Nerd Rage, Doctor Who and Sonic Screwdrivers

Geek Culture GeekMom TV and Movies

Dalek, TARDIS, Doctor…and Sonic Screwdriver, Image: Nicole Wakelin

I’ve only recently discovered Doctor Who. Well, recent meaning the latest incarnations of him that began in 2005. I saw a few episodes back when I was a kid but they scared me so badly (cheesy Daleks and all) that even today they give me the creeps. I’m okay with big budget, 3D, in-your-face scary movies, but Tom Baker and that scarf on a television screen send me running every time.

Since I’ve been watching the new series though, I have completely fallen in love with the Doctor Who universe. Even the Daleks. Which is why last night I may have gotten into a bit of an argument with someone who not only doesn’t like The Doctor, but who thinks the sonic screwdriver is silly.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a bona fide nerd out there who puts Doctor Who on his list of things he should like but just can’t manage to watch. My first reaction was a gasp of disbelief, followed by mumbly stuttering sounds as I tried to form some kind of defense. But before I even had a chance he went on to disparage the sonic screwdriver. I know. What do you even say to that? If someone doesn’t “get” just how awesome a sonic screwdriver is, how useful, nifty, and just plain wonderful a gadget it is, how do those of us in the know even begin to explain?

I did my best to defend my beloved Doctor and may have convinced this lunatic, er, I mean this very nice guy, to watch a few episodes more, maybe. But once our conversation was over I just couldn’t get past the idea that he didn’t like the sonic screwdriver. He thought it was hokey. The more I thought about it the more the nerd rage burned in my chest. The sonic screwdriver is right it up there with some of the best sci-fi tools ever invented. I mean, it’s like someone saying they don’t get lightsabers! How can you not get lightsabers? It’s impossible. They’re shiny and cut through stuff and look cool slicing through the air, even more so when there are an uncountable number of them on a giant battlefield. (Deep breath)

I vented my nerd rage on twitter, and was mollified by the number of people that shook their head in sad agreement that, nice as this guy was, he was utterly wrong. Which, when you think about it, is the crux of every nerd rage filled argument ever waged. It’s not about seeing both sides or appreciating someone else’s opinion. In the Geekverse there can be only one opinion. It’s the one that we each hold dear and that makes it the only right one. Anyone who disagrees is completely and hopelessly wrong. Like this guy. And I have plenty of tweets to prove it next time we talk. Now I’m off to watch The Doctor save the world with his beautiful, wonderful and very cool sonic screwdriver.

 

 

 

 

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34 thoughts on “Nerd Rage, Doctor Who and Sonic Screwdrivers

  1. I watched all six seasons (series? I don’t understand the Brits sometimes) since 2005 and I completely agree. I also think it’s hilariously awesome that you admit to nerd raging. When my boyfriend accuses me of nerd raging I get defensive…a little. “I AM NOT NERD RAGING. THEY’RE JUST SO, SO WRONG AND I CAN’T HELP THAT.”

    I hope the Small Fry doesn’t get it as bad. (With a big of a Whovian that he is, I can only see lots and lots of nerd rage in the future.)

    1. I too get horribly confused by how British seasons work. I think they do it differently just to keep us all guessing 😉

      And I completely understand that you are not nerd raging (in all caps) because, when people are wrong, how can you help it? I’ve seen itty bitty nerd rage from my youngest and it’s the hardest thing in the world not to giggle. I’m sure both our kids are going to defend sonic screwdrivers with the big boys someday.

      1. re: Seasons/Series – Britain doesn’t have annual seasons in the way America does, stuff just gets scheduled for an approximate time of year and thats it. Strange I know…

        On the sonic screwdriver, I always thought it’s main significance was that it was a tool, not a weapon. Every other sci-fi character has a gun (or lazor-sword), but the screwdriver perfectly fits the Doctor’s approach of intelligent solutions over violence.

          1. It’s times like this I wish I could “Like” or (preferably) “+1” individual comments anywhere on the web. =)

  2. I admit, at times, the sonic screwdriver does seem a bit hokey and some kind of get-out-of-jail free card. It’s not as much of what it is and what it can do, but more of a symbol of the Doctor. Most other sci-fi blasts the baddies with lasers and lightsabers. The Doctor is passive-aggressive and doesn’t use weapons. He uses a harmless, but extremely useful, sonic screwdriver. The screwdriver is one of the more passive tools in the toolbox. Saws are too pointy. Pliers are too pinchy. Hammer is to smashy. Why not a screwdriver? And, if you’re worried about it being too sharp, let’s make it blunt, lightweight, with light on… oh, yeah, and sonic (of course). Whenever I’ve seen the Doctor use a weapon, he either chickens out at the last moment, or uses the weapon as a tool. It’s so much more than a hokey instrument. It’s a symbol.

