“Rollercoaster ride” is an unlucky cliché. Most clichés are lifeless, but “rollercoaster ride” has had its meaning so watered down by X Factor contestants and celebrities in jungles, that if your friend ever describes an experience as a “rollercoaster ride”, you don’t really get a sense of unpredictability and shock, but more an overwhelming naffness that wafts over you like a bad smell.
It’s unfortunate for journalists and bloggers trying to sum up the Eleventh Doctor’s time in the TARDIS, because not many expressions, phrases or idioms encapsulate the laughter, the sadness, the caprice and the plot twists that we’ve seen on Doctor Who since 2010. There have been ups, downs, and often no age restrictions for the Doctor, and whilst all incarnations of the character go on journeys through their tenures, Eleven has been on the most twisty-turney, timey-wimey journey of them all.
And if there’s one thing Doctor Who fans like to do, it’s criticise Steven Moffat for his twisty-turney, timey-wimey writing. Were the Silence good or bad in the end, Steven? Didn’t the Doctor close all the cracks? Is the River story over? And did the Doctor actually invent the Yorkshire pudding?
Well, let’s go back to the start and have a good look at everything that happened in the Matt Smith era, explained everything in a linear, hopefully easy-to-understand manner, from an objective point of view.
7. The Daleks
Before we start on the complicated arc stuff, let’s focus on probably the Eleventh Doctor’s biggest enemies, the Daleks.
Chronologically, they first appear in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ of course, as it’s clear to see that one ship escapes the Doctors’ attempts of freezing Gallifrey. Assuming that the RTD era followed suit unaffected by timeline changes, Eleven first met the Daleks in Churchill’s bunker, where they escaped his clutches, and travelled off to the stars. Hundreds of years passed – they even find a new nickname for the Doctor, in ‘The Predator’ – and the Daleks rebuild. By ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, they’re a fully-formed civilisation again, which explains the odd appearance in ‘The Wedding of River Song’ and ‘The Pandorica Opens’/’The Big Bang’, as well as the inclusion of Paradigm Daleks, RTD Daleks and Classic Daleks in that episode.
The Daleks have their memories of the Doctor wiped in that episode though, and when a signal calls from Trenzalore, they’re among the first there. They bide their time, wait for someone to attack first, but eventually take over the Papal Mainframe, killing everyone there. Their last attack is on Christmas and Trenzalore, where the Doctor’s final battle takes place. In one timeline, he dies, but obviously in ‘The Time of the Doctor’, he changes the future and survives. There are still Daleks out there, though.
6. Beginnings Of The Silence
So its origins were peaceful: they were trying to protect the universe from a second Time War, and the creatures that were to become synonymous with the religion were in fact genetically engineered priests. It does make sense for memory to play a part in confession, after all.
It was from this one base floating over Trenzalore that the Silence grew. As Lem mentioned, other branches and factions of the religion grew, each trying to prevent the Doctor from answering the question, “Doctor who?”, and presumably, they were trying to prevent it being asked at Christmas, during the Doctor’s final battle. With me so far?
5. The Formation Of The Kovarian Faction
As Lem explained, Madame Kovarian led a group of the Silence, who travelled back in time to prevent the Question being answered. Their method? Kill the Doctor, so he can’t answer the question. They built TARDIS-like ships, as first seen in ‘The Lodger’, and made their home presumably on Earth.
Their first assassination attempt on the Doctor was to blow up the TARDIS. This seems like a daft way to stop a second Time War, but maybe, the Silence believed that no universe at all was better than one involved in a Time War. Obviously, the Doctor rebooted the universe and survived though.
And it’s not a big stretch to imagine the Silence infiltrating the TARDIS, given that Tasha Lem could fly one. But what about the cracks in the wall? How did they return in ‘The Time of the Doctor’? Well…
4. The Cracks In Time
The cracks were erasing time. The explosion of the TARDIS caused a major gravitational collapse, but given that it was a TARDIS dying and not a star, it pulled time as well as space into a black hole, across all realities; hence why it affected the Time Lords’ new universe. The Doctor supposedly sealed all the cracks in ‘The Big Bang’, but how many times have we heard that he’s sorted everything out for good this time and closed the story?
