Two Minutes Hate: Sonic Screwdrivers

Dear Makers of Doctor Who,

I get that you write a science fiction program. I get there needs to be a certain amount of latitude given by your viewers in terms of setting and technology. You have a police box that can travel in time and space, and even though its nav’ circuits seem perpetually locked onto “Present Day London”, I understand a certain degree of suspension of disbelief is necessary to even get an invite to this party.

But you know, when you have a device that can re-attach molecular bonds, detect strange goings-onses, intercept and send signals, remotely operate the TARDIS, burn, cut, and ignite substances, fuse metal, scan and identify anything, repair anything, amplify or augment sound, modify mobile phones to enable “universal roaming” (lawwwwwwl), disable alien disguises, resonate concrete to precipitate the single most deviant sexual relationship I’ve ever come across in film or television, and pretty much solve any problem your writers can’t think their way out of, all without a need, or indeed, even a means by which to program or modify said device, most people wouldn’t call it a “sonic screwdriver”.

They’d call it a fucking MAGIC WAND.

STOP IT.

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About Misterkristoff

New York Times and Internationally Bestselling SciFi/Fantasy author, and master of drunken karaoke-fu. View all posts by Misterkristoff

16 responses to “Two Minutes Hate: Sonic Screwdrivers

  • galactus

    Them are fightin’ words….

  • misterkristoff

    I propose a sonic screwdriver duel at dawn.

    ZAP!! KAPOW!! RIDDIKULUS!!

  • Lindsay

    Bahahahaha. This makes me think that you’ve never seen Old Doctor Who. In the ooooooolden days (read: 60’s), pre-Sonic Screwdriver and pre-Psychic Paper, there were ENTIRE PLOTS devoted to the shit that those two little doodads can accomplish in five seconds. Magic wands they may be, but they do solve the more annoying problems and leave room for actual interesting plot.

    Or, sexually deviant plot.

    Not that the two are mutually exclusive….

    • misterkristoff

      I watched DW every day of my life as a kid. 6.00pm ABC, every night without fail. 😛

      And yeah, I totally get that. But the producers of the old series eventually destroyed the SS because it had turned into a crutch that could be relied upon to get the Doctor out of any problem. It transformed from being what was essentially a skeleton key into a cure-all for lazy writing.

      I’m trying real hard not to read too much into it all and interpret the SS as an analogy for the Doctor’s junk. But I can’t help but notice that any time he’s in a spot of bother, he just whips it out and fiddles with it for a few seconds, and all his problems go away.

      • Cam Rogers

        I couldn’t believe that not only did they bring the screwdriver back, but they also brought in psychic fucking paper. Jesus Christ. Seriously, if they don’t want to be writers there are fucking legions of talented hacks out there who are willing to take a crack at it.

      • misterkristoff

        Yeah. Psychic fucking paper. Russell T Davies at his finest.

        I’ve taken to skipping any episode with “Written by Russell T Davies” in the opening credits. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to get into the show. The Dr Who viewing experience has improved remarkably as a result.

  • Steampunk Jewelry Maker

    So true!
    They should have made it a Sonic Swiss-Army Knife as there seems to be nothing it can’t do…

  • Hugh Grimwade

    [Insert quote here about science from sufficiently advanced civilisation would look like magic to other, less advanced cultures…]

    I don’t mind the SS as a clever plot-advancing device; it allows easy explanation for why the Doctor can get into or out of situations that would be impossible for others.

    It becomes a distraction as the seasons wear on though, and in the hands of lesser writers it waxes and wanes in turn from a super-powered tool to uselessness. By Season 3 or 4 the number of things that are ‘deadlocked’ for no particular reason starts to escalate. Lazy writing, I say.

    • misterkristoff

      Yeah I just saw an episode where the villain ‘deadlocked’ a window. And the device has already been used to cut through metal. But a deadlocked GLASS window proved an insurmountable obstacle. 😛

  • Cam Rogers

    FUCK YES! I HAVE BEEN SCREAMING THIS FOR *YEARS* AND HAVE THE RESTRAINING ORDERS TO PROVE IT!

    This is why – back in the Eighties – the writers had the thing destroyed. It is deus ex machina ON CRACK. It is the ultimate Lazytron. It is the phrase “Because we said so” given physical form. It is the antithesis of millennia of crafted storytelling. It is cynical. It is a big fat fuck-you to their audience.

    It affronts the intelligence of that audience, but THEYRE OKAY WITH THAT AMYPONDOMG

    Okay I’m done.

    • misterkristoff

      The “Lazytron” is actually the perfect word for it. Im’a totally steal that.

      At the moment, whenever the Doc solves a plot with the SS, I yell “RIDDIKULUS!!” all Harry potter style at the TV.

      i think I’ll swap to yelling “LAZYTRON!!” in a Decepticon/Soundwave type voice. You know, switch things up a bit.

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  • Mojo

    Yes, Long term 80s producer John Nathan Turner, when taking over the show, made getting rid of the SS one of his first actions. Why? He too said it was a crutch and encouraged “lazy writing.” Now this is wasn’t some fan’s out if touch opinion, this was the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER of the series! If *he* believed no SS = better show, you have to at least ponder it. Turner blew the thing up towards the end of Tom Baker’s reign and guess what? For the next half dozen series the show not only seemed to manage, the doctor not only found ways to open doors and fix broken gadgets (isn’t that what well-chosen companions can do?) but some of the show’s best episodes ever were produced. Even Eccleston managed to somehow slog his way through an entire year without having to over-rely on a shiny, metal dick to solve all his problems. The fact that 20 years later fans are once again having this debate shows that the SS has definitley become a problem again. As exec prod and head writer, Moffat must at least understand that the SS is being used as an unlimited crutch to solve any situation they don’t feel like taking the time to solve. Why not at least try to have the writers (i.e. him) spend 5 mins to come up with a more elegant solution, in conjunction with developing situations that while still head-scratching won’t REQUIRE a magic wand to get out of? I think (to heighten drama?) he just likes to create over-blown, seemingly impossible conflicts to get the audience to the edge of their seat, but all that pent-up “howzee gonna gettoutta this one?” excitement simply ends in disappointment when 51% of the solution involves the inherently inexplicable act of waving your magic wand at the problem and shouting “getmee outta this one!” All I know is that as long as the doctor still has his SS, the wear and tear at the edge of my seat has been greatly reduced.

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