Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Gadgets & Gizmos The Doctor Who Sidestep #2 - The Sound of Drums by Mickie Newton

Torchwood Gadgets and Gizmos
The Doctor Who Sidestep #2
“The Sound of Drums”
By Mickie Newton


At the end of “Utopia” Professor Yana/The Master Regenerated, stole the TARDIS and left the Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack to the mercy of The Futurekind, but not before the good Doctor had performed some mysterious wizzy wiggy stuff with his Sonic Screwdriver.

When we open up in the next instalment of the trilogy, we find the Doctor, Martha and Jack zapping into the 21st century and dealing with ‘Time-Travellers-Head’. And all thanks to Jack’s Vortex Manipulator that has been repaired (all be it temporarily) by the Doctor.

So naturally one thing we MUST look at in this issues edition of Gadgets and Gizmos is Jack’s Vortex Manipulator or VM to his friends and yes we have before, but sometimes a re-visit is needed for add on’s. We shall also be look at the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdrivers evil cousin and friend to the Master, his Laser Screwdriver and finally, probably the Masters most terrible creations, the last humans, the Toclafane.

For this addition of G&G I have taken away our ‘What on Earth?’ segment as for the most part it really doesn’t apply. But if you wish to remind yourself what I babbled on about Jack’s VM then just take a hop skip and a jump back to issue 12’s G&G and have a read.

Vortex Manipulator

Now I know what you are thinking...Haven’t we been here before. Yes, back in issue 12 we looked at Jack’s VM in the “Combat” issue, but in “The Sound of Drums” it has been used the way it was originally intended and also, not just by Jack. And it’s always good to take another look, from a different angle, at things. Much as we have with the Resurrection Gauntlet.

If you remember I did mention this trilogy of stories with regards to how the VM is used. As we all know Jack’s VM burnt out, due to being zapped by a couple of Daleks, and because it wasn’t working properly due to said zapping Jack found himself transported to Cardiff, but not the 21st century - it was instead 1869 and so it’s ability to transport Jack through time and space was no longer possible.

When “Sound of Drums” starts we see Jack and co teleporting back to the 21st century, 2008 to be precise and this was due to the Doctor fixing it with his trusty Sonic Screwdriver.

So what’s new I hear you say. Well in the past, mostly via Torchwood, we have only seen it do such things as scan for alien tech, lifeforms, communication etc. But Jack started off as a Time Agent and Time Agents had to be able to move through both time and space. So they were all issued with a VM. It’s much like the TARDIS, only more crudely, ‘Time-Travellers-Head’ and all that. How was it the Doctor described it?

Jack: “I used to be a Time Agent, it’s called a Vortex Manipulator. He’s not the only one who can time travel”
The Doctor: “Excuse me, that’s not time travel. It’s like, I’ve got a sports car, you’ve got a space hopper”
Martha: “Oh boys and their toys!”

So now they are able to travel through time and space via the VM. Their next hop, skip and a jump is to UNIT’s ship, the Valiant. More ‘Time-Travellers-Head’ or in this case ‘Teleportation Head’, I don’t think there’s much of a difference, they both seem to hurt equally. And then later Martha uses it again to escape the Valiant, the Master and the lovely Toclafane and go on a great journey to ‘The Last of the Time Lords.’ Though it’s not used again from what I remember and the Doctor reverts it back to its previous damaged self (shame).

Jack also seems to use it on this story to link Martha’s laptop to Torchwood’s Organic computer system, as if it’s some kind of coding, but it’s never explained, Jack just fiddles with it and they’re in.

Of course the other thing that’s never made clear, much like the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, is exactly HOW it works. Like the Sonic there really isn’t any clear indication how the user reads information. When you look at the VM pad it consists simply of 3 buttons, a circular pad that’s not unlike that of the directional pad on a games controller, two blue lights and what seems to be a very, very, VERY small screen squashed in the bottom right corner. I’d assumed that the Sonic worked much like the TARDIS can and sent information psychically to the Doctor. So maybe a Time Agent is somehow linked to it, as I find it hard to believe you could read anything off a screen that small. When it was designed, it was done simply, but it seems, without much thought as to how, realistically, the user would input information when it has so few input modes. Is it like some ridiculously complicated watch that take someone with a brain like Einstein to figure out how to put in the date, let alone adjust the time!

