In Closing Time The Doctor shows off the fact that he can 'speak baby' with Stormaggedon. In previous episodes we see that the TARDIS lets anyone who's been in it can speak as though they've got a universal translator.

Amy Pond never seems to speak to her child, though neither does the Doctor at that point in time so is this just a natural talent of the doctor, or is it an upgrade the TARDIS provides?

  • Don't forget that the Doctor did talked to another baby, saying that he speaks baby. That doesn't mean that the TARDIS didn't translate, but just means that the Doctor can talk to any baby. I forgot when but it was during 10th Doctor
    – Blue
    Aug 6, 2012 at 11:36
  • @Blue: the TARDIS’ translation circuits work when you’re outside the TARDIS though (some sort of telepathic nonsense). See e.g. Rose understanding the aliens watching the end of the Earth on that space station. Apr 17, 2014 at 6:49

3 Answers 3


The TARDIS translates for everyone (as Rose explains in "The Christmas Invasion", when the Doctor regains consciousness and they can understand the Sycorax). So if Amy can't understand her baby, and Craig can't understand Stormageddon, when the Doctor can, it follows that the Doctor knows Baby, and the TARDIS isn't translating for him on this occasion.

  • 13
    Erm, are you discounting the fact that he might simply be making it up as he goes?
    – Valorum
    Apr 17, 2014 at 18:11
  • 1
    Also, in addition to @Richard's point, how do you know that the harder a language gets (baby being obviously extremely hard) the longer you need exposure to the TARDIS. The Doctor has spent hundreds of years in the TARDIS, so his "universal translator" works best.
    – bitmask
    Apr 17, 2014 at 21:32

Knowing the Doctor's quirky sense of humor, it may indeed be the TARDIS making a translation, but it could also be the Doctor using 'Stormaggedon' to make a point in the conversation.

Given what we know about human development, the child should still lack the cognitive abilities to formulate such complex thoughts.

In any conversation with the Doctor, it is prudent to remember Rule Number 1: The Doctor lies.

  • Maybe the Doctor can simply sense impressions and he translates those?
    – TheDoctor
    May 1, 2014 at 21:39

Bluntly, there's no specific evidence that the Doctor actually speaks baby (or horse for that matter), even if such a thing was possible. The claims he makes may be part of his own fantasies, outright lies or, as seems more likely used as misdirection to keep the person he's speaking to off-balance.

There are no indications by the babies he speaks to that they've understood him. Alfie, for example shows no particular interest in the Doctor, nor uses any visual cues (blinking, smiling, etc) to suggest that he's comprehending anything that's being said. In that instance, it seems far more likely that the Doctor is simply having a bit of fun with the new father.

Although there's no canon evidence, it also seems reasonable to assume that the Doctor is also trying to alleviate his own distressing memories (e.g. at having lost his own children in the Time War) by constantly making jokes.

Certainly when the Doctor make a similar claim in "A Town Called Mercy" that he speak horse this is the first time in many occasions where he's ridden horses, that he says that he can actually speak to them. The fact that he does so in front of a bible-thumping preacher is especially telling.

PREACHER: He's called Joshua. It's from the Bible. It means the Deliverer.

DOCTOR: No, he isn't. I speak horse. He's called Susan, and he wants you to respect his life choices.

  • He certainly seems to be "speaking horse" in Deep Breath - apologizing for getting left and right wrong, etc. Also, in past years, The Doctor talks more about personally knowing many languages, as opposed to the translation circuits which was first mentioned (IIRC) in Masque of Mandragora(described as "the Time Lord gift of language"?) so he may well have learned baby and horse himself. Feb 16, 2017 at 20:16
  • @VBartilucci - I think you're missing the gag here. He pretends to be able to speak to babies and horses so he can say things that might seem a bit blunt otherwise.
    – Valorum
    Feb 16, 2017 at 20:30
  • @Valorum - there's no proof of that, just like there's no "Proof" he can actually speak to them. It's an interpretation of the story. The Doctor absolutely likes to keep people off balance, and there's no current evidence that babies and horses HAVE a language (tho as a long time reader of Sugar and Spike, I of course know there is), but considering the wild things he CAN talk to, who's really to say for sure. I'd call it a personal opinion/preference situation. Feb 16, 2017 at 20:44
  • @VBartilucci - As I've said, on the numerous occasions he's ridden horses, this is the first time he's claimed to be able to speak their language (something we know to be fantastical since they clearly don't have language). Similarly, he's been around babies before and never claimed to be able to speak to them. When he does speak to the baby, it fails to respond in any appreciable sense.
    – Valorum
    Feb 16, 2017 at 20:53

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