    1. Yes! Exactly! It fits perfectly with the person (alien) that is The Doctor. And the fact that it glows and makes a crazy whining sound that he somehow understands, much like he understands all sorts of gibberish, is wonderful.

  3. I love Dr Who, have watched and enjoyed every episode since its 2005 revival, and eagerly watch every new episode as soon as possible.

    But I have to agree about the screwdriver. It’s “cool” like bow ties are cool: only because of it’s association with the far cooler Doctor.

    But it’s just about the cheapest and laziest plot device ever. It has no apparent controls, though characters are constantly fiddling with them. It has no apparent display, but characters are constantly reading it. And by far the most damning of all, it has no bounds or even basic expectations for what it can do, it’s just a magic wand that we “learn” can do something new almost every time it’s used. It’s kind of a constant deus ex machina: how will our heroes ever manage to– oh, the screwdriver can do that?! Uh, okay, I guess.

    I love the screwdriver as an icon of the Doctor, but it’s a crutch for the writers that never adds much to the quality of the story telling, and often detracts from it.

    1. Did you not read my post? There can be only one opinion and it’s mine so I’m right and you are clearly wrong 😉

      I admit that I’ve wondered about what he sees when he points it and it makes a sound and then he “reads” it and makes a proclomation about whatever has just been scanned. But, I’m not The Doctor. How do I know that he doesn’t see something I don’t? And I sort of hope he does see some little bit of data that mere humans miss.

      Maybe it’s like the Psychic Paper. You see what you need to see when you use the screwdriver, just like it does what you need it to when you point it at something.

      And since he doesn’t have any weapons, no guns, knives etc. I like that he has one amazing all-powerful gadget to help him along.

      But, you can have your (wrong) opinion if you like 😉

      1. Uh-huh… “wrong”… riiiight… =p

        Remember that his human companions have used his screwdrivers countless times, too, and they can apparently “read” and “adjust” it just like he can, so I don’t think it’s a Gallifreyan thing.

        Honestly, they should just face facts and call it a tricorder… with some wibbly-wobbly-tooly bits.

        1. Bahahaha! Wibbly-wobbly-tooly bits?! You made me giggle-snort my coffee. And I honestly have thought about how humans use the sonic screwdriver and after much thought, decided it has psychic paper-ish qualities. Who knows, it’s possible…

          1. “psychic paper-ish qualities” actually would be a very good, internally consistent explanation for how they interact with the screwdriver, it’s a shame the writers weren’t as clever as you to come up with that idea. (Though it’s general capabilities still need some definition & boundaries, as well.)

  4. I think it’s not so much about the screwdriver. It’s about the idea that someone of a highly intelligent nature is able to use his mind to solve problems, and not explosions. On top of that, bear in mind that the first 7 doctors never had romantic inclinations. Thinky guys that don’t want the girl. In the end, it’s about being able to punch the quarterback in the face and get the head cheerleader to go out with you.

  5. If he doesn’t like the Doctors Sonic Screwdriver then maybe he would prefer Sarah-Jane Smith’s Sonic Lipstick. See the Sarah-Jane Adventures.

    1. I watched Sarah-Jane and thought the Sonic Lipstick was fantastic! It crossed my mind during the course of our debate, and I almost brought it up, but I was afraid that if he hated that too I’d lose all ability to form a coherent sentence.

  6. But…but…but a mop and a fez are MUCH cooler than the sonic screwdriver!!!

    Also a jammy dodger can be just as effective as a sonic device in the right hands =)

  7. The fact it’s a screwdriver- not just a weapon, like a phaser or a lightsaber- speaks volumes about the whole point of Doctor Who. He has become madly popular around our household. The Doctor deduces- he concludes- he speculates. He’s not just about dumb action. he can take action- on an epic scale, if necessary- but, primarily, he is a THINKER. This puts him in the rarified category of great role models in science fiction (there may be many, but I think the percentage, if all sci-fi characters ever written were included, would be rather small). This makes Doctor Who a singular standout in the field, and I dare say a great deal more interesting that a smash-em-up with aliens, humans and a humanoid, nonhuman protagonist could have been.

    1. Mike, I definitely agree that he is a stand-out as a character in that he does use his brain to solve problems not brute force. Even the way he looks makes you think he’d be the first one down in a bar brawl, but that’s not how it happens. He thinks his way out of it and would actually be the last one standing, hair slighly mussed, but otherwise just fine.

  8. In one Doctor Who Confidential episode it is stated that they introduced the psychic paper in the 2005 revival because they didn’t want the doctor in jail half of an episode so it’s a plot device but a very cool one. It apparently happened a lot in the ‘old’ Doctor Who series.

