First introduced in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ we finally get an origin for the Silence in ‘The Time of The Doctor’. Rather than being an alien race we learn that they are created for the Papal Church to act as confessional priests.
The Doctor suggests that not only do you not remember the Silence you forget the very thing you were confessing. While this does remove the guilt felt by the confessor it removes any kind of emotional or spiritual growth. Unless the Silence also gives post-hypnotic suggestion.
We don’t know exactly when he came by this information. He doesn’t recognise them when they first meet but it is possible that he did encounter them and forget. Certainly the Doctor’s relationship with the Papal Church and Tasha Lem seem to extend to before his 11th incarnation. Possibly it is only after long periods of exposure that he learns to unlock those hidden memories.
The Kovarian chapter employed the use of electronic eye patches to ensure that they didn’t forget who they were working with. We don’t see anyone on the church ship using anything similar but they know enough to leave space for the Silence when they are assembled.
We don’t know whether the Silence roam the ship looking for someone to confess, as they do with Clara, or whether they have a confession booth. The latter would make more sense, since at least people would make a choice.
The level of technology possessed by the Church of the Mainframe and whatever time period they come from must be very advanced not only to genetically engineer a new species but give them an ability that baffled even the Doctor, at least for a while.
We have an explanation for their memory erasing powers but not their other abilities, like their electrical blast. Are some sinners beyond redemption and so the Silence simply execute them? Were they also designed to act as soldiers, as they do later take to the battlefield. This wouldn’t be out of place with the military structure of the organisation.
We know that the Silence stood with the Doctor on the fields of Trenzalore. They have their lightening as an offensive weapon and their memory erase to act as defence. Without cover a Silence doesn’t have much of an advantage against a hostile soldier who has them in their sights. Only if their attacker looks away or the Silence is able to find cover will their defensive power kick in and prevent their opponents from hunting them. At the very least the enemy wouldn’t be able to give accurate accounts of their numbers.
While the Silence are genetically engineered we don’t know how long they take to create or mature. Is it a lengthy process or can they be rapidly created and deployed as cannon fodder?
During the battle we see three Silence touching hands and sending an electrical discharge into the air. We can only speculate whether this was just to act as a flare or whether it had any offensive effect (such as releasing an EMP pulse to disrupt the Cybermen).
So if the Silence were created to perform a particular role then they were at best servants and at worst slaves. Is it any surprise that those that were the Kovarian chapter attempted to enslave humanity?
The stated aim of the Kovarian chapter is to eliminate the Doctor to ensure his silence but is this shared by the Silence? How does secretly ruling Earth since the dawn of history achieve that goal.
Either they were being overly cautious (and never took the opportunity to eliminate the Doctor when he arrived on Earth prior to the 1960s) or they wanted to rule the planet. They do seem to have more influence and power in the Kovarian chapter than their counterparts on the Papal church so it is possible that the organisation was powerless to stop them.
If they were created by humans (and the majority of the Church of the Mainframe appear to be) it is possible they were attempting to influence their creators. Could the Silence have engineered their own creation? Could a Silence influence a scientist so that he thought he was creating a unique being when in fact he was just following the instructions of a template. This could mean that the Silence actually are an alien race (just one that tricks other species into replicating them) or if time travel is involved they are an artificial race that originate from a time paradox.
Did the rebellion of the Kovarian chapter plant the seeds of discontent with the Silence or are the rest of their rest just waiting for a chance to overthrow their masters? If so the PCs might have to cope with similar rebellions in the future.
If this is an example of the kind of beings the people of the Church of the Mainframe can create what else can they make? Since they possess time travel there is plenty of opportunity to reveal that other species are also genetically engineered.
One obvious candidate are the Weeping Angels which are supposedly old as the universe but no one knows where they came from. Their bizarre nature could, like the Silence, have been crafted in a test tube. Either by chance or design they were placed earlier in the universe.
Imagine what kind of universe it would be where the Silence and Weeping Angels are used as tools and weapons. No longer is humanity finding nightmares in space but creating them.
If humanity is responsible for creating some, if not all, other species then it explains why Earth is often at the centre of the universe and draws so much attention. If an alien race knows that humans from the future created them then invading the planet gives them control of their future (and the possibility of erasing themselves from existence).
Finally we see that some of the Silence have been infected with the Dalek nano-clouds. Since the Daleks can gather information from the converted slaves it is possible that the race would always be aware of infected Silence. As long as at least remains linked to their network they’d be aware of the existence of the species.
The Doctor was able to reverse engineer the technology and the humans were able to create it. Would the Daleks now be able to do the same and give themselves the same ability. The idea of Dalek race you forget when you aren’t looking at them is a scary idea. Just the thing to base an adventure around.