I love Dr Who, but hate the sonic screwdriver

Dr Who?Phil: It’s no secret that Team Nolanparker are Dr Who fans. Over lunch last week I was quizzing Candice about the finer details of her trip around the Dr Who Experience in Cardiff.

Apparently the first part is really good where you take part in an “interactive experience” after which you go through the “more anoraky” display of props and costumes, which sounds more fun to me but then I am the more anoraky half of our team.

Anyway, we are both looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Episode this weekend. There will be no painting or kitchen fitting going on in one Solihull household from ten to eight on Saturday. Sadly, I’ll probably be on the train back from the NEC so I’ll have to record it, but this doesn’t greatly worry me. I have reservations about the thing.

In the good old days of Tom Baker (the best Doctor obviously), stories were long, 4 to 6 episodes, and the plot cerebral. The Doctor plotted and schemed his way out of trouble.

Modern Who fans want everything tied up in 45 minutes with lots of flashing lights, noise, a bit of tonsil hockey with the companion and the thud of a story arc landing. That doesn’t leave much space for plot so the writers have taken to employing a deus ex machina in the form of the sonic screwdriver. From a rarely used prop (Jon Pertwee was the first to have one but you hardly saw it), the thing is now brandished like a Wands up!magic wand. It unlocks doors, boost mobile phone signals, scans bodies and anything else that needs to be done without all the trouble of coming up with a convincing way of doing this. Basically, we get 35 minutes in, out comes the screwdriver and hooray, after a little more running down corridors, we’re all done.

Which brings me to “The Day of the Doctor“. Trailers show David Tennant and Matt Smith brandishing their screwdrivers at an advancing army. All I think when I see this is “it’s bloody Harry Potter”.

The Doctor doesn’t need a magic wand. He needs brains and cunning and ingenuity. He’s a clever man with 900 years of experience to help him get out of trouble. In the good old days, and even some of the modern ones, he thought his way out of a scrape. For the modern era, two of the best episodes are Blink and Dalek and in both the screwdriver stays in the pocket.

Duh cter WhoOf course, the world has changed. Modern viewers (apparently) can’t handle a storyline running across 4 episodes. Everything really must be wrapped up in 45 minutes. Harry Potter was massively popular so turning your main character into a sci-fi wizard works well for an audience educated at Hogwarts. And it’s only a telly programme so I should stop being so grumpy.

I’m sure the 50th anniversary episode will be worth a million X-Factor shows. I’m really looking forward to “An Adventure in Space and Time“, a drama about the creation of the series. Re-runs of old episodes were a much better option for Friday night telly than Children In Need last week too. More to the point, it’s great that we can still produce big-budget drama that doesn’t involve miserable cockneys. Best of all, it appeals to all age groups, something very rare nowadays.

But you’ll have to excuse me if I wish the Dr would learn to use a lock pick. Or even just blow the bloody doors off.

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1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

One response to “I love Dr Who, but hate the sonic screwdriver

  1. Well said. It seems the sonic is the tonic for just about everything nowadays. (But I’m still looking forward to the weekend)

    Nice post, thanks

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