Lost in translation

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

Watching the recent repeat of the Christmas Invasion episode of Doctor Who, I noticed that the telepathic link between the TARDIS and the Doctor, which enables his fellow travellers to understand the alien languages to which they are exposed, also extends to Harriet Jones and the rest of the UNIT people, allowing them to understand the Sycoraxic speech and allowing the Sycorax to understand them.

Why is this? It has previously been stated (in The Masque of Mandragora and The End of the World) that this telepathic translation facility only extends to those who travel with the Doctor in his TARDIS. It has never previously extended to all and sundry.

Debbie Gill

Johnny Fanboy replies:

Though the Doctor has never explicitly stated that his translation facility extends beyond those who actually travel with him, one should bear in mind that in both The Masque of Mandragora and The End of the World the Time Lord is addressing an individual companion at the time. Therefore, it makes sense that his description of the facility is on a one-to-one basis.

Who is to say that the TARDIS's translating influence has not been reaching farther all this time? Though the range of its powers has yet to be defined, it would certainly explain why, when different races meet in Doctor Who, they usually understand each other, regardless of whether they travel with the Doctor (though you could argue that most advanced species would probably have developed their own translation systems, and invaders would be unlikely to attempt to conquer a planet without first mastering the local language or languages).

The fact that both the TARDIS and the Doctor need to be in working order for the process to work might also explain a nit-pick concerning The Leisure Hive. In this story, the Foamasi cannot be understood - even by the Doctor and Romana - unless they use a special vocal device. However, the Doctor is unwell at the time, having been aged by 500 years in the Recreation Generator. This could explain why his TARDIS's translation facility is not fully functional.

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