TARDIS Index File

Sonic screwdriver

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This article needs to be updated.

Thread:133842 establishes there's some inconsistency among the writers, but there is nonetheless a sonic in the Doctor's possession by the time of his travels with Benny in the NAs.

These omissions are so great that the article's factual accuracy has been compromised. Check out the discussion page and revision history for further clues about what needs to be updated in this article.

Sonic screwdriver
Main aliases: The sonic, sonic probe
Type: Multi-functional sonic device
Place of origin: Gallifrey
Made by:
The Doctor (the original)
The Doctor's TARDIS (the green "clawed" version)
First seen in: Fury from the Deep
Appearances: see list
Memorable moment

The sonic screwdriver — often called the sonic — was a highly versatile tool used by many, but not all, incarnations of the Doctor. The Doctor modified and ostensibly upgraded it over the years, giving it an increasing number of applications. Early versions were used mainly for the picking of locks and for projecting sound so as to, for example, detonate bombs. By the time of the Ninth Doctor, the sonic was able to also be used as a sophisticated scanning device, with medical applications. Subsequent incarnations gave it even wider functionality, such as the ability to hack into computers, provide geolocation and actively defend against some types of assault weapon.

All of these incarnations utilised the same software, though they used different cases. 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)

Technology and functions Edit

The sonic screwdriver was considered to be very advanced Gallifreyan technology. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS) The First Doctor built the first sonic screwdriver (or an innovative model of one) instead of wooing a woman, something he later regretted. (TV: A Christmas Carol) His ninth incarnation suggested that the First Doctor did it partially out of boredom. (TV: The Doctor Dances) Other alien races had similar devices, such as the sonic pen used by Miss Foster (TV: Partners in Crime) and the sonic blaster obtained by Captain Jack Harkness and River Song. (TV: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead)

At least one version of the screwdriver used a crystal similar to the Metebelis crystal sought after by the Eight Legs of Metebelis III. (COMIC: The Forgotten) There were also electrical components. (COMIC: The Halls of Sacrifice)

The screwdriver had a multitude of settings and different versions of settings. The Tenth Doctor told Rose to use "setting 15B" to triangulate the source of the ghosts (TV: Army of Ghosts) and used 34-H to sink a ship (COMIC: Second Wave). It had a setting 85 that undid security codes to unlock doors. (TV: The Lazarus Experiment) The Ninth Doctor told Rose to use setting 2428D to re-attach barbed wire. (TV: The Doctor Dances) Sarah Jane used the Theta Omega setting to melt plastic vines. (TV: The Android Invasion)

The different versions of the Doctor's sonic screwdrivers exhibited different capabilities and uses, such as the interception of signals ranging from transmat beams to conscious thought; (TV: The End of the World) medical diagnostics and repair of organic parts; (TV: The Empty Child, The Vampires of Venice) cutting, but also re-attaching materials such as barbed wire; (TV: The Doctor Dances) operating Earth machinery such as computers and even cash machines (at regular and high eject speeds); (TV: School Reunion, The Runaway Bride) creating a spark to light a candle or Bunsen burner; (TV: The Girl in the Fireplace, Evolution of the Daleks) opening and holding doors with acoustic locks; (TV: The Rings of Akhaten) and, on the rare occasion, driving screws without touching them. (TV: The War Games, The Ark in Space, The Doctor's Wife)

Although it was primarily a tool, the sonic screwdriver could also be used as a defensive weapon. The Tenth Doctor put it in a sound board to destroy the Robot Santas by overloading their sensors. (TV: The Runaway Bride) The Eleventh Doctor used it to bounce sound waves off a knife held by Melody Pond, knocking it out of her hand. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) The sonic screwdriver was also capable of holding off sound waves from creatures who relied on sound in order to attack such as the Vigil. (TV: The Rings of Akhaten) The Doctor also used it to try and help River Song defeat a group of Silents although River teased him by saying it would be better if he used it to "build a cabinet". However, the Doctor implied that although it couldn't actually hurt the Silents it could weaken the power of their electricity, therefore allowing him to provide River with a certain degree of protection while she shot down their foes. (TV: Day of the Moon)

Although the Eighth Doctor once claimed the device could destroy a Dalek's brain if held directly against the casing when activated, (PROSE: War of the Daleks) according to the Tenth Doctor, the device could not be used to wound, maim or kill living things. (TV: Doomsday, The Doctor's Daughter) It could destroy non-living objects or mechanisms or place living creatures in circumstances where they might die, if the situation required. (TV: The End of the World, The Christmas Invasion) The War Doctor claimed that it was a scientific instrument rather than a water pistol. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)

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) However, it was up to the owner to collect the parts for reassembly.

