I just re-watched "The Doctor's Daughter" (S04E06) and noticed that we never understand the speech of the Hath on-screen: it's just bubbling in their little glass face jars. Martha doesn't understand them either, even when she's right next to the TARDIS with them.

Usually, the TARDIS translates all alien languages so that everyone can understand each other easily. Why doesn't this work for the Hath? Is it because they're too far from human? But I'm sure we've seen the TARDIS translation work for very non-human creatures before.

  • 1
    Because nothing on the TARDIS works properly. It's badly used, badly maintained and badly treated. Note that the Doctor spent several hundred years trying to fix the chameleon circuit and failed.
    – Valorum
    Dec 9, 2023 at 0:22
  • @Valorum The TARDIS works fine. It just has personality. This is usually an excuse for a piece of tech that is on it's last legs, but for the TARDIS, it's literally the case. That chameleon circuit will never get fixed because the TARDIS wants to be a police box.
    – Jeremiah
    Dec 26, 2023 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


Martha appears to be able to understand them. For story-telling purposes, it's we the audience that can't translate their language.

As you can see from this episode of Doctor Who Confidential, their undubbed dialogue was actually in English so that Martha and the Doctor could react to them properly.

  • I thought she was just, firstly pretending to understand them out of nervousness, and later intuitively guessing what her friendly Hath was saying (e.g. when she told him not to swear).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 9, 2023 at 8:41

As has already been answered, it seems that the language of the Hath is understood - we just don't hear it. However, there are many, many instances of the TARDIS failing, or being unable to translate certain languages - famously, it did not translate the High-Gallifreyan script on the side of River Song's cot; there were also alien languages heard untranslated in The Christmas Invasion, The Impossible Planet, and of course all episodes that feature the Judoon. It is always the Judoon who use their own translation technology to make themselves understandable to others. The in-universe explanation for most of these is that the languages are too old or complex.

'Out of universe', the translation circuit is of course a way for the production to avoid the issue of alien languages as the Doctor travels around meeting different species. And there are usually 'out of universe' reasons for these instances too - ie it serves as a plot device. The failure of the TARDIS to translate River Song's name, for example, built suspense for the answer and provided an explanation for why her name had changed from Melody Pond (being translated from English, to the language of the Gamma Forest, and back again). If I had to guess at an out-of-universe explanation for the Hath's language not being heard by the audience, it would be to retain the impact of the fact they breath water and can only communicate through it. The only way for their language to be heard and understood by the audience would be to hear it as if it were underwater, which would be indistinct, or hear it clearly spoken which would imply telepathy (like the Ood).


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