Seeing as Clara has been in the Tardis - which automatically gives people(/living organisms) the ability to understand all languages - why doesn't she understand Dinosaur?

  • 9
    Maybe it had a lisp, or a strong (Southern) Gwondanan accent.. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:10
  • You assume that having been in the TARDIS gives people the ability to understand all languages. However, that's not how it works. The TARDIS itself does the translating for you. So, you have to be in close proximity to the TARDIS in order to understand what is being said (or, as appropriate, written). The Doctor, however, speaks the language of the dinosaur himself, without needing a machine translator.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 13:15
  • @MrLister do you have a source for this? Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 4:36
  • Which one, the Doctor speaking dinosaur or the TARDIS doing the translations?
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 8:08

2 Answers 2


The specific limits of the TARDIS translation matrix have never been explicitly detailed (rendering it a slight case of "new rules as the plot demands," or it could always just be the Doctor talking nonsense, which would not be unusual), but it would seem that the translation matrix appears to draw the line at structurally "crude" languages, which is why the Doctor has also had to translate for babies ("A Good Man Goes to War", "Closing Time"), horses ("A Town Called Mercy"), and a Minotaur ("The God Complex"). Since none of them spoke in such a way that could be converted into a clear, formal language, the Doctor, who has some telepathic ability as well as just a general prowess for reading people and/or situations, had to cover for all of the aforementioned beings, as well as the dinosaur in "Deep Breath".

  • source for "some telepathic ability"? Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:53
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    The Doctor has limited telepathic abilities. The Tenth Doctor showed touch telepathic ability. So did the Eleventh. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 6:29
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    @MacCooper In "The Impossible Planet" is is indicated the TARDIS can translate written text.
    – liftarn
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:44
  • 3
    @SVilcans Written text. I know I know I said visual but I knew what I meant :) I'll give an example: When a dog is happy he wags his tail. Say the Doctor brought an alien to Earth, one that has never seen an animal with a tail before. The dog sees the alien, barks and wags his tail. Now to the Doctor, who knows what a dog is, will say the dog is happy. But would the TARDIS translate the barking and the wagging as words to the alien? The movement an animal makes is an important part of its language: without movement it's gibberish.
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:51
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    @tryingToGetProgrammingStraight, ahh so he does. Um..... yeah I give up :-)
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 10:11

In the story The Christmas Invasion it was implied that the translation circuit was linked to the Doctor being conscious. In that story the Doctor has recently regenerated and was unconscious, thereby the translation circuit didn't work.

In Deep Breath the Doctor was also recently regenerated, and has not yet recuperated from the trauma, so it's safe to assume that the translation circuit was still not working properly when the dinosaur was talking. (The Doctor probably didn't use the TARDIS to translate the reptile's speech, or the circuit was only partially working and could only translate to the Doctor and not to anyone else)

Once the Doctor regained his strength the dinosaur was already dead, so we wouldn't know whether the TARDIS could translate its words or not.

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