TARDIS Index File

Sonic screwdriver

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Sonic screwdriver
Main aliases: The sonic
Type: Multi-functional sonic device
Place of origin: The Doctor's TARDIS (Mark VIII)
Made by: The Doctor's TARDIS (Mark VIII)
Used by: The Doctor
First seen in: Fury from the Deep
Appearances: Full List of Appearances

The sonic screwdriver was a versatile tool and defensive "weapon" used by the Doctor. He used it primarily as a non-offensive tool to assist him during his adventures. During the course of his travels, most versions were either replaced or destroyed, with the latter being the most frequently occurring of the two (TV: The Visitation, Smith and Jones, The Eleventh Hour, A Christmas Carol, The Almost People). All models were ineffective against wood - something he found embarrassing and wished to someday overcome.

Technology and functions

The sonic screwdriver was considered to be very advanced Gallifreyan technology. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS) The Eleventh Doctor made a tongue-in-cheek implication that he built the first sonic screwdriver (or an innovative model of one) instead of wooing a woman, something he considered a mistake. (TV: A Christmas Carol) 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) The name of the device suggests that it functioned using sound waves, although its actual workings were never truly explained.

The Mark IV sonic 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 (TV: The Girl in the Fireplace); 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 soundwaves off a knife held by Melody Pond, knocking it out of her hand. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) 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)

From time to time, the sonic screwdriver needed to be recharged. (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) To undo one of these seals, the user would need at least two sonic devices. One such instance was when the Tenth Doctor used his own sonic screwdriver in conjunction with Miss Foster's sonic pen to open the deadlock seals on and within her own facility when the Doctor's screwdriver alone 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, PROSE: Catastrophea)

Variants of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver


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

Mark I

The first version was 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

The "Door Handle"


Suspiciously sonic: the "door handle.". (TV: Inferno)

Early in his third incarnation, the Doctor employed a silver tool slightly larger than the Mark I sonic screwdriver, but with a round emitter head similar to the Mark II. (TV: Inferno) Although he never referred to as a sonic screwdriver, its appearance and in-hand use were uncanny. The Doctor described it as a "door handle" to a UNIT soldier.

Known uses

Mark II

File:CarnivalMonsters sonic screwdriver.jpg

The Third Doctor's most-used model of the sonic screwdriver was much larger than the Mark I; 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

Mark III

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)

Known uses

Mark IV


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

Towards the end of his seventh life, the Doctor fished a fourth type of sonic screwdriver from one of the tool kits in the TARDIS. This model looked similar to the Mark III seen at the end of his fourth incarnation; it was completely silver. The handle resembled a small torch, and the tip was a ring with a red sphere in its centre. To use this model, the tip was pointed at the object in question. This version remained in the Eighth Doctor's use throughout his life. There was a torch built into the handle. Once, while suffering from amnesia, the Doctor distracted himself and operated this sonic screwdriver on instinct.

Known Uses

Mark V

Later in his eighth incarnation, the Doctor carried a sonic screwdriver with a wooden handle and blue diode at one end. (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)

Known uses

Mark VI

File:Sonic screwdriver - Doomsday.png

The Doctor had yet another screwdriver during his eigthth incarnation, this one with a glowing blue diode at one end. Although the first known individual known to use it was the Eighth Doctor, (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 radiation output to over 5000%. (TV: Smith and Jones)

Known uses

Mark VII

Following his first adventure
File:Mark VI sonic - The Eleventh Hour.png
with Martha, the Doctor created a similar screwdriver. The only visible difference was the colour scheme of the handle. The Doctor had this screwdriver on his person during his regeneration, and was damaged repeatedly afterward, which lead 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


New Screwdriver

The Mark VIII sonic screwdriver (TV: The Eleventh Hour)

After the loss of the Mark VII, 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 platting similar to the new control room. (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 be a secondary way of using it. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler) Having been mentioned to be more than sonic, (TV: Night Terrors) the Mark VIII has 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 or the Wooden King and Queen (TV: Night Terrors, 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's 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) Oddly, he defended once, "Oi! Don't diss the sonic!" (TV: The Hungry Earth) In The Snowmen, the Doctor reveals a new setting: anti-freeze.

It's been destroyed and replaced repeatedly; (TV: A Christmas Carol, The Rebel Flesh COMIC: Silent Knight) bitten in half by a Sky shark and left behind, given to Ganger Doctor, or simply fried out from overusage.

Known Uses

River's Screwdriver

The Doctor created this version at an unknown point in his life before River's final date with him at the Darillium Singing Towers. This version of the sonic screwdriver had the Mark VI's settings along with "dampers" and a "red setting" that allowed it to work without interference from Doctor Moon. The Doctor gave it to River Song 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

Related tools

Behind the scenes

  • 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 Doctor Who, 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.
  • 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.
  • There are two main versions of the Mark VI 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.
  • 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.
  • A toy of the Mark VII (Matt Smith 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.
  • In the original script for The Eleventh Hour, the Doctor referred to the Mark VI Screwdriver as "Level 4000" technology.
  • 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.
  • According to the non-fiction source REF: Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary, the sonic screwdriver was a common and basic Time Lord device. If needed, a Time Lord could make one from scratch in very little time.
  • 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]

External links


  • 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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