The Oldest Question in the Universe (It Has Indeed Been Hidden in Plain Sight)

I really and truly think I might know what “the oldest question in the universe” mentioned on this season of Doctor Who is. And the answer really has been hidden in plain sight. But before proceeding, presumably I should quote the Doctor and say…

The question has been in our view (“hidden in plain sight”) ever since they announced the title of the season finale, which is going to be “The Wedding of River Song.” Ever since the Doctor first met River Song and she knew his name, and he wondered why he would tell her his name.

The oldest question in the universe is perhaps:

“Will you marry me?”

– or, since time travel makes it possible for that question to be asked later in the universe’s history than this one, it might be:

“Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife?”

For those who have suspected that the question might be “What is the Doctor’s name?” my suggestion is not entirely unrelated. At one’s wedding, they have to be asked and answer the question using their own real name and not aliases.

They could well cut to someone whispering in the audience when the questions that name the Doctor are asked, rendering his name inaudible. But I am starting to think that we have known the Doctor’s name for a very long time, and that that too has been hidden in plain sight.

What if the Doctor’s parents named him “Silence”?

I’m still not certain whether the Gallifreyan word for “silence” might not simply be silence – the absence of sound – which would agree with his previous statement that his name is unpronounceable. But it could also be that the Doctor decided that being silent about his name would be an amusing construal of his name.

And so the meaning of the prophecy that “Silence will fall” depends on the answer Melody Pond gives to the question(s) “Will you marry me?” and/or “Do you take this time lord…?” Either Silence will fall, and the Doctor will die, or Melody will say yes and will find a way to save him, and The Silence will fall.

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  • Gary

    I don’t have access to Dr. Who, but I find it interesting that the script writers for TV have a lot in common with writers of the bible and dead sea scrolls. “What is the Doctor’s name?” What does Silence mean? “And so the meaning of the prophecy that “Silence will fall” depends”… Bible’s Revelation says what? Beast, antichrist, sons of darkness, sons of light? Teacher? What the heck, could you writers please be more explicit! I hope 2000 years from now, someone finds old, partially readable scripts to Dr. Who in the collasped London underground. And they’ll be totally confused. Religion, philosopy, entertainment, meaning of life. They already lost the first episodes of Dr Who, and that was only 20 or so years ago. 2000 years from now, there will be a professorship and deptartment of lost TV scripts, and the meaning thereof.

  • Vanhight
  • Daisy

    Honestly, this is the most brilliant thing I have ever read. I can’t help but totally agree with you, 100%.

  • James F. McGrath

    Wow, I don’t think anyone has ever agreed with me 100% before! :-)

    Please do circulate the post to other Doctor Who fans that you think might appreciate it!

  • James F. McGrath
  • Seph

    Definitely was just watching “Closing Time” again and though: “Silence in the Library”… SILENCE IN the library. SILENCE. The doctor’s name is Silence! So I googled it to see, found this. And must agree!

    • William

      I’m pretty sure silence refers to the lack of humans in the library, although it is a nice idea.

  • Alan Moreno

    Silence is a religious order or movement we were told, and Silence will fall when the oldest question in the universe is asked.
    If River Song is the leader of Silence then maybe the oldest question
    in the universe is “Will you marry me?” River Song is seen in later
    previews wearing the same eye patch as the Kovorian (sp?) lady and we
    know that River Song and The Doctor get married. Unless the eye patch is
    a way to protect people from the Aliens mind wiping powers. You know
    those aliens that can shoot Electricity and that no one can remember.

    Or the oldest Question could be which came first Time Lords or Time
    Travel. When they find out that Amy and Rory’s child was part time lord
    it was stated that it was because it was exposed to the energies of the
    Tardis during conception. So are Time Lords really humans who have been
    exposed to Tardis type energy and have evolved into said Time Lords
    because of it?

  • lisalulu

    it might be.. doctor who?

  • James F. McGrath

    Alan, I like the suggestion that the Gallifreyans could be descended from time-traveling humans, some of the children of whom, conceived in the time vortex, developed unique characteristics and abilities.

    Since the Silence are a religious order, surely there must be someone among them authorized to perform a wedding…

  • Brad Sims

    Doctor… WHO?

