For Doctor Who’s sixth series, the Silence are finally revealed as recurring villains. And boy, were they cool. There was a lot to like about these Slenderman-esque aliens when we first got to meet them in the Impossible Astronaut; they look cool, the memory editing concept behind them is pretty neat, and the way it was implemented- and how it seems to affect the audience as well as the characters- was well done.

Well, those are the things I like about the Silence. As their debut two-parter went on, the façade began to crack and some really poor design decisions began to leak through. Here’s what I hate about the Silence: One, that weird mouth of theirs. Seriously, why is that thing even there? The Silence shouldn’t have mouths; I imagined that their voices were telepathic and would echo through your skull after they’d spoken. The mouth looks silly. While we’re on that, the fact that they fucking roost in groups, upside down from the ceiling? Also silly, and I shouldn’t have to explain why. And finally, this might be controversial, but I don’t really care: The Silence are a bunch of stupid, dumb, dumby dumb dumbass idiots, and their plan to kill the Doctor makes no fucking sense.

I mean that genuinely; nothing in series six’s overarching story makes even a lick of sense, and mostly that’s down to how fucking stupid and shortsighted the primary villains are. They’re the victims of weak writing, that much is sure. In fact, this whole latest series gives me the feeling that Moffat had his ideas for River’s past and built a story around that, without really paying any attention to whether it made sense. Seems like he was too wrapped up in how clever he could make all his time travel shenanigans. So, let’s examine the Silence and their plan a little more closely.

One thing we know about the Silence, which right away makes their stupid assassination plot fall apart, is that they have a method of time travel. They’d have to; they know which points in time are fixed (and I really must write a post about that, while I remember it) and they had the ability to send River back to Utah in that astronaut suit. In fact, we see their timeship early on in the season. Normally a villain that can travel through time is fine in a Doctor Who story, except that the Silence haven’t been written with any degree of foresight or foreknowledge.

At the end of the finale we learn that the Doctor has faked his own death in an attempt to fool the Silence, so they stop coming after him. The way he does this is ridiculously cheap, and really it ruins any tension the rest of the series may have had, but that’s beside the point. See, this entire concept only works if the Doctor is a dramatically different character. The fact that there’s a series seven indicates that this is not the case. Are we to believe that the Doctor is going to lay low for the rest of his life? Honestly, I doubt it. I’m sure that, from the very next episode, the last child of Gallifrey will be right back to his old, world saving ways. And the Silence aren’t going to notice that? It only takes one to do that, and then the Doctor’s little scheme goes right down the fucking drain.

But here’s the thing: for a time traveler, everything happens at once. Say the Silence does find out that the Doctor survived: what the fuck? It’d be the work of but a moment to return to Utah, find out how the target survived, and then take him out properly after everyone else left. In fact, why wasn’t there a fucking army of Silence there at the lake? Aside from that one guy, why wasn’t there a whole group of them watching? In fact, why leave anyone else alive at all? The Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon, River- in either of her incarnations- doesn’t have enough firepower on her to do that much damage, and Amy and Rory? Forget about it. Why go through this ridiculous, convoluted time travel plot when you could just send a group of effectively undetectable, lightning-fingered badasses rolling up the beach to kill them properly? God knows, a direct attack from these guys would have taken a few seconds, especially since they always have the element of surprise.

LIGHTNING HANDS!

Like this! Attack him like this!

So essentially, nobody wins; the Silence failed, and the Doctor’s inability to ever remain quiet in the face of adventure means that he’ll continue to be chased by what, really, is only a middling set of enemies. But there’s worse than that here, and I can sum it up in a single sentence:

River Song has no place being the lynchpin of this fucking plan.

Every last element of the Silence’s colossal failure to complete their one objective can be traced directly back to River fucking Song. I know I might sound a little bitter about this, but I honestly believe that River had a lot of potential as a character, and that this latest series set about squandering all of it.

My first issue with River being a part of this should have been the most glaringly obvious: what was it that ended up saving the Doctor’s life? If you answered that it was River, you’re wrong. What saved the Doctor was foreknowledge: he knew the date of his death, and had plenty of time to brood, think it over, and come up with the (bullshit, terrible) escape plan he used in the finale. How did the Doctor acquire this knowledge of his own death ahead of schedule? Well, he downloaded it from the Tesselecter during the events of Let’s Kill Hitler. Why was he there? Heh, he was there because River fucking forced him to go there! He wouldn’t have even known the Tesselecter existed if Mels hadn’t carjacked the TARDIS and forced them all back in time. River Song is the whole reason the Doctor has the date, time and location of his death; what did they think he was going to do with that information? For that matter, why was it that Mels wanted the Doctor back in WW2 in the first place? There’s literally no reason I can produce for why she decided this was a good idea.

But let’s move on. Another big issue that maybe the Silence should have thought of is that, at the time River is called upon to put on the spacesuit and kill the Doctor, she doesn’t want to do it. She says it herself in the finale; she’s being forced. She can’t control it, the suit is moving on its own. Okay, I’m willing to accept that’s true, but… Why even put River in the suit if it’s just going to move against her will? She’s clearly not necessary for the assassination to take place. Why not just send the suit? Or a robot? Or literally anything other than one of the Doctor’s ostensibly closest allies? For that matter, we’ve been told River’s entire childhood has been spent in training to kill the Doctor, and that the Silence has spent a little time messing around in her head, too. Would it have been so hard to add in a mental trigger or control that would turn River from a lovestruck moron into a hardened killer? Even temporarily?

