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While almost always referred to as a sonic screwdriver, this device has on occasion been referred to as a sonic probe by people other than the Doctor, such as Dalek Sec (TV: Doomsday) and a version of Amy Pond who had been stuck on Apalapucia for 36 years. (TV: The Girl Who Waited) The Tenth (TV: Doomsday) and Eleventh (TV: The Girl Who Waited) Doctors openly disliked this and corrected those who did so. The Ninth (TV: The Doctor Dances) and Twelfth Doctors (TV: The Husbands of River Song) also defended when others claimed it was inferior to other sonic devices like a sonic blaster or sonic trowel.
Technology and functions
The sonic screwdriver was considered to be very advanced Gallifreyan technology, (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS) although somebody could make one by using resources found on Earth with help from Stenza technology. (TV: The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
The Doctor claimed to have either invented or designed the specific sonic screwdriver which they owned. In fact, the Seventh Doctor claimed to have filed a patent on the technology, (AUDIO: The Unknown) and to have copyright on the design. (AUDIO: The Quantum Possibility Engine)
When Kazran Sardick was confused as to what to do when it looked like Abigail Pettigrew was about to kiss him, the Eleventh Doctor told Kazran to trust him and kiss Abigail, as "it's this, or go to your room and design a new kind of screwdriver. Don't make my mistakes." (TV: A Christmas Carol) When Captain Jack Harkness asked the Ninth Doctor, "Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic'?", the Ninth Doctor defensively responded, "What? You never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?" (TV: The Doctor Dances)
Other individuals had similar devices, such as the sonic pen (which appeared to serve a near-identical function) used by Miss Foster (TV: Partners in Crime) and the sonic blaster used first by Captain Jack Harkness (TV: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances) and later River Song. (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead) Sarah Jane Smith had her sonic lipstick, (TV: Invasion of the Bane, et al.) and the Doctor himself once used a sonic cane. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) Even Missy used a sonic umbrella. (TV: World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls) River Song also had her own sonic screwdriver that the Twelfth Doctor gifted her. (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, TV: The Husbands of River Song)
From time to time, the sonic screwdriver needed to be recharged. (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, PROSE: The Monsters Inside, COMIC: Bizarre Zero) It was self-repairing and could send out a homing signal to any parts that had been separated. (TV: A Christmas Carol)
Sonic screwdrivers and similar technology could not unlock a deadlock seal. (TV: School Reunion, The Night of the Doctor) However, Miss Foster's sonic pen could open the deadlock seals that it was programmed to within her own facility when the Doctor's screwdriver could not. (TV: Partners in Crime) It also couldn't unlock the doors to the TARDIS if they had been manually locked at the console. (TV: Utopia) Some or all versions were ineffective against wood. (TV: Night Terrors, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, The Time of the Doctor, Empress of Mars) It didn't work in the presence of some models of hairdryers, although the Tenth Doctor stated he was working on it. (TV: Forest of the Dead, PROSE: Catastrophea)
Individual sonic screwdrivers
The Doctor's screwdriver
- Main article: The Doctor's sonic screwdriver
The Doctor, throughout many of their lives, possessed a sonic screwdriver. They originally used a basic model in their first (PROSE: Venusian Lullaby) and second incarnations, (TV: Fury from the Deep) before upgrading in their third. (TV: The Sea Devils) However, according to one account, the First Doctor was unfamiliar with the sonic screwdriver when he met the Twelfth Doctor. (TV: Twice Upon a Time) The Doctor continued to use the model introduced during his third incarnation until it was destroyed in their fifth by a Terileptil leader. (TV: The Visitation) It wasn't until they were in their seventh incarnation before they began to use a screwdriver again, taking on various different models throughout the years. (TV: Doctor Who, Rose, The Eleventh Hour, Hell Bent, The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
Early versions of their sonic screwdriver were used mainly for the picking of locks and for projecting sound so as to, for example, detonate objects and fry circuitry. (TV: The Sea Devils). By the time of the Ninth Doctor, the sonic was able to also be used as a sophisticated scanning device, with medical applications. (TV: The Empty Child) Subsequent incarnations gave it even wider functionality, such as the ability to hack into computers, (TV: Smith and Jones) provide geolocation (TV: Evolution of the Daleks) and actively defend against some types of assault weapons by frying their internal mechanics and causing the weapons to burst into flames and spark from the inside. (TV: Cold Blood) The tool could create powerful frequencies and signals, (TV: Partners in Crime, Thin Ice) as well as use sound to carry out its functions, even to the point where three of its latest incarnations where able to create a sonic force blast powerful enough to repel and destroy a Dalek while working together, (TV: The Day of the Doctor) as well as shoot green sonic energy waves to briefly incapacitate or stun a target. (TV: The Doctor Falls)
All of these incarnations utilised the same core software, though they used different hardware. While it was different individual model, for all intents and purposes the War Doctor's sonic was the same as the Eleventh Doctor's some 400 years later. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) However, the Thirteenth Doctor, having lost the Twelfth Doctor's sonic screwdriver, created her own version. As such, hers used unique software, and was made from components available from 21st century Earth, as well as part of a Recall Circuit from the Stenza Homeworld. (TV: The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
- Main article: Romana's sonic screwdriver
Romana II constructed her own sonic screwdriver, which was so impressive that the Doctor attempted to substitute his own with hers, but she noticed the switch. (TV: The Horns of Nimon) Her version also included a silencer. (AUDIO: Luna Romana) She later gave it to the Doctor. (PROSE: Lungbarrow) Nonetheless, during the final term of her presidency, her third incarnation used a sonic screwdriver. (AUDIO: Intervention Earth)
- Main article: River Song's sonic screwdriver
The Twelfth Doctor gave River Song another screwdriver before River's final date with him at the Singing Towers of Darillium. (TV: The Husbands of River Song, Silence in the Library) This version of the sonic screwdriver somewhat resembled the Ninth and Tenth Doctor's model, which was notable when she met the former in the Library, though it looked elaborately decorated and modified, featuring increased and enhanced functionality, including "dampers" and a "red setting" that allowed it to work without interference from the Doctor Moon. The Doctor gave it to River so she would be ready when she met his tenth incarnation in the Library. (TV: Forest of the Dead)
Narvin had a sonic screwdriver made, based on the Doctor's design, after seeing its utility when carried by the Doctor. At first he objected, preferring to call it a sonic lockpick, but then admitted the nature of his new device. (AUDIO: The Quantum Possibility Engine)
While trapped on Apalapucia for thirty-six years, Amy Pond cobbled together a sonic device from various pieces of technology, but insisted upon calling it a sonic probe. She later conceded that it was a "sonic screwdriver". (TV: The Girl Who Waited)
Vastra had a sonic screwdriver that was a gift from the Doctor. She used it to shatter the glass of the Crystal Palace. It had a red tip, and was similar in design to that used by the Doctor's eleventh incarnation. (COMIC: The Crystal Throne)
Behind the scenes
According to the non-fiction source REF: Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary, which this wiki does not count as a valid source, a sonic screwdriver was a common and basic Time Lord device. If needed, a Time Lord could make one from scratch in very little time.