In Doctor Who's Revived Series 5 episode "The Lodger", the Doctor uses a communication device on scramble to talk to Amy from his gaff on Earth. It seems clear that the transmission channel is scrambled somehow, but what about this segment of their chat:


CRAIG gets out of bed and walks to the wall shared with the DOCTOR’S room to listen.

DOCTOR: (through wall) ..Orange juice, eocenes Arbuckle, rare tarantula on the table, ooh!


DOCTOR: I can't go up there until I know what it is and how to deal with it! It is vital that this "man" upstairs doesn't realise who and what I am. (bounces on the bed and smiles) So no sonicking. No advanced technology. I can only use this (taps earpiece) ‘cos we're on scramble. (jumps to floor) To anyone else hearing this conversation, we're talking absolute gibberish.


DOCTOR: (through wall) Practical eruption in chicken. Descartes Lombardy spiral.

It seems like the scrambler also affects how other people directly hear the words coming from his mouth. But it's also possible that the Doctor was just being dramatic, knowing that Craig would be listening at that moment (which is the sort of thing we accept that he just knows sometimes, most likely through intuition).

Was it ever confirmed that this scramble device really makes someone sound like they're talking gibberish, even if they're just standing next to you rather than being on the other end of the communications channel?

Transcript source

  • Since the TARDIS can translate pretty much every language in the universe, it shouldn't be too hard to make a device that make here gibberish. Dec 13, 2011 at 13:59
  • @LoïcWolff: Even if the TARDIS is not present and Craig's never encountered it? Dec 13, 2011 at 14:27
  • All I'm saying is that the technology exists. But I don't really see the point of your question. It's true, the Doctor lies, but if he says has the technology then he does. There's a lot of other one-time gagdets that just serves the purpose of the plot. The fact that he hears gibberish only serves comedically. Dec 13, 2011 at 15:03
  • @LoïcWolff: Point is, it's not clear what he's saying. Whether he's lying or not is a further consideration on top of that, which I'm not bringing up here. Dec 13, 2011 at 15:44
  • @TomalakGeret'kal According to the Fires of Pompeii episode, the TARDIS translation works even if people have never encountered it. Donna Nobel speaks Latin to a Roman to see what would happen. The roman responds with confusion, thinking that she's speaking a completely different language.
    – thedaian
    Dec 13, 2011 at 16:34

3 Answers 3


If we follow the scene, here's what happens :

Craig hears gibbersish

Cut inside the room.

Amy hears the Doctor.

Cut outside the room.

Craig hears gibberish.

So, if the timeline is respected, we can assume that everything the doctor says is gibberished to people other than Amy.

Since in the end of the episode, there was no twist showing us that for some reason the Doctor actually spoke gibberish when Craig listened, we can fairly assume that the device is working.

Since it's just a device useful for that particular moment and plot (like so many others), they never bothered to explain how it works. Whether it's the Doctor speaking gibberish and the other side of the line hearing plain english or the Doctor speaking english in the communicator and the device changing it to gibberish to people who can hear.
It isn't explained in the episode, nor in the rest of the season.

  • I hope I understood your question and answered it correctly. Dec 13, 2011 at 16:01
  • Fair enough; if there was never anything more concrete then this is the answer! And it does make sense, don't get me wrong. Dec 13, 2011 at 16:44

Anyone near the Doctor while he was talking to Amy would hear gibberish. This serves two purposes. It protects his flatmates from learning the truth about the Doctor, which would alert the ship upstairs. It also hides the Doctor from the ship upstairs, as it's unable to eavesdrop on the Doctor's communications with Amy.

The scene you've quoted is the confirmation that it works, as it showed the communications from the perspectives of first the Doctor, and secondly Craig. It was a quick way for the writers to show the mechanism working.

  • It wasn't confirmation at all. As I pointed out, we don't know what Amy heard when we and Craig were hearing gibberish. Maybe he was actually talking gibberish, for fun, to be dramatic after he'd just talked about gibberish. Y'know.. "I bet you can't understand me, can you? Haha! Briuhgrkiugasdkuyagsdfa. Lol!" Dec 13, 2011 at 15:46

They're inconsistent with it. In "Four to Doomsday" Tegan speaks an Aborigine language and it's heard by all as such. If the Timelords had transmat tech when "the universe was 1/2 this size" (Genesis of the Daleks), there's no way Aborigines could predate the translation circuits as they would have to be older than the earth.

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