    And the Sonic Screwdriver doesn’t work on wood doors. This is observed in the Silence in the Library episode.

    1. I’m not going to be able to quote episodes, but there are a couple of cirumstances where it won’t work on wood. As far as I know that’s never been explained. It feels like a mystery that needs solving someday…

  9. Funny to hear you say that The Doctor scared you when you were little–ME TOO! The 70s Doctor with the scarf was so creepy…I would hear the first few notes of the theme music and cry! Now I am a HUGE fan 🙂

    1. That’s exactly what used to happen! My Dad loved Doctor Who and I’d be happily playing, hear those first few notes from the other room, and run to my bedroom to hide so I couldn’t hear. When it started back up in 2005 and my husband convinced me to watch it, hearing those first few notes still made me want to run!

  10. For those who think of the sonic screwdriver as a ‘crutch’, it should be noted that it was actually something that the ‘old’ Doctor had… Now I don’t remember exactly, but I believe that the second and third Doctors had it (the fourth Tom Baker had the scarf, the bag of jelly babies and K9 who was introduced with the third doctor and at the end was seen as a ‘plot crutch’ in the same was as some of you are saying for the sonic screwdriver). I think that the sonic screwdriver was actually phased out after the third doctor (I grew up with the fourth, fifth, sixth an seventh Doctors and don’t remember it), but I could be wrong.
    That said, I do think that the psychic paper is a bit of a plot crutch and an easy way around some obstacles…

    1. I wasn’t trying to imply the screwdriver was new with the 9th Doctor, it wasn’t my impression that it was, but it’s origin isn’t related to my feeling like it’s a crutch.

      I could also easily see that argument being made for the psychic paper, but that doesn’t bother me nearly as much because we’re at least told roughly how the paper works, which gives it some bounds and makes it a valid tool for the writers to call upon.

      But there are no such bounds on the screwdriver, someone just pulls it out and does something we’ve never seen or been told it could do before. If they’d just roughly define it’s capabilities and limitations to some extent, I’d mind it far less, but instead it’s a “magic wand” for the writers as much as it is for the Doctor.

      1. The psychic paper always makes me laugh, because it does feel silly. It doesn’t bother me, but it does feel like it’s an all access hall pass that fixes all manner of problem. It really just does anything the Doctor wants, and it always says the right thing. I keep waiting for him to pull it out, trying to prove he’s a cop and have a person see it as just a driver’s license.

  11. Check out episode 4 of the Nerd Lunch podcast to hear what prompted this post.

    All three Nerd Lunchers run afoul of Nicole’s Dr. Who sensibilities. Jeeg hates the new Dr. Who and has given up on the show. Pax didn’t like the first (Eccleston) season, but is eager to give the series another chance. CT really likes the new series, but raises some questions about the sonic screwdriver.

  12. I don’t like the new Doctor Who much. Even in Nerddom, there should be standards of quality. As a fiction nerd, it bugs me when they use the same storyline and theme over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. At least in the old Doctor Who, we had silly, obviously fake monsters and robots to spice things up. Yes, it was a sexist show, overall. Yes, I liked Rose in the new series. But Rose is gone, and the what’s-her-bucket chronicles/adventures totally sucked (bad acting, slow pacing, totally pathetic scriptwriting), and I only watch the new Doctor when it’s late at night and I can’t stand to watch that episode of History Detectives one more time.

    P.S. I love the Hobbit and cannot bring myself to read the self-indulgent, meandering Lord of the Rings again. Someone kill Tom Bombadil, kill him now. So creepy.

  13. I completely understand that you are not nerd raging (in all caps) because, when people are wrong, how can you help it? I’ve seen itty bitty nerd rage from my youngest and it’s the hardest thing in the world not to giggle. I’m sure both our kids are going to defend sonic screwdrivers with the big boys someday.

  14. For people who consider the sonic screw driver being a ‘crutch’, it spotted it was actually something this ‘old’ Doctor had… Now My partner and i don’t try to remember accurately, however i believe that another in addition to 3rd Health professionals had it (the fourth He Chef acquired this headscarf, the particular bag regarding jelly newborns along with K9 who had been released together with the third medical doctor as well as at the final seemed to be viewed as a ‘plot crutch’ in the exact seemed to be because some of that you are indicating to the sonic screw driver). I believe the sonic screw driver was actually eliminated following your 3 rd physician (We knew growing up your fourth, 5th, 6 an in 7th place Medical doctors along with don’t remember this), however might be completely wrong.
    Having said that, I truly do think that this psychic cardstock is on the story crutch as well as an smart way all around many obstacles…

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