Well, he hadn’t closed the story for good: why was there one last remaining crack on Trenzalore? Well, given that the Time Lords snapped it shut, it’s probably safe to assume that they were the ones that kept it open. They would’ve ventured through it – they were waiting for the Doctor to confirm it was safe – and remember, the explosion happened at every point in time, which explains why there’s a delayed reaction to this particular crack.
The Doctor was terrified of the cracks because they threatened all of reality. It’s interesting to wonder though how much time actually passed during the Doctor’s stay on Trenzalore: if there was a time-eating crack, how can he be sure it was 300 years? What if he aged quicker than time passed? What if it felt like 300 years but was actually ten minutes? Timey-wimey indeed.
3. The Silence: Assassination Attempts II and III
So, the plan to explode the TARDIS failed, so plan B was to kill the Doctor. Where exactly the Silence became evil is still a bit hazy, but somewhere Kovarian misread the memo that the idea was to avoid a question, not kill people, interfere with a whole species and steal young children.
They kidnapped Melody Pond, and brought her up to be a killer, but when she refused to kill the Doctor in Berlin, the Silence spent roughly 25 years placing the idea in humanity to go to the moon, so they’d have a spacesuit. They then planned to place River in the suit another 42 years later, where she’d kill the Doctor at Lake Silencio.
As far as the Kovarian faction of the Silence are concerned though, it worked: they set out to kill him in his past, and they don’t know that he survived. Whether or not it stays that way is left open though, but the deletion of the Doctor from all records certainly suggests that the Silence arc was over.
2. The Doctor Deleting Himself From The History Books
After the troubles with the Daleks and the Silence, the Doctor was wiped from the Daleks’ path web by Oswin, and then by himself at the Inforarium.
So how did the Great Intelligence know so much about him? Well, the GI is information. He/it may well have been the only villain left in the universe to actually know who he was; there was literally no one left to have a grudge against him.
The arc of the Doctor’s history deletion may have only lasted up until ‘The Time of the Doctor’ – the Daleks tortured the information out of Tasha – but it resets a lot for the Doctor with other enemies. It settles old scores, freshens up the legend and in a year in which we’ve looked back at the Doctor’s history, it’s fitting that the series has focussed a lot on ghosts; the Doctor’s been a ghost this past year, but Clara, ‘Hide’ and the loss of Amy and Rory have all carried the theme. We’ve seen three gravestones in Series 7 after all.
1. Wasn’t The Question Asked At Trenzalore…Twice?
Yes, it was. From the Doctor’s perspective, the first time he visited Trenzalore he believed he was there to answer the question; this was in ‘The Name of the Doctor’, remember? He saw that he died on Trenzalore, and that must have been when the Daleks attacked at the end of ‘The Time of the Doctor’. He changed that future, and survived that attack. Well, Clara changed it by speaking to the Time Lords.
The Great Intelligence and the Whispermen wanted the Doctor to answer the question, “Doctor who?” so that he would open his own tomb, and allow them access into his timestream. Given that the GI was purely information, he’d have known the question was referring to the Doctor’s final battle on Trenzalore, and probably used it to scare the Doctor into opening his tomb.
The Silence couldn’t have known that the Great Intelligence would also ask “Doctor who?”, but they are a religion; it’s not that far-fetched to assume it was prophesied.
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Mark is 21, and from Oxfordshire in Britain. He works in a suit shop during the day and he writes for WhatCulture at night, when he isn’t fighting crime. He is an enthusiast of Doctor Who, Tumblr, irony, pick and mix and the Arctic Monkeys, and when left alone, will most probably paint whatever’s there.
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