Review by Ben
After the announcement of the new Doctor, there is also another moment that us fans wait for with much anticipation – the reveal of the new sonic screwdriver. This time around, the Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker, debuted the new sonic during a panel at San Diego Comic Con. Arwel Wyn Jones’ redesign of the Doctor’s trusty tool was met with mixed reactions, but as usual, fans wanted their own to add to their collection.
Alongside the reveal, Character Options and Seven20 announced the release of the 8″ toy replica version of the new sonic screwdriver. As I’m sure many fans did, I pre-ordered mine straight away. Now that it’s here and I’ve had time to wave it around stylishly at unsuspecting family members, it’s time to review the Thirteenth Doctor’s new sonic screwdriver.
The sonic comes in rather stylish tube pacakging, with the new logo set agains the familiar blue wood of the TARDIS and new TARDIS design in bright blue gracing the front. The inner sleeve continues the gold colour scheme of the new logo and the bright yellow burst of the sonic’s new colour.
The sonic screwdriver itself looks great and is quite detailed. Despite being plastic, it evokes a hammered metal finish, with a paint job that makes it look both new and used at the same time. The centre section that runs through the sonic is much cleaner and reminds us that it is a mechanical tool.
With the new design having translucent plastic in parts, it means some of the components within are slightly visible, especially when lit up. This doesn’t really detract from the design though, as we don’t know what’s inside the Doctor’s sonic on screen and there has to be some kind of mechanics inside.
The inner sleeve also contains the instructions for changing the batteries and how to use the sonic. I’ll admit, I’m not one for instructions. Like the Doctor, I prefer to dive straight in and learn as I go. Sadly, this was a philosophy that quickly caused some confusion. The top button didn’t press in and seemed very tempremental turning on the yellow light. I was half right.
The instructions explain that picking up the sonic activates the yellow light that runs throughout the toy. This sensor is actually a great new feature that adds a little bit of magic, making you feel like the sonic is reacting to you personally, in the same way that the TARDIS has its own sentience.
The instructions point out that the sonic will “go into sleep mode if held for about 2 minutes”. The word ‘about’ is a bit odd. It makes it sound like they haven’t properly tested it, but that’s just me being persnickety.
The sonic features two buttons – one on the top and one of the bottom. One of them activeates the sound and light effects, the other… does nothing. Yes, you heard right.
Initially, I thought this button was what triggered the light to come on, but it is stated on the instructions that “Buton ‘B’ is a dummy and does not function.” This seems like an absurd decision to have a non-functioning button on a child’s toy. What make it worse is that the erzats button is on top, where the thumb – which usually controls the buttons on other sonic screwdriver toys – naturally sits.
I found out from an American friend on Whovians Amino that on the American version of the sonic screwdriver toy, this button activates a ‘rotating crystal’ featue. He also points out that the American version is “far lower quality and not as accurate” so it seems there may have been a bit of a comprimise over quality and function.
So we may see the ‘rotating crystal’ feature on future releases, but for now we will have to make do with a button that does nothing. This may prove to be a costly mistake, as children of 5+ (who the toy is targetted at) will no doubt be confused and get annoyed by the non-functioning button.
Anyway, let’s move on to Button A where there is more fun to be had. Although we’ve seen the new sonic screwdriver, it’s only been a fleeting glimpse and we don’t really know what it can do, but the toy seems to shed some light on this. If you press and hold the bottom button, you hear the very familiar screeching sound that comes with all of the recent sonic screwdriver toys. With so many changes on the show, it’s comforting that they’ve kept this iconic sound.
If you press the button twice quickly and hold, you hear a new sound, which has been dubbed the ‘diagnostic’ sound. The new bleeps and whirrs give us a fun new mode for the sonic, but importantly it still fit with the feel and other sounds.
What the instructions don’t tell you is that there is actually a secret third mode. Pressing the button three times rapidly and holding gives a stuttering version of the classic sonic noise with accompanying flickering yellow light. Again, this is a fun new feature, but I find it surprising that it’s not mentioned on the instructions. I can’t help wondering if it is a secret mode that they want children to discover themselves or if it’s a further case of poor design?
Like the Doctors themselves, fans cannot help comparing the different sonic screwdrivers. Whilst it does not feature the physical interaction of the Tenth or Eleventh sonics (with extendable sections), it does have more features and the thinner, streamlined design feels nicer to hold.
Overall, the new sonic screwdriver is mostly a fantastic toy. Whilst we’ve not seen much of the real sonic on screen yet, it looks like a very close replica. The new sensor feature and three modes are a great step up from previous sonics and will be great for children playing with the toy. The main let down is – you guessed it – the non-functioning Button B, which just does make sense and should’ve been changed before it was approved.
So although this exciting new toy doesn’t actually open locks or disable enemies, it’s a faithful recreation that I’m sure will be loved by cosplayers and kids alike.
The Thirteenth Doctor sonic screwdriver toy is available to buy from Character Options.