Monday, 30 June 2014

Gadgets & Gizmos The Doctor Who Sidestep #1: Utopia

Torchwood Gadgets and Gizmos
The Doctor Who Sidestep #1
By Mickie Newton


Well at the end of ‘End of Days’ we saw the good Captain distracted by the sound of the TARDIS engines and the bubbling of the canister containing the Doctors severed-hand and then the rest of the team coming back to the Hub to find him gone!

In the opening of ‘Utopia’ we see him running towards the TARDIS and then taking a mighty leap when the Doctor decides to take off in the hopes of leaving Jack behind.

This is the first of three ‘Doctor Who Sidesteps’ where we follow Jack and his further adventures with his old friend the Doctor and new friend, Martha Jones. These three stories will be taking us gently into the second season of Torchwood.

So naturally I also must take a step to the side and look at the technologies of the three stories. Or at least, that is the plan. As you will know from past issues, this isn’t always possible. As I have said in the past, for a Sci-Fi series they really can lack the high tech gadgets we expect to see. I shall also warn you that we will probably be revisiting some past gadgets as they may well crossover, in a different way, with the three Doctor Who stories.

So what shall we be looking at in issue 15s Gadgets & Gizmos? We shall have a look at The Masters Fob Watch and we shall touch upon (as the subject is vast...50 years vast)  the Doctors Sonic Screwdriver and his longest serving companion, the TARDIS.

The Masters Fob Watch

The first time we see one of these special watches is in the season 29/3 episodes ‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’ when the Doctor uses it, in conjunction with the Chameleon Arc, to become human in order to hide from  the Family of Blood, when they seek out the Doctor to take his body so the Son of Mine can live for eternity.

This beautiful instrument is engraved with Gallifreyan symbols and a Time lord uses it to store his Time Lord conscience, memories and biological make-up of a Time lord. In order to stop the Time Lord from opening it and releasing his true self from inside the watch, the watch uses a perception filter and so stops him from noticing it. To the altered Time Lord it is just a broken and old watch that has little use, but possibly sentimental value. This watch, with the exception of the Gallifreyan symbols, looks just like an everyday pocket watch and so would raise no eyebrows.

In ‘Utopia’ Martha recognises Professor Yana’s watch as being the same as the Doctor’s and due to her excitement, especially after the Face of Boe’s final message of “You Are Not Alone”, encourages the Professor to notice it, just as she had with the Doctor. A short time later the Professor opens the watch releasing the Master back into his body.

It is worth noting that our good Captain also carries a fob/pocket watch. Though it is just that. A fob watch. A time piece. Nothing more. But I do believe, and please don’t quote me on this, that the watch is actually John’s and was originally his grandfathers.

What Do We Have On Earth?

The only thing we have is a very ordinary fob watch. They can look beautiful and half chimes that can wake you when you set the alarm.  And then we have the open faced or Lépine watch. This has no protective metal cover and is open faced

Pocket watches originally came from around 16th century and came before the wrist watch. These are carried in the pocket. The Doctor’s and the Master’s watches are in the style of a hunters watch. These are a case with a hinged metal lid that covers the watch face and crystal. This protects your watch from dust and damage.

A demi-hunter or half-hunter style also has a cover, but the centre of this is a glass panel and not a solid cover.

But for all my searching, I was unable to find one where you could hide your true self. Unless it has a section for putting in a picture and you placed a picture of yourself without make up.

The Sonic Screwdriver

Firstly, as the subject of the Sonic Screwdriver is almost 50 years old, and so vast, I shall only be touching on this in this issue. And we shall look at the Master’s Laser Screwdriver in a future issue, about issue 16 or 17.

It’s very hard to think that the good old Sonic Screwdriver  has been on our screen as long as the Doctor himself, but shocking as it maybe, it hasn’t. The Sonic Screwdriver first made its first TV appearance in 1968 in season 6, episode 3 ‘War Games’. But in writing it appeared in a serial called ‘Fury from the Deep’ by Victor Pemberton and was used by the 2nd Doctor from that point on as a kind of multi-tool

As its sonic this implies that it works on sound waves that can physically dislodge objects and open locks. And this was pretty much what it was used for - though there was an occasion when the 2nd Doctor used it as a blow torch in the story ‘The Dominators’.

The Sonic Screwdriver has changed greatly from its first incarnations such as making a noise and added pretty blue or green lights. Even its fictionality has changed and increased functionality. Now I could sit here and list every single change through each of the 11 Doctors, but I’d be here until the sun explodes before I finish writing it AND I’d have our good editor, Jack, after me! And we really don’t want that.

