7

In the Doctor Who episode "Utopia", the main characters travel trillions of years into the future and find humans and "kind" (human-like people) speaking English. How do they know English? Languages evolve: the English of even a thousand years ago is unintelligible today, and trillions of years is almost unimaginably longer.


Notes:

  • I've only ever watched two Doctor Who episodes ("Smith and Jones" and "Utopia", both from the new series), so this question may very well be answered clearly in another episode. (E.g., maybe there's some kind of force field around the Doctor and other major characters that serves the same purpose a Babelfish does in the Hitchhiker series.) If so, then please post that as an answer!
  • The same question could be asked about other people in the two episodes I've seen (listed just above), such as the plasmivore, the slabs, and indeed the Doctor himself. But in all those cases, it's possible that they (even off-camera) learned English from anglophone humans (as indeed the rhinoceros-like police chief did). The same can't readily be said about the future humans and kind.
28

The Tardis has a built in translation circuit in it. Wherever the Doctor and his companions go, the Tardis automatically translates for them, even when they're out of it. In The Christmas Invasion, while the Tenth Doctor is recovering from his regeneration, they have a problem with this and Rose has trouble understanding the aliens until the Doctor starts to recover. (Actually, it's her understanding of the aliens that tips her off the Doctor is getting better.)

  • +1, and thank you! Could you elaborate a bit in the answer on how it works, Please? E.g., does it change sound waves of speech en route to listeners' ears? change something in listeners' brains? – msh210 Jul 3 '12 at 19:34
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    I've added a link to the Dr. Who Wiki site page on the Telepathic Circuit; I think it will answer your questions. Also see Translation Circuit which is due to be merged in with the Telepathic Circuit shortly. – K-H-W Jul 3 '12 at 19:40
  • @KeithHWeston, thanks! – msh210 Jul 3 '12 at 19:48
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    Elaborating about how anything in Doctor Who works is counter-productive. Unlike, say, Star Trek, this is not a universe where the "how" is important unless it effects a plot point - and then, things can change next time it effects a different situation. – Tango Jul 3 '12 at 19:51
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    @TangoOversway, and yet there is (it seems) a correct answer as to how the Doctor and the future people could understand one another. So some "how"s are productive, I guess. (I tend to be analytical, so for me "how" is always a question. If the show is of the sort that that's unproductive then I will probably stop watching it as soon as I discover that fact for myself.) – msh210 Jul 3 '12 at 19:55

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