The Motivation of the Silents
Thoughts on The Wedding of River Song and More


Please note that spoilers and rampant speculation follow, okay?

Overall, I liked The Wedding of River Song. It had vigour and verve, it tied up what needed to be tied up, gave us breadcrumbs towards the mayhem to come, and generally left me satisfied and willing to wait until Christmas for my next Doctor Who fix. The episode had everything that has come to be standard in the series since its revival, seven years ago.

And it was nice to see Steven Moffat mix things up. Rather than a two-part season finale, he packed everything into one, and did so by dropping most of the set-up that, in previous seasons, would have built up to a predictable cliffhanger where (all together now), The FATE! … of the UNIVERSE! … is at STAKE!

Truth to tell, Moffat had me with the flying cars, but he didn’t bore me with too many explanations. And that, really, is both the great strength and weakness of this production. I’ve been entertained. The Doctor has managed to escape the temporal puzzle box of this season with his remaining regenerations intact. The River Song plot thread has been basically resolved. I can go home happy.

But what the heck do the Silents want?!

If I had to criticize anything about The Wedding of River Song or, indeed, the season arc in general, it’s the character of Madame Korvarian. I was greatly disappointed that she and the Doctor didn’t come to some sort of understanding in the finale, because at the time they both wanted the same thing.

Consider, the Doctor has given all appearances of wanting to die. He’s shown up at the time prearranged for him by Madame Korvarians’ forces to bring this event about. And when his plan goes awry, thanks to the love of a good woman, time gets scrunched up like a little ball of paper after a frustrated writer’s been through with it.

The Doctor very much does not want this to happen, and does almost everything in his power to reverse what River has done (going as far as to letting her in on the big secret ace he has in the hole. Which, if you think about it, severely reduces the effectiveness of the Doctor’s plan. Now River knows. Now Amy and Rory knows. Now Dorian knows. How’s it going to stay a secret?).

The Silents have largely been presented as a force that values order above all. The prophetic hints we’re given as to the events the Silents would like to see prevented talk about “the fall of the eleventh”, which I strongly suspect alludes to the eleventh Doctor’s regeneration to the twelfth. This strikes me as an event where the Doctor typically loses more than he wins. If the Silents don’t particularly care if the Doctor wins or loses, they clearly care about the damage to history the Doctor is likely to do. Other hints also suggest that the Silents care about history, and are getting increasingly incensed at the Doctor for rewriting it, and they want to remove this chaotic force before it does any more harm.

Well, having time scrunch itself up so that all of history happens at once seems like precisely the sort of chaotic event the Silents wish to avoid, and that puts them in line with the Doctor’s motivations at the time, surely? But Madame Korvarian isn’t able to break out from her one-dimensional character bubble. The woman would twirl her moustache if she didn’t have it waxed.

So, my disappointment is that, although the motivations of the Silents have been roughed in, Madame Korvarian’s character gets little chance to expand even to those motivational boundaries. Villains are far more interesting to me and offer far more dramatic kick if we could see some of the reasons they’re doing what they’re doing, and Madame Korvarian has none of that. She’s far too easy to hate.

But what if there is more to the Silents’ motivation than just nullifying a chaotic force disturbing the course of history? What if there are other hints to be found elsewhere? Like in Melody Pond, for instance.

Throughout her early life, Melody Pond has been raised by the Silents. They’ve had years to indoctrinate her with their view of the Doctor and the universe, such that when she meets the Doctor in Let’s Kill Hitler, almost her first impulse is to kill him on sight — practically as if she’s been programmed. But if you watch carefully, there may be clues to the Silents’ thinking as we see Melody grow up through Amy and Rory’s childhood. Like Amy, Melody shares her mother’s obsession with “the raggedy Doctor”, except that Melody’s obsession is far less kind.

“Why didn’t the Titanic sink? Because The Doctor didn’t save it.”

“A significant factor in Hitler’s rise to power was that The Doctor didn’t stop him.”

Melody lays blame for two of history’s biggest tragedies on the fact that the Doctor doesn’t intervene. And, it’s true, he doesn’t. These are real historical events, and changing these things would cause chaos to the timelines…

…except that the Doctor does interfere with history, all the time. People get saved who would otherwise have died. The Doctor has stopped Dalek and Cyber invasions, he’s put the Silurians back to sleep. At one point, the Doctor was even willing to save an entire Martian base that history had said was destroyed with all hands (see Waters of Mars).

So… why did he do that? And, more importantly, why did he do that, and not do something similar for the other historical tragedies? Never mind the Titanic and the rise of Hitler, what about Miracle Day? What about the Children of Earth? Note that Gwen wrestles with that same question at the end of Torchwood’s Children of Earth and concludes that sometimes humanity doesn’t deserve to be saved. But what if someone were less cynical and more angry?

Why does the Doctor get to pick and choose who lives and who dies? How can a being as powerful as he clearly is allow all of the tragedies of the universe to remain. Where was this precious Doctor when we really needed him?

The Silents hate the Doctor. They hated him even before he planted a post-hypnotic suggestion in the whole of the human race to turn around and murder any of the memory-proof aliens they met. And, up until that time, what had the Doctor done to the Silents directly?

There are a number of ways, other than killing someone, to prevent them from showing up to an event you know will end in disaster. You could misdirect them. You could lock them in a closet. Heck, you could walk right up to them, explain your concerns, and ask politely that they turn around and walk away. But the Silents don’t do that. Either because they don’t think such alternatives would work, or because they hate the Doctor’s guts.

And as both the Doctor and the Silents like a little bit of order in their history, why would the Silents hate the Doctor’s guts if they weren’t objecting to what they perceived as his random and uncoordinated acts of justice? Maybe the Silents just don’t want someone deciding on a whim who lives and who dies.

That might be motivation enough to try and kill him. What do you think?

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