Sonic screwdrivers and similar technology could not unlock a deadlock seal. (TV: School Reunion, TV: 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) Some or all versions were ineffective against wood, or in the presence of some models of hairdryers. (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, The Hungry Earth, Night Terrors, The Time of the Doctor, PROSE: Catastrophea)

Variants of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver Edit

The earliest known version of the sonic screwdriver in use. (TV: The War Games)
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

The First and Second Doctor's sonic Edit

One sonic screwdriver, a small, simple device similar to a penlight, used by the First (PROSE: Venusian Lullaby) and Second Doctor. (TV: Fury from the Deep) It was used by the Eighth Doctor after it was destroyed "centuries ago". He explained how this occurred to his companion Samantha Jones: "It's a Time Lord tool. Time doesn't work the same way for Time Lord tools." (PROSE: Alien Bodies)

Known uses Edit

The Third Doctor's sonic Edit

The Third Doctor's Sonic (TV: Carnival of Monsters)

The Third Doctor's most-used model of the sonic screwdriver was much larger than the one his first and second incarnation used; its elaborately-detailed silver shape featured black and yellow stripes and red trim. It had a removable head which the Doctor would change with others, each performing a different function. (TV: The Sea Devils)

Known uses Edit

Refit used by the Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctor Edit

The Fourth Doctor's Sonic (TV: The Sontaran Experiment)

The Third Doctor fitted the head of his sonic screwdriver with a cylindrical black magnet which enabled it to open bolted doors, especially when its polarity was reversed. (TV: Frontier in Space) This refit left the metal mostly unpainted, with a dark red emitter ring. The head of this model could be extended. Before this model was destroyed, (TV: The Visitation) its head was repainted twice after the original coat wore off. (TV: The Keeper of Traken, Castrovalva) The Doctor went without a sonic screwdriver for some time after this model and Nyssa lamented the Fifth Doctor's decision not to replace it. (TV: Snakedance)

The Doctor, leaving UNIT, left behind a prototype. UNIT scientists then tried to use reverse-engineering to understand its workings; this went on into the 21st century. Despite them trying to keep it quiet from the Doctor, he was well aware of the project by his seventh incarnation. (AUDIO: Persuasion)

Known uses Edit

Used from the end of the Seventh Doctor's life Edit

Chang Lee discovers the sonic screwdriver amongst the things he stole from the Seventh Doctor. (TV: Doctor Who)
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

Towards the end of his seventh life, the Doctor fished another type of sonic screwdriver from one of the tool kits in the TARDIS. This model looked similar to the screwdriver seen at the end of his fourth incarnation; it was silver with a brass trim ring in the lower grip. The handle resembled the previous sonic screwdrivers with the upper section being able to collapse in similar fashion as a telescope into itself for ease of carrying. At the top, the emitter had a silver ring with a red bullet shape in the centre. This version remained in the Eighth Doctor's use throughout his life. Later, a torch was built into the handle. Once, while suffering from amnesia, the Doctor distracted himself and operated this sonic screwdriver on instinct. [source needed]

At the end of his life during the Last Great Time War, the Eighth Doctor used a similar model. (TV: The Night of the Doctor)

Known uses Edit

After Lucie and Tamsin Edit

Later in his eighth incarnation, the Doctor carried a sonic screwdriver with a wooden handle. It had a metallic tip with six prongs that nested a clear diode at the end, which glowed blue when activated. (AUDIO: The Great War) The Doctor claimed that he made this version of the sonic screwdriver to do more than open doors and blow up land mines. (AUDIO: X and the Daleks) It was called a pennywhistle by World War I medics. (AUDIO: The Great War) Although the Doctor used this screwdriver more frequently later on in his eighth incarnation, he had used this version of the sonic screwdriver as early as his travels with Charley Pollard. (AUDIO: The Light at the End)

Known uses Edit

The War Doctor's sonic Edit

War Doctor sonic
The War Doctor's sonic screwdriver. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
TybortAdded by Tybort

At the end of the War Doctor's life, the Doctor used a sonic screwdriver with a simple metallic handle and a red diode at the end. It appeared to be a further upgraded version of the Eighth Doctor's sonic screwdriver adapted for battle. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)