But what I shall do is this. With the 2nd Doctor its Sonic Waves were used to undo screws, he also fed Victoria Waterfields’ screams through it to amplify them in order to destroy some weed like creatures in the story ‘Fury from the Deep’. He used it to drill a hole in a wall in ‘the Dominators’ and removed screws from a pistol, from a wall panel and also a control panel in ‘The War Games’.

By the time we get to the 11th Doctor its uses have increased more than tenfold. So many I can’t sit typing them all out. But here’s a few; he scanned the crack in the wall in Amelia Ponds bedroom wall, scanned the monastery ruins and the Flesh in ‘the Rebel flesh’, Boosted River Song’s communicator ‘The Time of Angels’, scanned human remains and possessed humans as well as opening and locking doors and blowing out a light in ‘Amy’s Choice’, scanned for heat signature anomalies and exploded guns as well as scanning Rory in ‘Cold Blood’.

If you wish to know how much more there is to the Sonic Screwdriver and its functions look for a book called ‘Doctor Who - A History of the Universe in 100 Objects’ by James Goss and Steve Tribe, then turn to page 175. It lists all functions from the 2nd Doctor through to the 11th Doctor. I wonder what new things we shall get from the 12th Doctors Sonic Screwdriver.

What Do We Have On Earth?

Sadly there is no such thing as a Sonic Screwdriver. If there was, our lives would be so much easier. But we do have things that do similar things. Only they’re not so compact. Obviously we have screwdrivers. Some are simple hand tools, where as other are power driven. We can pick locks with wire picks, but there is such a tool that will open digital locks too. We can scan people for illness, but only those that can be seen via an MRI scanner, such as lumps and other physical anomalies, but not say a problem with your blood. For that we have to do blood tests. In fact there are still many illnesses that either needs tests or exploratory operations. We can rejoin barbed wire with a soldering iron and so on. But we don’t have one single tool that does these and all the other wonderful things the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver can do.


The subject of the TARDIS is huge. I mean it is so huge, it’s impossible to see where the subject ends, let alone where it starts. So much like the Sonic Screwdriver, I shall be only touching on it and at some point in the future, will write more about her. I know this because I own a TARDIS and I’ve seen the future.

So where do we start.

The TARDIS is a Time Lord creation for the purpose of travelling anywhere through both time and space, unless that is, that point in time is ‘time locked’ such as the Time Wars.

The name TARDIS is an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space and was named by the granddaughter of the Doctor, Susan, as stated by Susan in the very first episode ‘An Unearthly Child’ back in 1963. She is also a type 40 (yes she is a on) and was already old technology when the Doctor and Susan ran off with her back in the day.

We also now know that the TARDIS’ are not built, but grown; though this is now not possible due to the seeds being destroyed on Gallifrey during the Time Wars. Although towards the end of ‘Journey’s End’ in season 30/4, the Doctor gave his new self and Rose a piece of TARDIS so they could grow their own. Captain Jack also had some TARDIS coral growing on his office desk in Torchwood 3’s Hub. Of course due to the destruction of the HUB in the third season of Torchwood, this will now no longer exist.

What Do We Have On Earth?

As all the seeds for growing a TARDIS were destroyed during the Time Wars it is impossible to have anything like this on earth! really is!

Sorry...only kidding.  But really in ourselves we time travel all the time; we call it memories.  We store memories via photographs, film recordings, audio recordings and the written word.

The science fiction writer HG Wells once wrote - “We all have our own time machine, don’t we.  Those that take us back are memories...And those that carry us forward are dreams.”

Whenever we hold a fossil, read old books and so forth it is like taking a step back in time. And as we have experienced with science fiction writing, we have seen ideas become a reality, hand-held communicators, and medical equipment that can see into the human body. It’s as if those writers could see into the future.

As my father has often said, if time travel is possible, it’s already happened. Would someone really stand there and say “Hi my name is Dave and I have travelled from the future, from the year 2596!”  Those in the future know what a numpty 21st century man is and how unwelcoming we would probably be and know full well they’d either A: be furnishing a new room with matching padded furniture or B: End up flat on their back on a dissection table.

So if time travel is possible in the future, we won’t know until the time comes.

Jikai made, sayōnara (Japanese for “Until next time, goodbye”)




Torchwood: The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: The Encyclopedia A Definitive Guide to Time and Space
by Gary Russell

The Time Traveller’s Almanac: The Ultimate Intergalactic Fact Finder by Steve Tribe

The TARDIS Handbook: The Official Guide To The Best Ship In the Universe by Steve Tribe

Doctor Who - A History of the Universe in 100 Objects
by James Goss and Steve Tribe


Torchwood Items: Wikipedia

Torchwood Three

TARDIS Data Core

Doctor Who Items

The Sonic Screwdriver

Other Sites Used

Pocket/Fob watch

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