Doctor Who: Is It Time to Break The Sonic Screwdriver Again?

Categories: Doctor Who

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The sonic screwdriver... aside from the Tardis itself no object is more directly tied to The Doctor. It's his handy dandy, all-purpose, non-lethal tool, ever ready to do whatever he needs in a pinch. It's hard to imagine him without the device.

And it's also time to shatter it into a million pieces.

Let's look at a bit of screwdriver history, shall we? The screwdriver first appears on television during the Second Doctor story "Fury From the Deep" (It shows up technically prior to that in the novelization of "The Faceless Ones" but this is generally considered an error), and is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a pen light. The Second Doctor had a tendency to carry a variety of unknown technological marvels in his pockets, which being Time Lord technology were bigger on the inside than the outside. An example of this is the unknown device that he used to safely test (or nullify) the doors in "Tomb of the Cybermen".

Over the course of his next three incarnations The Doctor upgraded the screwdriver considerably. By the time the Fifth Doctor wielded it it could break a hypnotic trance, repair wires, shut down robots, crack safes, augment size, ignite a Dalek bomb, create a shield of piercing noise, reverse magnetic fields, breach force fields, remotely detonate mines, and even unscrew things upon occasion.

See also: Doctor Who Slap Fight: Battle of Classic Doctors in Modern Stories

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Now, this sounds wonderful, but from the very beginning of its existence showrunners had to be very careful of the sonic lest it become a cure-all for lazy writers. During Jon Pertwee's run it was kept at a safe distance, and through the first half of Tom Baker's run it was still regulated to the sidelines.

Then, as Baker continued in the second half of his time in the role the sonic took on the life most producers had feared. It had become the perfect MacGuffin, used to get The Doctor out of every corner the writers had written themselves into. That's why during Peter Davison's time as The Doctor producer John Nathan-Turner decreed that the sonic be broken. Indeed it was in "The Visitation." It would not reappear until the 1996 movie, and even then mostly as a cameo.

As quick as I am to mock JNT for his ideas in Doctor Who, here he was so clearly in the right. The sonic screwdriver had become a crutch, and three (Or four depending on how you count) Doctors survived perfectly fine without the device. I'm sure Seven in particular would have found some use for it, but by and large the device disappears from the Whoniverse during Davison's time. In fact, it could be argued that The Doctor is without the sonic almost as much as he is with it.

The question is... do the same writing tropes that precipitated the sonic's destruction in the '80s exist now?

Piece continues on next page.


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