The TARDIS has a universal translator, which accounts for his companions being able to speak to and understand those using foreign or truly alien languages.

This effect was played up in the episode A Good Man Goes to War, especially how it can't translate Gallifreyan.

Have we seen a point where the companions or others are too distant from the TARDIS to be under that effect?

  • 6
    It's as effective as the plot requires it to be.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:35
  • @Randal'Thor That's as may be, but one solid example will satisfy me.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:46
  • Off the top of my head, I can't think of any episode where people left the range of the TARDIS and translation stopped working, only episodes where the TARDIS materialized or dematerialized while an alien language was present, or episodes where the TARDIS simply couldn't translate something to begin with. Maybe that means the range is so large it's never an issue in practice?
    – Ixrec
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:46
  • If I'm allowed to guess, I would say it has no range limit as in "n and m kilometers", since the T.A.R.D.I.S. can effectively communicate with every point of the time-space (except when the plot requires it not to...). I would say, it is limited by very complicated authorization rules instead. Anyone can be permitted to use it, but this permission is limited to certain people in certain time periods on their timeline.
    – mg30rg
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


During the events of The Christmas Invasion when the Doctor was incapacitated Rose and company encountered the Sycorax, and had to rely on mechanical translation until the Doctor recovered.

For example, Did you miss me?

Another (counter example), is the Genesis of the Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry were separated in time (and space) from the TARDIS; no problems communicating with Thals and Kaleds (both of whom, at that time, were unaware of the possibility of alien life - or, oddly, heavier than air flight).

  • 2
    How is that a range thing if the TARDIS is directly behind them?
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:41
  • @CreationEdge The effect seems to depend on both the Doctor and the TARDIS. Another example was the Tritovores in Planet of the Dead. The Planet Skaro in the Genesis of the Daleks. No TARDIS at all, but humans and Kaleds and Thals (oh my). Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:44
  • In "Genesis", he was sent there by the Time Lords, so maybe they gave him some pocket translator or something.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 18:26
  • @MrLister The Time Lords gave our fearless travelers a "time ring". And the Kaleds took it away from them. Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 18:28
  • @ElliottFrisch Sure, but it remained there in the facility; close by, and in the same time.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 18:29

Yes, the translation circuit has a range

According to the wiki:

On yet another occasion, the Seventh Doctor told Elizabeth Klein that the telepathic field was limited to a certain radius around the TARDIS, with the Doctor losing the ability to communicate with the native Vrill in its absence, although this can be attributed to the fact that the Vrill communicated via smell and hence the Doctor would be unable to even attempt to speak it on his own.

This occurred in the audio adventure Survival of the Fittest. Transcribed from the episode:

DOCTOR: The TARDIS has a special translation ability, remember. It makes all languages intelligible within a certain radius around it.

And if the TARDIS leaves that range:

DOCTOR: The moment the TARDIS leaves this continuum, the gift will be revoked.

KLEIN: The what?

DOCTOR: The translation! There will be no more translation. Vrill and humans will be unable to communicate. Stefan or some fool like him will just repeat the cycle all over; the treaty will lost!

Note that in this case the TARDIS would be distant in time, as well as space, and possibly in a parallel timeline to boot.

  • Needless to say, I assume there has been some instance where this was entirely contradicted. This is Doctor Who, after all.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:38
  • Unless the Doctor speaks Tritovore, the events of the Planet of the Dead would seem to be one such. Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:41
  • 3
    A Wikia reference? Dear dear, Jonah. Transcript quotes or no upvotes. :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:43
  • @Randal'Thor - There's no transcript, so I have to listen to it myself. Patience, my friend.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:44
  • 1
    I've never seen the original DW episodes (shame on me, I know), so this is definitely not something I would have had stored in memory. Eager for you to transcribe it yourself.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 16:45

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