Doctor Who: Before There Was the Sonic Screwdriver There Was the First Doctor's Ring
Aside from the Tardis, the piece of equipment that is most associated with The Doctor is his all-purpose, and in my opinion extremely over-used, tool the sonic screwdriver. Of the 12 different incarnations of the Time Lord only three Doctors have completely forsworn using the device on television, and considering the merchandising potential of the artifact it's highly doubtful that Peter Capaldi will not also have one on hand.
But before the device became The Doctor's trusty side-arm, there was another piece of alien technology that he used to get out scrapes. Namely, a signet ring worn by the First Doctor that was far more than mere jewelry.
The First Doctor wore the ring on the third finger of his left hand. It was large and ornate, and in color pictures from the set you can see that the crystal mounted on it is a deep blue. Occasional he took it off, such as when he was briefly forced to sell it in "The Reign of Terror" for clothes to blend in with Revolution-era France, but in general it was a constant part of his costume.
The ring had many of the same abilities that were later seen to be included in the sonic screwdriver. The first was a keen connection to the Tardis itself. The Doctor could use it to remotely power the doors of the ship. Unlike the sonic, the ring's powers mostly seemed to be light-based. After the Monk managed to disable the locking mechanism on the Tardis door in an attempt to strand The Doctor on Tigus, The Doctor used the light of the alien sun refracted through the crystal to undo the damage. This process is apparently dangerous to humans as he told Steven to shut his eyes.
The ring also aids in hypnotism, allowing The Doctor to not only mesmerize humanoid subjects, but even control the ant-like Zarbi in "The Web Planet". Considering that The Doctor's abilities with mind-melds and other psychic-based powers have grown considerably over the course of his lives, he longer seems to need an exterior tool to accomplish these feats. Another out-dated use of the ring was its capability to protect from electrical shocks as seen in "The War Machine". Both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors have survived direct lightning strikes with almost no damage, indicating that he may have grown resistant to electrical damage.
Ultimately, the Second Doctor discarded the ring carelessly within minutes of his birth, saying that it no long fit his new form. His early career as an adventurer was almost completely free of gadgets, though he did use a device to disable the fatally electrified doors of the Cybermen tombs on Telos. It may have been this reminder to the ring's earlier usefulness that prompted him to begin working on the sonic screwdriver that would debut in "Fury From the Deep" and would fulfill the ring's role as a multi-use tool that would be applicable despite body-size fluctuations in future incarnations.
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