The Silence are a religious order in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, represented by humanoids with alien-like physical characteristics. Executive producer Steven Moffat created the Silence, intending them to be scarier than past villains in Doctor Who. Though the phrase “Silence will fall” recurred throughout the 2010 series of Doctor Who, the Silence were not seen until the 2011 series’ opener “The Impossible Astronaut”. Their origins are eventually revealed in the 2013 special “The Time of the Doctor”.
In creating the Silence shown in “The Impossible Astronaut”, Moffat drew inspiration from Edvard Munch’s 1893 expressionist painting The Scream as well as the Men in Black. The Silence continues Moffat’s trend of using simple psychological concepts to make his monsters more frightening. In this case of the Silence, their existence is a secret because anyone who sees them immediately forgets about them after looking away, but retains suggestions made to them by the Silence. This allows them to have a pervasive influence across human history while being difficult to locate or resist.
Producer Steven Moffat created the Silence, suggesting their level of scariness would compete with other Doctor Who adversaries from previous episodes. Actor Matt Smith, who portrays the Eleventh Doctor, called these aliens “the scariest monsters in the Show’s history” and Karen Gillan, who portrays the Doctor’s companion Amy Pond, commented that the Silence could “rival the Weeping Angels in terms of scariness”.
The Silence shown in “The Impossible Astronaut” are depicted as tall humanoids with bulbous heads and mouthless, bony faces, partly inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Their eyes are sunken within their sockets and the skin of their cheeks stretches to the point of their narrow chins. Their large, shrivelled hands resemble a human hand except where the ring and middle fingers would be is a large flipper-like finger. They speak in low, guttural voices though they have no apparent mouths.
Aliens affiliated with The Silence seen to date in the series have been dressed in black business suits with an unusual texture. According to Steven Moffat, their resemblance to Munch’s The Scream is not coincidental: although humans are not consciously aware of their existence, a “subconscious awareness” of the Silence manifests in such works.
They are also partly inspired by mythological figures known as “men in black” that became popular amongst UFO conspiracy theorists during the 1950s and 60s, as well as grey aliens. The four-fingered hands of the Silence, with one finger much longer than the other, was inspired by the aye-aye lemur.