Known uses Edit

The Ninth and Tenth Doctor's sonic Edit

The Doctor had yet another screwdriver during his eighth incarnation. This one had a glowing blue diode at one end. Although the Eighth Doctor was known to have used it as well, (PROSE: Osskah) this model was much more ubiquitous as the model carried by the Ninth Doctor, who used it far less frequently like his previous incarnations had done before. The Tenth Doctor also used this model, as he liked tinkering with technology to make devices he needed. This version was burnt out by accident after the Doctor used it to modify an X-ray output to over 5000%, but had replaced it with a near-identical model. (TV: Smith and Jones) The only visible difference was the colour scheme of the handle. The tenth incarnation had this screwdriver on his person during his regeneration, and was damaged repeatedly afterwards, which led to malfunctions. Despite the damage, the Eleventh Doctor used it to overload technology in an attempt to alert the Atraxi to Prisoner Zero's location. This fried it into useless, charred metal, much to his growing annoyance and anger. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)

Known uses Edit

Security Edit
Medical Edit
Diagnostic Edit
Technology Edit
Amplification Edit
Utility Edit

After Prisoner Zero Edit

The Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver (TV: The Hungry Earth)

After the loss of the sonic screwdriver, the TARDIS gifted the Doctor with this new model. Differing radically from the last due to having "claws" and a green diode, rather than blue, it also had copper plating similar to the control room which had built itself following the TARDIS' crash landing in Leadworth. (TV: The Eleventh Hour) A psychic interface allowed its user to point it at a target and think of the function they wanted, instead of "settings"; however, it may have been a secondary way of using it. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) Having been mentioned to be more than sonic, (TV: Night Terrors) this screwdriver also shot beams of green energy. (TV: Day of the Moon, Closing Time)

Retaining ineffectiveness against wood, it also didn't work against Peg Dolls (TV: Night Terrors) or the Wooden King and Queen. (TV: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe) The Doctor considered it embarassing and that "I need to invent a setting for wood." (TV: Night Terrors) In similar situations, he yelled at it in panic; "Aliens made of wood, you know this was always going to happen!", "Yes, I know it's wood. Get over it!" (TV: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe) Though aware of this flaw, he was still able to successfully bluff a Wooden Cyberman into destroying itself. (TV: The Time of the Doctor) Oddly, he defended once, "Oi! Don't diss the sonic!" (TV: The Hungry Earth) At some point it had an anti-freeze setting. (TV: The Snowmen)

It was destroyed and replaced repeatedly: bitten in half by a sky shark and left behind, (TV: A Christmas Carol) given to the Ganger Doctor, (TV: The Rebel Flesh) or simply fried out from over usage. In the latter instance, a replacement was given to him by Santa Claus. (COMIC: Silent Knight)

Known uses Edit

Security Edit
Medical Edit
Diagnostic Edit
Technology Edit
Amplification Edit
Other Edit

River's screwdriver Edit

The Tenth Doctor figures out the true purpose of River's screwdriver. (TV: Forest of the Dead)
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

The Doctor created another screwdriver before River Song's final date with him at the Darillium Singing Towers. This version of the sonic screwdriver had the settings of the Tenth Doctor's model when he met her at the Library along with "dampers" and a "red setting" that allowed it to work without interference from Doctor Moon. The Doctor gave it to River so she would be ready when she met his tenth incarnation in the Library. Unknown to her, this version included a neural relay which would save her data ghost for uploading into the main computer of the Library. (TV: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead)

Known uses Edit

Related tools Edit

Main article: Sonic prodder
  • The Fifth Doctor also kept a Molenski Univarius in the TARDIS for repairs. He described it as a Gallifreyan "Swiss Army knife". While exploring the Axis, he carried it with him and used it in the same fashion as later models of the sonic screwdriver, even using the sonic properties to fend off creatures with sound waves before it ran out of power and was discarded. (AUDIO: The Axis of Insanity)
Main article: Molenski Univarius
Main article: Sonic suitcase
Main article: Laser screwdriver
Main article: Sonic blaster
Main article: Sonic modulator
Main article: Sonic pen
Main article: Sonic lipstick
Main article: Laser spanner
Main article: Phonic disruptor
Main article: Sonic lance
Main article: Sonic cane
  • While trapped on Apalapucia for thirty-six years, Amy Pond cobbled together a sonic screwdriver from various pieces of technology, although she insisted on calling it a "sonic probe". She later admitted it was a sonic screwdriver. (TV: The Girl Who Waited)
Main article: Sonic probe

