The microbes seem to let various species understand the spoken language of many other species. One noted exception is the full language of the Pilot.

Anyway, when Crichton returns to Earth, would he be able to understand the language of animals such as dolphins or whales? Where's the line in the ability to translate?

  • 3
    Dolphins and whales don't have language. They have signature whistles and alarm/food calls, but there's no grammar or syntax or vocabulary. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 3:42
  • Nice, good question.
    – Morgan
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 4:04
  • Before discounting whales as having no language, you might want to do a bit more research. While a lot of it isn't conclusive, much of it implies there is the potential for language structures and we are simply unclear on how it is configured or what information is being transmitted. Perhaps we should say these intelligent animals are speaking a language WE DON'T KNOW YET. Warbling Whales Have a Language All Their Own Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 14:54

4 Answers 4


In the episode Beware of Dog, Chiana brings a small creature on board. Eventually they need to use it to hunt down a parasite, and in order to better communicate with it they inject it with translator microbes. While John and Aeryn can't understand it, Pilot can. It doesn't have all of the concepts in its language as the rest of the crew does, but the translator microbes did help to communicate with it and find the parasite.

To answer your question, I would guess that injecting an animal with translator microbes would be similar - Pilot could likely understand what the animal is saying, given the limitation that the animal can only express certain concepts in its "language".

  • I just reviewed that episode. The translator microbes given to the Vorc do not help anyone, including Pilot, understand the Vorc but allow the Vorc to understand everyone else. Pilot states that he can mostly understand the Vorc through his connection with Moya, not because the Vorc was given translator microbes. So it may be possible for Pilot to understands dolphins and whales. And since Crichton or Aeryn couldn't understand the Vorc, it would seem that Crichton would not be able to understand dolphins or whales either since they don't have real language either.
    – rmaddy
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:08
  • So while your answer is sort of backwards, the "Beware of Dog" episode sets a good precedent to answer my original question. And that answer seems to be no, in won't work on animals that don't have a real language.
    – rmaddy
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:09
  • It had been a while since I saw the episode, so I probably remembered the details incorrectly. Sorry about that.
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:33
  • No problem. It led me to the answer I was looking for.
    – rmaddy
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:55

They did run a whole slew of different language speaking people in front of Crichton to 'interpret', but no animals. I would say yes it could translate the language if the language was sufficiently developed/structured. Deliberate clicks, grunts, growls, tonal and volume changes etc. that are designed to communicate would be in fact translatable. If humans without such tech can reliably and consistently interpret different animal species' audible communication then yes the translator microbes could interpret that 'language'. If they weren't understandable, how could others of their species understand?

  • This seems valid. And given that whales and dolphins does (as far as we know) have a "proper" language, it would seem that the answer to my question is no.
    – rmaddy
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:10

From memory, in episode 3.16 (Revenging Angel), the translator microbes D'Argo has are missing "ancient Luxan" which would allow him to converse with the Luxan ship and power it down. He has to have a new batch prepared with that "update".

We also see in episode 1.02 (I, E.T.) that the locals on the planet, lacking translator microbes, can somehow converse with Crichton, but cannot with the rest of the crew.

This can tell us two things:

  1. That the translator microbes need to be "pre-loaded" with a language in order to translate. But then how do they understand Crichton?

  2. The locals in 1.02 (I, E.T.) were in fact speaking English the whole time!

Of course it is hinted various times that contact with Earth has been made a few times in the dim and distant past of the Uncharted Territories (Crais remarking how it isn't a coincidence that humans and sebaceans seem so similar in 1.22 (Family Ties), Interons being related to humans (2.22 - Die Me Dichotomy), the Egyptian hieroglyphs (4.02 and 4.03 - What Was Lost two-parter), the Eidelon priest's hints (Peacekeeper Wars)). Not to mention Scorpius pinpointing Earth's location as "60 cycles" spaceflight away.

Of course this doesn't tell us why translator microbes can't translate "cat", or whatever animal. I guess, with them needing to be pre-loaded with the language, nobody's ever bothered - or at least not bothered to do that with the translator microbes most people use. Reasons could include that those animals aren't really trying to have much of a conversation anyway - most of their language boils down to "food" or "threat", or their language is so vague and based on tone or relying on body language too that nobody bothered.


I would say it was more than that too, pilot understands more because biologically he is able to process more, telepathy, empathy, and body language don't use any syntax in their natural expression, however I bet that someone using the TM would have an easier time understanding what the smarter creatures wanted, what they were trying to communicate, but it it would be dependent on the awareness of the one trying, also I'm not sure Pilot actually has the Translator Microbes or if his species is just that smart.

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