  • Rolanddeschain2003

    Well, we know what the oldest question in the universe is now, don’t we?  “Doctor WHO?”

  • Toddstone60

    I thought that the answer to the oldest question was 42?

  • Gary

    OK, I have to ask, why 42?

  • James F. McGrath

    Gary, because it is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything – but I take it you aren’t a Douglas Adams fan.

  • Gary

    I learn something every day. I never heard of Douglas Adams, although I have heard of the Hitchhiker’s Guide….but didn’t really ever know what the heck it was beyond one of those crazy British inventions, like Dr Who. I’m behind the times anyway….anyone who likes their science fiction by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Andre Norton, and Robert Heinlein are dated (as in almost dead). I don’t do tweets and texts either. Wouldn’t know how, and wouldn’t want to.

    • Gary

      And didn’t realize 42 was so mystical.

  • Gary

    I can now die happy, since I have found 42. Per wiki, amazing list of inspirational 42’s, including
    Using the encoding A=1, B=2, C=3, etc., the sum of the codes of the letters in the words “BIG BANG” is 42
    And obviously the source of all life, M42, the Orion Nebula.
    It almost makes me want to cry.

  • Greg

    Ok, hold on for a minute… If it is the oldest question in the universe, then it would probably have to be an internal thing.  Something like, who am I? , What am I?, or why am I here?  C’mon guy think of the big questions.  If it is something hidden in plain sight then I wonder if there might be a further reason that the Doctor always protects humans, and tells them what unique things they are.  Now I did not watch the original series, so I may be way off base here, but the doctors physiology has a remarkable similarity to humans.  The only real physical difference, that is the make up of his body, is the fact that he has two hearts.  Something that could be considered an evolutionary trait under the right circumstances…  All the other stuff, ie regeneration, are due to his peoples prolonged exposure to the untempered schism. So my theory is that they are going to make some sort of more tangible connection between the human race and the time lords.  time travel has made it so that they never really say when in time he has originated.  Even the episode where they link to the time lords time locked in the war didn’t reveal when in the series of events they were coming from.  The time war could have been way in the past, or way in the future; I think that it is way in the future.

  • Speedfrk68

    I believe that it is a play on what is the Doctor’s name, but what is the name of God. Knowing the true name of God in Judeochristian history would provide the one who knows great power including the power to destroy everything by speaking the name. Thus the question of the Doctors name, the silence will fall as in all will be destroyed is all tied together. Knowing Gods name would also prove the other questions stated earlier; to know if God exists and where we come from. The question is what is God’s name? Unknown to man since the days of the Hebrew Priests in ancient Israel. THe return of the priesthood, knowing the name, the restoration of the holy temple, all supposed to bring about the end of days. How is that for a question?     

  • Guest

    Doctor who?

  • Zephan

    I like reading some of these responses… Simply saying that it was hidden in plain sight makes people think too hard about it. xD
    It’s hidden in plain sight! Even to us as viewers! Doctor… who?

  • James F. McGrath

    Guest and Zephan, you do realize that this post was written before the season finale aired, and now everyone knows that the question is “Doctor Who?” – right? I really don’t understand why people keep turning up here, ignoring the date of the post, and “explaining” the question as though we had all seen the season finale and then had the discussion here afterwards.

    Seriously, what are you guys thinking when you post comments like these?

    • VaPreceptor

      Not necessarily James.  Dr. Who’s writers always want to make it “clever,” and the mere fact that the big blue alien was yelling “Dr. Who?” could have been meant as a jab at the Doctor.  Perhaps the Doctor really does know the question and its consequences, and the blue alien knows he knows but doesn’t know himself.  The jab would then be towards the Doctor’s own warped sense of humor, he is playing off of the mystery by keeping his own name a secret.  After all, if the question may never be asked and answered, it is already too late; his parents would have uttered it and River Song knows it.  Or I could be wrong, and it is just that obvious, and this post is akin to the character who looks for the “real” murderer in the “MacBeth Murder Mystery” short story.

      But do you know what would be really mind-bending?  If Dr. Who’s writers are paying attention to all of these sundry posts and the speculation fuels the answer to the question that may never be answered…how is that for a temporal paradox?

  • Arielkeener

    yes it us

  • BobbyR

    The oldest question in the universe has always been:

    Betty or Veronica?

