  • But didn't that scene happen before staying on the planet?
    – Mario
    Dec 26, 2013 at 10:44
  • 3
    The silents shown in The day of the moon were from a separate branch dedicated to stopping the Doctor. They have little to do with the silent's normal work and profession.
    – Stark07
    Dec 26, 2013 at 11:19
  • 2
    @MichaelEdenfield BBC's website provided the name 'Silent' for a single one of that species, with 'Silence' being the plural.
    – user1027
    Dec 28, 2013 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


tl;dr: He most likely "figured it out" once he pieced together what had happened to turn the Church into the Church of the Silence. Prior to that, their behavior would have been decidedly non-priest-like, thus making it difficult for him to make the connection.

First of all, note that The Doctor, even now, still can't possibly know what the priests look like, or remember anything that he learned about them while looking at their images. So, his information about their genetically engineered purpose must have come from somewhere else. The most likely answer is the Church records themselves, which he could have gotten access at any time from Tasha Lem. We don't see much chance for him to do so on Trenazlore, though its possible he did some digging while onboard the ship but off-screen.

But, even if he did know about them before Trenazlore, it's likely he wouldn't have identified them as the same creatures he fought on Earth. The ones that were working with Madame Kovarian were definitely not behaving like confessor priests. They were messing with Earth's history and trying to kill The Doctor and his friends. Since he doesn't actually know what the priests look like, when he saw one in Earth he wouldn't recognize it. Its behavior doesn't sound anything like what you'd expect from a priest, and at that point in his timeline, he didn't know what "The Church of the Silence" actually was. Thus, there wasn't really much to connect the two creatures together.

Based on his actions in Time of the Doctor, it seems like he didn't make the final connection until he was on Trenazlore. If nothing else, once he heard Tasha Lem rename the Church into "The Church of the Silence", he would have figured out the rest. He still wouldn't recognize such a priest if he saw it, but when Clara asked about those weird creatures, walking around the Papal Mainframe, that she keeps forgetting about as soon as she looked away, The Doctor would recognize those as the signs of a priest being nearby.

The major flaw in this logic, of course, is that these creatures are the only one we've seen thus far with the memory-redacting effect on others. That seems unique enough to trigger some red flags in The Doctor's mind. However, note that The Doctor does say that people tend to forget everything about them after not seeing them for a while -- Canton Delaware forgets they even exist after a short time. Thus, even if The Doctor did make the mental connection to the ones on Earth, he would likely forget that connection very quickly. It was only when he made the connection through some other avenue, as above, that it finally stuck.


I believe since he was on Trenzalore for more than 300 years he would have had plenty of time to talk to the Papel Mainframe's Tasha Lem as well as his past experience with them. Also it was my understanding that you would forget The Silence only if you look at them and then look away. I don't believe The Doctor ever looked at them directly and was staring ahead when Clara looked at one and it said Confess, so if he heard the Silence say that he would recognize it and explain what they were originally for.

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