I Wish I Had a Sonic Screwdriver

Tell me--tell meeeee-- that you know who Doctor Who is?


Doctor Who.



OK, lame joke, but still--if you've not checked out this amazing show from BBCA, you need to.

Doctor Who has been around a long time--if you count all the reboots and re-imaging of the show, it's the longest running television series ever. The premise is brilliant--a man (who looks human but is really from another planet) is the Doctor, and his mission in life is to protect the weak and help those in need (hence the name, Doctor)....kind of like an intergalactic Superman, but without the super powers or Spandex suit.

The Doctor has some powerful weapons with him--including a Tardis (the police box in the background) that is much bigger on the inside and is a space ship; psychic paper that allows the Doctor to present papers to people who then see whatever they expected to see (a passport, an invitation to the party, clearance to go to the secret base)....and a sonic screwdriver.

The sonic screwdriver is as close to a magic wand as the Doctor has. It cuts through locks, destroys robots, and has even been known to blast through walls.

And it's also the thing that drives hardcore sci-fi nerds CRAZY.

See, Doctor Who is--technically--science fiction. But he's got a device that's almost a dues ex machina. Whenever he's in trouble, he always has the screwdriver that can, miraculously, get him out of whatever scrape he's gotten himself into.

Yes, it's kind of sciencey. It's sonic, after all. But there's no real scientific explanation to the screwdriver, just as there's no real scientific explanation for psychic paper or a police box that's bigger on the inside and can time travel.

This, to me, is the difference between hard sci fi and soft sci fi. Hard sci fi needs a true, 100% realistically possible explanation for anything. But soft sci fi can use a sonic screwdriver like a magic wand.

I prefer soft sci fi--I'd rather focus on the story than on the science (and I'd rather focus on David Tennant than either of those, mmmm....).

What about you? Hard sci fi, or soft sci fi?


Sarah Woodard said...

I love Doctor Who!

Tana said...

Gosh I need one of those too. Pronto.

word ver: twetr = where I learned of your very cool post. ;)

KA said...

Yeah, I don't care what kind of weapon David Tennant has, I'll watch him anytime. Sorry, Matt Smith. You're just not the same.

Rhiannon Hart said...

I was watching The Ark in Space last night (Tom Baker years, my favourite as I grew up with him--tho if it's a swoon-worthy Doctor I can't go past Christopher Eccleston) and I was surprised about how much actual science was in there. It's pretty soft, but still, sciencey goodness! I guess I prefer it soft and like to get on with the story.

Susanne Winnacker said...

I prefer to write and read soft sci-fi, but I enjoy watching hard sci-fi. :)

Tina Lynn said...

I write soft. What fun is sci-fi without time travel or deep space travel? Am I right?

EVA SB said...

I've been a Whovians since the early 1970s and I really want a sonic screwdriver!

If they try to give a serious scientific explaination of something I like it to make sense. But sometimes hard scifi can get a bit up itself.

If the characters and plot are good I have no problem with soft scifi giving no explanation. And some of Dr Who's gibberish explanations are inspired.

Erinn said...

From a writing POV the sonic screwdriver was created so that a door would never stop the doctor. Think about all the times he goes somewhere he's not supposed to go. It would be a huge pain in the ass for him to break the door every time.
Russel T Davis wrote it as a plot device.

COol huh

Scott said...

I love Dr. Who! I've been watching - gasp - since Tom Baker was the Doctor. I love, love, love Matt Smith as Dr. Who!

I read an interview with the previous writers (David Tennant's Dr. Who) who said that Dr. Who encompasses all genres and doesn't neatly fit into one. There's romance, sci fi, fantasy, a mix of horror here and there (Weeping Angels anyone?), and a hodge podge of this, that, and that and this.

I think the brilliance of Dr. Who, the success, is due to the fact that the writers successfully mixed all the genres together to craft a neat show that keeps on going!

Deva Fagan said...

I enjoy it when the science is not blatantly preposterous (and if a book/show is using something not entirely scientific, I like it to at least be internally consistent). But the story and characters trump all else, and I'd rather read something with fantastical science and good characters, than something with rock-solid science and cardboard characters.

And if there's a madman with a box involved, I am definitely there!

Anonymous said...