  • legion

    who/why someone tried to destroy the tardis

  • Hoffar45

    I think that its just not the Doctors name but who he really is, I mean what do really know about the Doctor other then his race and a few minor details. We don’t really know the reason for the title he took, same as with the Master. It seems that other Time Lords go by their names as seen in The End of Time, but we don’t know the names of the Doctor or the Master or why they have chosen titles for themselves.

  • Slasher981

    the oldest question was obvious, hidden in plain sight, the title of the program.
    Doctor Who? none may answer falsely nor fail to reply. but what if someone answered with: “i have no idea what the doctors name is?” it would be absolutely true (nobody knows the doctors name except river song) and would answer the question without failure.

  • Slasher981

    and to go with what hoffar said most timelords just go by their names, and the maker of the blog: his name very well might be “silence” because humans can pronounce Rassilon and the doctor says his name is unpronounceable. wich is partially true because you  can’t speak  and not speak at the same time. hece: silence.

  • Anonymous

    Phenomenologically, the first question would be something like “what the hell?” as the kid emerges from whatever development he underwent.

    But to the point – if the message was sent from one end of time to the other, the first question would be “Who is this ‘doctor’?”

  • Bruce

    hey I know its been five months since you posted this but I just found it… No. 42 is the answer to “What is the meaning of live, the Universe, and Everything. Of course siince we don’t know how to ask the question we don’t understand the answer, and think that 42 is a quite silly answer. Thanks you Douglas Adams. On a side note however I did note that there was an episode with Martha jones  titled  “42” and tha when The Doctor regerneated to 10, he had on a bathrobe, and send he felt very Arthur Dent. Always love a good Hitchikers reference…

    • Theta

      Oh no, 42 is the answer, but the question is unknown. That’s the whole point of the book.

  • Sherbiedog

    i have watched series 3-6 and no name for him

  • Sherbiedog

    i wonder what would have happend if the doctor asked the question?

    would all time collapse

  • Sherona

    It’s sooo obvious that the question in”plain sight” is DOCTOR WHO?

    • James F. McGrath

      Of course it is obvious. We found out what it is in the season finale. It is also obvious that this post was written before that episode aired. And so why do some commenters continue to miss what is so very obvious, while thinking themselves clever?

  • Arrakis

    In the original series the Time Lords were not in the time war and were very involved in the series. They were in “Real Time”. The Time War happened sometime between the old series and the re-boot and isn’t really covered anywhere except for what we have learned from the current Doctors. The Doctor was always the only Time Lord who ever cared for the the Humans and the other Time Lords thought it was silly of him and even tried to stop him from protecting earth.
    Now with all that said, the new series isn’t exactly following anything the old series did with any real faithfulness, so the could change everything around. The Earth being a seed planet for the rest of the Universe and being the base for all humanoid life is common in science fiction and could be a good theory. I think that the oldest question has more to do with The Doctor specifically though.

  • Danny Hoyos

    Yup! I am absolutely certain this is it, because think about it.

    Hidden in plain sight (it’s the name of the bloody show and we see it without realizing it)
    Oldest question in the (DW universe)

    AND it is LITERALLY a question. Doctor, who?

    • Jewseph

      That is indeed the question, but what is the answer? What if the answer is as well, hidden in plain sight? What this article is trying to portray is that, the Doctor’s name has been in plain sight as well. We are unable to know his name because we are not able to understand it. They are the lords of time, would it not make since that their name would be embedded in their own timeline? I believe the Doctor’s name is his life, something only a Time Lord can understand. An answer, hidden in plain sight, for a question hidden in plain sight.

  • KWB

    The Doctor’s name is written on the cliff face, just under HELLO SWEETIE.
    ΘΣ = Theta Sigma. The rest of the symbols (Φ ΓΥΔϟ) were coordinates to the Roman camp.
    On Gallifrey, his friends called him Thete.
    There are others in the ‘fan fiction’ world that call him:
    de Lœngbærrow

    • James F. McGrath

      It’s a bit long to be what River whispered in the Doctor’s ear when they first met though, isn’t it?