Behind the scenes Edit

The sonic screwdriver prop Edit

  • The sonic screwdriver was retired during the Fifth Doctor serial The Visitation, as it was felt that it had been overused. It was absent for the Sixth and Seventh Doctor's eras, except in the TV Movie, in which the Seventh Doctor used it to lock the Master's remains away. The Eighth Doctor recovered it at the end of the film. The tool was reintroduced with the Ninth Doctor and has become the show's most frequently used gadget besides the TARDIS itself. It has since appeared in many Seventh and Eighth Doctor audio adventures from Big Finish Productions.
  • For unexplained reasons, the Tenth Doctor's sonic screwdriver had a green casing in The Infinite Quest.
  • During early production of Series 1 (2005), the production crew decided to switch from their original prop to one based on the toy sonic screwdriver because the first prop was prone to falling apart. The production team secured moulds of the toy replica to make a more reliable prop for the next season.
  • There are two main versions of the Tenth Doctor's sonic screwdriver - one has a slide feature with button, and one which does not slide and has a fixed button. The two prop types varied each episode.

Concept art Edit

  • Early conceptual art of the modern era sonic screwdriver feature a different "tube" section. Notes refer to "glowing organic circuitry" and a movable ball-joint on the emitter to allow use around corners and in tight spaces. Instead of the "glowing circuitry," the actual prop and toy reproductions featured a black "swivel" like a simple helix. When given a personal copy of the concept art, David Tennant himself commented on the lack of the swivelling emitter.
  • Another early piece of concept art, similar to a simple Bitmap drawing, reveals that the black "cap" at the reverse end of the sonic screwdriver was intended to be an opening set of "feet," allowing the sonic screwdriver to plug into a section of the TARDIS console. This feature was also dropped from the eventual prop model.
  • When the Doctor handles the screwdriver, the clinking noises produced (when he throws and catches it) are created by repeating the motions with a corkscrew, the handles of which bump against the casing to produce the required noise. These noises are dubbed over the footage.

Sonic screwdriver toy Edit

  • A toy of the Eleventh Doctor's version was seen in "Light Echoes", an edition of "The Sky at Night" broadcast on BBC4 on Wednesday 5th October 2010. The screwdriver was (jokingly) used to scan a part of the LOFAR radio telescope, then under construction in Chilbolton, Hampshire, UK.
  • The Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver toy has a total of four sound effects, two of which alternate with every other button press. The third is activated by pressing twice and holding on the third button push. The fourth is activated with three presses and a hold on the fourth push. However, in some models of the toy, over-use of the hidden sound effects causes the sound functions to eventually break, leaving only the LED functional.
  • A customiseable toy sonic screwdriver set featuring three screwdrivers with interchangeable parts can produce up to eight sound effects: the first two are the basic screwdriver sound, with slightly different pitches, and alternate each time the button is pressed. The other six effects are achieved in a similar manner to the Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver toy, and are accompanied by a flashing lights instead of a constant light.

The Visual Dictionary Edit

Attack of the Graske Edit

In NOTDWU: Attack of the Graske, the Tenth Doctor appears to break the fourth wall by noting the player at home's been watching his adventures. Later, he points the sonic screwdriver at the television screen, transferring its powers to the player's digital remote control. This, along with having the player choose multiple endings to this game, disqualifies it as a valid source on this wiki.

Other matters Edit

  • In the original script for The Eleventh Hour, the Doctor referred to his screwdriver as "Level 4000" technology.
  • Scientists at the University of Dundee invented a device which turns objects with ultrasonic waves, an invention which has been described as a real-world version of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.[1]
  • The Poldigon scientists the Seventh Doctor encountered on Celdor knew of Sonic screwdrivers, but not of The Doctor himself. This suggests they were at least partly a Gallifreyan invention and not entirely of the Doctor's creation. (AUDIO: The Doomsday Quatrain)

External links Edit

Footnotes Edit


  • Seven has the sonic screwdriver considerably before the TV movie?

    3 messages
    • Our page is clearly wrong. Seven uses a sonic screwdriver in around 15 of the NAs. But it's also used most inconsistently in the NAs. He te...
    • I just realised I didn't really answer your question. No Love and War (novel) doesn't go down the same way as Love and War (audio story). ...
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