Love to read/write soft sci-fi - but, yeah... give me a hard sci-fi movie & I'm there!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

As a passionate Dr. Who fan I'm sure I could contribute much to this discussion. But...I'm too busy staring at the picture.

Angie Smibert said...

I've been a Doctor Who geek since the Tom Baker years, but David Tennant is my favorite Doctor. Sorry, Matt Smith's Doctor is too much of a dork for me--tho the season finale had it's moments. I do love Amy and River, though.

Doesn't every Time Lord only get 12 regenerations? Smith is number 11. But, the Master keeps cheating death...so may the Doctor.

Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

My mother ended up getting remarried to her college sweetheart from across the pond, and I've been a Doctor Who fan ever since! =) Who doesn't want a sonic screwdriver? I actually love Torchwood just as much as/even more than Doctor Who, though. I'm more of a soft sci-fi kind of gal, but honestly, it's all about the writing and characters for me. Well-written sci-fi with great characters no matter the subgenre and IT'S ALL MINE. Muahahahaha. =D

Melissa Hurst said...

I prefer soft sci fi. I've read hard sci fi before and seems like the writers go overboard trying to explain the science. That loses me every time. With soft sci fi, I get to know the characters more and I'm able to lose myself in the story.

BTW, I miss David Tennant as The Doctor.

Unknown said...

Oh, guys, I *SO* hear you...David Tennant...best Doctor EVER!

(And Angie--that worries me, too--only 12 incarnations? I'm sure they'll come up with SOMETHING, but....)

Shallee said...

Oh, I LOVE Doctor Who! And I'm sort of a mix between soft/hard sci fi. I like them both, but tend to like soft sci fi that has at least a little bit of possibility.

Mandy P.S. said...

I like both. Soft SF is fine, as long as its not wrong. Trust me, a little research can go a long way. Writing soft science fiction is not an excuse to not do research (yes...that was a double negative). Just as historical writers need to research the 18th century to write about it but are allowed to take liberties, so is the science fiction writer.

There is no sound in space. Nothing can burn without oxygen (so no explosions in space unless it's using up the limited fuel from your cockpit). And seriously, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It's amazing how often people overlook Newton's third law.

Mandy P.S. said...

Oh and I love love love love love Doctor Who. :)

Unknown said...

I love Doctor Who but it annoys me that because the sonic screwdriver can't get through something that is 'deadlocked' they try and make it more interesting by everything being 'double deadlocked' - really not necessary in my mind. Oh, and it doesn't do wood!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I'm with you all the way, Beth. Soft sci fi, for the win. I'm no scientist, and I want a connection with the character rather than the science.

Nushi-ke said...

And hairdryers, don't forget hairdryers.

On Moh's sliding sclae of Scifi hardness most of the time thinkthe Doctor manages to land himself in the middle (but most of the time he's running so fast he doesn't stay there for long). I don't think it matters anymore. In the early days Doctor Who was about teaching kids science and history but now it's about adventure and love and excitement and a madman in a blue box and his friends, about running and doing your best to never stop an a bit of wibbley wobbley timey wimey thrown in. You can classify Doctor Who as scifi but that isn't the important bit.

The screwdriver doesn't get him out of trouble always, sometime the Doctor needs to be clever, or a friend. And there are a few explanations for that earlier on (but mostly people want to see Ace beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat


Nushi-ke said...

@Beth: 13 actually, 12 regenerations. Thank God for that.

@Kaylie: That's the briliant part. Ho many differernt Doctors, all wonderful.

@Erinn I think the sonic screwdriver appeared in the 2nd Doctor's time an everyon loved it too much for it to go away. But your explanation makes sense, the Doctor does need to go wherever he is definately not supposed to go.

@Scott, Oh god the Angles, this is why I don't like blinking. Also, Vashta Narada.

Anyone heard of Chameleon Circuit?

Unknown said...

Oh, Nushi-ke, EXCELLENT! I'm glad there's at least an extra generation. And I had no idea Doctor Who was originally a kids show designed to teach--I've only seen the latest incarnations (Doctors 9, 10, and 11)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, I adore Dr. Who - and I especially adore David Tennant!! *sigh* :-)

Julie G said...

Swoon! I'm a HUGE Dr. Who fan. We even have a piece of "keep calm and call the doctor" art displayed in our media room.