      • Matt ‘Moriarty’ Carey

        Have you heard the Doctor talk when he’s excited? 😉

  • Mymaster

    the oldest question in the universe,,,,,”Who” is the Doctor, the doctor is “WHO”

  • Mymaster

    ‘the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything,,,,,,, send me lots and lots of money and I will tell you in secret,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the answer and its not 42

  • Mackinnon5491

    The oldest question is “Doctor.Who?” and the only one who really knows his name is The Doctor…and River…spoilers

  • wasup dude

    Doctor Who for me it is a 5 stars series of jigsaw puzzle to reveal, what a Time Lord can mess with his timeline. lol kidding.

    For me it’s a matter of what is the answer to the Oldest Question, it is the Big inteligence knows where is hidden the biggest secret of the Doctor. The silence MUST fall (the correct translation) when the question is asked. So I do assume it’s not the Doctors name but instead is where it is hidden. On “Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (#4.2)” (2008) episode the real(PART) of the truth is revealed by one of the predictions(Between all right/truth spoken words) of Evelina: SAYS (BIG SPOILERS):

    “Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (#4.2)” (2008)

    Lucius: Is that so? Man from Gallifrey.
    The Doctor: What?
    Lucius: The strangest of images; your home is lost in fire, is it not?
    Donna Noble: Doctor, what are they doing?
    Lucius: And you, daughter of… London!
    Donna Noble: How does he know that?
    Lucius: It is the gift of Pompeii, every single oracle tells the truth.
    Donna Noble: But that’s impossible.
    Lucius: Doctor, she is returning.
    The Doctor: Who is? Who’s she?
    Lucius: And you, daughter of London, there is something on your back.
    Donna Noble: What’s that mean?
    Even the word Doctor is false. Your real name is hidden, it burns in
    the stars, in the cascade of Medusa herself. You are a Lord, sir. A Lord
    of Time.

    Do you see where it is? “Your real name is hidden, it burns in
    the stars, in the cascade of Medusa herself. You are a Lord, sir. A Lord
    of Time.” The Medusa Cascade was a rift in time and space; at some point it was sealed by the Doctor. (TV: Last of the Time Lords) It was first visited by the Doctor when he was a child of ninety years old. (TV: The Stolen Earth)

  • Joshua Paul Hawkins

    What I find interesting is that noone has brought forth the threory on what could have really been written on the mountain other than coordinates on the oldest planet in the universe in “The Pandorica Opens”. Wouldn’t that possibly be the oldest question in the universe?

  • Dunno

    Is it possible that the oldest question is actually the show’s name: “Doctor who?”

    • James F. McGrath

      Yes, we all know that from “The Wedding of River Song.” This blog post was written before that aired, as I will point out yet again.

  • Tee Burk

    oldest question in the universe… “is there a god?” Someone with his ability would be considered a god by most species I would suppose throughout the universe.

  • Tee Burk

    It seems to me he does represent some type of savior figure. He is half human (on his mothers side), he really loves and prefers humans ( just as god of the bible). I really think they made a really cool play on an old subject. However revealing that The Doctor was god or maybe a jesus type character would most certainly rile feathers in todays world. Not me, as I am not in any organized religion, but it would make total sense of the entire question and story line. You are never to speak the name of god and many religions wont even spell out the word god. I could be way off base but it really seems that is where it is headed.

  • Jonathan Lane

    How about this as a theory:

    The oldest question isn’t ‘who are you’, but ‘who am I?’

    Silence will fall when the question is asked… the only question… hidden in plain sight…

    Dr Who? is the most obvious question, but it’s also pretty obvious that we will never learn The Doctor’s name from the BBC any time soon. Spoilers. We know that Smith is about to leave the series and Capaldi is coming. The Fall of the 11th is the point when the Doctor regenerates – so how about the Doctor asks HIMSELF the question as he figures out what kind of man he is this time around.

    Think Tennant in the Sycorax Christmas Special as he says: “no second chances. I’m that sort of a man.”

    Thoughts? Discuss…

  • Doctor who

    Unfortunately for all you people, the oldest question in the universe has been found…
    … Doctor … Who? … Doctor …Who? …

    • James F. McGrath

      Would you care to explain why this is unfortunate? Do you think that the people who commented here back when this post was wrtten in September 2011 have not been watching the show since then? Why on earth would you state the obvious as though it were your own insight?

  • Doctor who

    The stuff about the doctor’s name being silence is interesting though.