When I first started thinking about it, I thought that River might have been used for psychological effect, rather than physical deadliness. That she’s there to be a face the Doctor would be hesitant about resisting; that he’d be afraid of hurting her in stopping his own death, or that the Silence would hunt her down if she failed, and so he’d accept death over risking that. Fine, but remember the question I asked at the end of the last paragraph? Seriously. Or, hell, River doesn’t have to physically be there! Just put a hologram in the suit! Or build a ganger! Yes, do that. Build a ganger and put it in the suit; then you’d have River’s physical body, comatose and vulnerable, within your control at all times. If she doesn’t go through with it, how about using those thunderfingers of yours to kill her, Silence? Or fuck, just hold River hostage and tell the Doctor, or Amy, or anyone else that if the Time Lord isn’t dead in a set amount of time, River will be killed. And remember, this is an organization that has an army of powerful, effectively invisible alien soldiers.

No, but instead we get...

"... Want to help me kill the Doctor?"

The whole plan seems to be built up around this premise that River, being part Time Lord, is the only one capable of killing the Doctor. This is patently untrue: the Doctor is currently on his eleventh regeneration, so we know for a fact that there are at least ten distinct ways to murder the Doctor. River isn’t necessary, if fucking up a Time Lord is your only goal. We all know how many enemies the Doctor has accumulated over the years; how hard would it have been it go find the Daleks and tell them, “Hey, Daleks! We’re the Silence, nice to meet you. Hey, you still wanna kill that prick the Doctor? Well, we can get him to a specific location at a specific time, so why don’t you go and murder him there? It’s a win for both of us!”

In fact, River is the seed of failure for the Silence’s plan. That’s right: in a plot where River is the central element, she’s also the reason it fails. And I don’t even mean that she resists the suit and causes time to break, I mean intrinsically. The Doctor wouldn’t have even been aware that the Silence was bigger that my favorite Slendy Expys, or that there was a large, orchestrated war being waged against him personally, if River had never gotten involved. Kovarian kidnapping Amy to get at Melody was the sole reason the Doctor even knew she existed, and worse, it made it personal. Trying to get at the Doctor through his friends is generally a bad idea because it makes a godlike, committed pacifist angry enough to break that code. Admittedly, it could have worked out so much worse at Demon’s Run, but I still don’t understand why Melody was so important here. It wasn’t like River was that great a weapon for their cause, the only thing Kovarian achieved by kidnapping her in the first place was putting her entire organization on the Doctor’s internal threat map. Just use the money you would have used training Melody into a Doctor-killer to buy some new equipment for all the clergy-soldiers that were inexplicably allied with you, and send them after the target, Kovarian! Doctor’s not immune to bullets, and you would have retained the all important element of surprise! Or, you know… SEND THE FUCKING SILENCE!

... God damn it...

USE THOSE GUNS TO SHOOT HIM IN THE FACE! DO NOT RELY ON CHILDREN!

Every part of this plan is short sighted and poorly thought out. And since we’re never once shown the thought processes of Kovarian or the Silence aside from some vague “we hate the Doctor because he’s powerful,” sentiment, it seems to me that this is a problem with the writing rather than a narrative thing. I think that Moffat, for all his talent in creating nightmare fuel, had three potentially interesting ideas- River as the Doctor’s murderer, River as Amy’s daughter, and the Silence as a religious order out to kill the Doctor- that he then combined because he was unwilling to lose any of them in order to focus on any one. The end result is a logical muddle that goes nowhere and makes no sense.

Now, let’s be clear: any two of those ideas combined would have removed a lot of the contradictions that series six had come to contain. River being the Doctor’s murderer and Amy’s daughter would have worked fine, and in fact writing new motivation for River to explain that would have made her far more interesting. River being the Doctor’s murderer and working for the Silence would also work, assuming it makes her a double agent who falls in love with her target (though I’ll discuss the “romance plot,” here in more detail in another post). River being Amy’s daughter and the existence of the Silence would be fine, though any connection between the two would have to be lost, making them two distinct twists rather than one large, interconnected one. But putting all three together, and it starts becoming too chaotic and stupid. It becomes too easy to find escape routes and logical issues; I mean, it’s what I’ve spent a few thousand words doing right here.

The unfortunate implication here is that Moffat crafted the plot around his clever ideas, with no care for what the characters require to be effective. That’s not how any story should be written; the characters need to have ideas of their own, not have the ideas of the writer forced willy nilly into their heads. The Silence is supposed to be an order of devastatingly intelligent individuals, a shadowy Illuminati committed to a single goal. This plan is not the best they could have come up with. In fact, it’s so convoluted and circuitous, there’s no way they would have thought it up at all, if Moffat hadn’t been there. I think that they would have stopped at “acquire gun, locate Doctor, shoot Doctor,” if Stephen bloody Moffat hadn’t had three individually cool ideas that wouldn’t all fit in the story. In fact, River herself thought of that incredibly simple plan just after regenerating in Let’s Kill Hitler; if the Doctor hadn’t been expecting that she’d try to kill him, she would have succeeded.

… And that’s leaving aside the glaring question of why Mels didn’t just immediately kill him moments after meeting him, when he didn’t recognize her.

REALLY INEFFECTIVELY

Congratulations, Moffat: you’ve turned an entire religious order, a potentially awesome time travelling, femme fatale Indiana Jones-esque recurring character, and my favorite companion into bumbling idiots, all just to ruin three nice ideas. Amazing.

Kurokami, signing off!