And of course Jack does get at least the teleportation aspect back in ‘Stolen Earth’ when he gets the base code from Martha. She’d used an untested teleport harness called Project Indigo. This had alien technology scavenged from some Sontaran teleport equipment. It also had a code that UNIT, who’d created the Project Indigo device, had yet to decipher. But Jack recognised it as the code used for teleportation which was an oscillating 4 and 9. This he put into his VM and was able to get his own back on a Dalek and Martha gained greater control of the Project Indigo device (we’ll look closer to this when we have another Doctor Who sidestep into the two stories in the future).

 The Laser Screwdriver

Trust the Master to create something both flash and deadly. It’s definitely at least one thing the Sonic isn’t, the deadly part I mean, as it can be VERY flash with all it’s pretty lights, extending doo dads and woo woo noises of varying kinds.

So what is different about the Master’s Laser Screwdriver

Firstly instead of shooting sonic sound waves from the tip, it shoots a deadly laser beam that can kill, as Jack sadly discovered. But it can also disable if he so wishes

Below the tip is a segment that contains the technology from Professor Lazarus’s Genetic Manipulation Device (that the Master, as Saxon, invested in

The grip section houses the technology that can age an individual if you have their biological coding - the Master gained the Doctors biological coding from his severed hand. With this the Master suspended the Doctor’s ability to regenerate and aged him by 100 years and then again later by 900

Also in the grip section is an Isomorphic control that allows the Master to use it (me thinks the TARDIS should upgrade herself and have Isomorphic controls that allows the Doctor and other trusted people to fly her and use her instruments

This incident, of being stolen and messed about with (two words - Paradox Machine), should be a lesson to her.

I did wonder if the Master in Classic Who had ever used anything like the Doctors Sonic Screwdriver, but my long search proved utterly fruitless. Nothing. Nada. Not a Sonic Sausage. But by all means let of us know if you have any further information on this.

The Toclafane

So named by the Master and something the Doctor saw through instantly as the Toclafane was a childhood fairy tale monster from Gallifrey. Apparently it was much like Earths childhood stories of a ‘bogeyman’.

A quick history of their being is that after ‘Utopia’ they were propelled to the end of time where only the cold and dark ‘nothingness’ existed and this drove the humans to regress and become the Toclafane, primitive beings housed in a shell and rescued by the Master who takes them to Earth to cause nothing but trouble. So moving swiftly on...

When we first meet them the Toclafane seem incredibly alien, possibly not too dissimilar to say the Daleks or Cybermen in the fact that it may be some kind of creature that has a mechanical outer body. In other words, a cyborg. And it seems it is from another world. And like the Daleks, it is both insane and deadly. But unlike the Daleks it will kill indiscriminately because “it is fun”. And this shows it to be very childlike. But like the Cybermen it/they work as a hive rather than as individuals. In other words, each of the six billion Toclafane shares the same thought process and memories. This really should have been a clue.

Another difference is it has very human characteristics. As I said before they’re very childish and vain and have their own desires to be pretty in their metallic shells.

Their tough metallic outer shell is spherical in shape and allows them to both hover and fly at ease, not only through our own atmosphere, but through space without damage. When you look at the shell you can see it is in segments. These segments are held together with magnetic clamps which are incredibly strong and difficult to open. The only way is through a high electrical discharge at exactly 510 megajoules, which is the same as a bolt of lightning. It also has, what looks like simple mechanical fingers protruding from the base. When it goes into attack mode, long blades pop out from the sides and base for close attacks and it is also armed with lasers that can kill at long range and turn its victim into nothing more than ash.

One of the more noticeably differences between them and the Daleks and Cybermen is vocal. Not all Toclafane sound the same. Another clue me thinks. And, as we discover later, this shell is also a life support system that keeps the shrivelled head , the remnants of its human form, alive and quite possibly linked to the other Toclafane.

And on another note...

As I was looking for information about the Toclafane I discovered something about their original origins in the world of Who.

Firstly they were voiced by the same team who voiced the Gelth in ‘The unquiet Dead’ (except by a celebrity Guest). And I shall be writing more about this for Issue 17s Doctor Who and Torchwood Connections. Also Russell T. Davies came up with the original design. His intention was to use them as an alternate creature IF they’d not been able to obtain the rights to use a Dalek in the 2005 episode ‘Dalek’. This early version of the Toclafane was originally called ‘Future Human’. Apparently there is an illustration by Davies in his book ‘Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - The Final Chapter’.

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

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