Thursday, March 24, 2011

REVIEW: Doctor Who 11th Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver

11th Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver | Produced by Character Options | Released 2010

The Doctor - renegade time traveler and alien adventurer; Last of the Time Lords; Defender of the Laws of Time; Keeper of the Legacy of Gallifrey; The Lonely God; Saviour of the universe. Hang on, that's Flash Gordon...

Doctor Who?
Doctor Who - which first aired in 1963 - chronicles the adventures of The Doctor (not ''Doctor Who'' - that's the name of the show and a joke used with a wink to camera by lazy writers), a mysterious alien traveler who wanders through time and space pitting his wits and genius against those who would enslave the universe. Although cancelled in 1989 a relaunch was attempted in conjunction with Fox in 1996 (sadly it fell flat) and then finally brought roaring back onto our screens in a more updated fashion in 2005.

Over the course of the series, the Doctor has been played by eleven different actors (excluding stand-ins and stunt men.) When the First Doctor, William Hartnell, began to suffer ill-health, the writers came-up with the idea that the Doctor - as an alien - could ''renew'' his body (later called ''Regeneration'') thus allowing them to replace the lead actor. Although the Doctor's personality traits may change as each actor puts his stamp on the character, his core remains the same: he despises injustice, relies on his wits and ingenuity to get out of scrapes and resorts to physical conflict only as a last, desperate measure. Think MacGyver but without the mullet.

The current Doctor - Matt Smith - made his debut in the 2010 episode The 11th Hour. During this adventure, his trusty Sonic Screwdriver - a kind of high-tech Swiss army knife that can perform a range of functions including acting as a medical scanner, detonating land mines, unlocking doors and operating as a remote control - was destroyed, later to be replaced (and now sporting a new-design.) It's the role-play toy replica of this device we're looking at today.

The Sonic Screwdriver
The Sonic Screwdriver operates in two modes.  In its ''closed'' mode, the toy is around seven inches long and around two inches in circumference. 

The sculpt is an accurate portrayal of the on-screen prop. There are some nice chunky details, such as the metal ''scaled'' plates and the stitched-leather grip (although it would be nice if it were real leather or at least a leather-like material.) I'm not sure if it's totally to scale, as it's difficult to judge when it's on-screen (the Doctor is usually waving it around or pointing it to camera) but even if it's not, it's still a nice sized toy.

There are two buttons upon the grip. Pressing the uppermost sets the tool into its ''open'' mode, where the protective cover pops open, allowing the spring-loaded central core to extend (rather rapidly.)

In this mode the Sonic Screwdriver gains about another three inches in length and the open ''claw'' adds an extra inch or two to the tip's circumference. Note that to close the Sonic Screwdriver back to its original mode, you must do so manually by simply retracting the ''metal plate'' pieces. 

The Sonic Screwdriver toy is more than just a spring-loaded paperweight. The second button on the grip (and the one ''hidden'' beneath a cap at the tool's base) can be used to activate the Sonic Screwdriver's light-up and sound play features.

The bulb at the tip glows a rich emerald green and is accompanied by the tool's signature sound effect, a high-pitched oscillating whistle. There are two tones here, one slightly higher than the other, and they alternate whenever the button is pressed and released. The Sonic Screwdriver also includes two ''hidden'' sound and light modes. To access the first, press either button twice in rapid succession, then hold. The second is accessed in the same manner, but using three rapid presses.

The light-up feature is nice but this is not a flashlight, so don't expect to be able to illuminate much with it. The sound is pretty effective and reasonably loud and fans of the show will instantly recoginse it.

Final Thoughts
The 11th Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver is a fun little desk toy. It looks cool when displayed (in either mode) and feels very natural when being held. There's an ergonomic, tactile sense to it that just makes you want to handle it and it sits comfortably in the hand.

The only drawback is that the primary light/sound button (on the grip) doesn't work when the Sonic Screwdriver is in its extended/open mode. As a result, you have to use the base-mounted button or poke your finger into the inner-workings to activate the electronic functions.

Aside from that though, this is a sturdy plaything I can imagine a lot of kids enjoying. For adult collectors, it's a fun little toy to play with and display.

Production QualityB+
Final ScoreA-

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1 comment:

  1. Taken me a while to FIND this blog (I took the LONG way around)...and I thought your review of the sonic was SPOT ON.
    And, I've been a Whovian since the mid-70s.

    The hidden sounds were a real plus and DO carry over to the 12th doctor's sonic w/ the "one-touch" button.

    Underground toys is a great place to deal with, as they sent me a new REPLACEMENT sonic when mine went defective after a month (would not close).
    Excellent customer service!

    Can't wait for the NEXT (blue) sonic to come out
    Good post.
    Have TARDIS will travel


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