David Tennant’s Doctor Who sonic screwdriver TV remote control – hands-on review

While fun, the follow-up to Matt Smith's remote control sonic is let down by a high price tag at odds with the "lacklustre quality of its build", Stephen Kelly finds

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Have you ever longed to be David Tennant’s tenth Doctor? Well… you can’t. Sorry about that. But, at least, you can now change channels like him thanks to the new sonic screwdriver universal remote control from The Wand Company.

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Following on from the success of the Matt Smith version released last year, the device allows you to command home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, iPod docks and DVD players with the flick of a wrist. But does it match up to its rather impressive predecessor? Here’s what RadioTimes.com thought. Allons-y!

Appearance

As with the eleventh’s version, the tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver comes with a grand, deftly designed blueprint that unfurls much like a blueprint of Time Lord technology should. Over an X-Ray image of the model, it regales you of such wibbly-wobbly wonders as the device having a “subminiature electroacoustic transducer” and being made of “aluminium-magnesium-silicon 6063-T5 alloy.” All very impressive on paper, but, sadly, not so much in execution.

Last year, RadioTimes.com praised the eleventh Doctor’s replica’s “heft in the hand” and “solidity of the metal frame.” In comparison, the tenth’s feels light, plastic and – quite frankly – a bit cheap. If the last model made you go “ah!” then this is more of an, “oh…” Especially when you consider that not only was it “painstakingly” 3D scanned from Tennant’s original prop but – at £69. 95 – is a tenner more expensive than the superior-feeling Matt Smith version.

Unlike the first model, however, this sonic does extend to its full 190mm length; making it feel more like a sonic screwdriver than a remote control. Although, having to push it up slowly – and keep it there with your thumb – rather than it just snapping up with the press of a button does ruin the magic a bit. Thankfully, the blue LED light at the tip will distract you for a while before you notice. That, and the…

Sound effects

With the shiny blue LED light comes that familiar sound: the ‘wrrrrriiiizzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ of a sonic screwdriver. It’s great and – depending on what you’re doing with it – comes in ten different sonic, buzzes, beeps and scanning sounds.

The only downside to the sound, it appears, is the volume of the spoken prompts which instruct you how to use it and let you know what action you’re performing. Unless you’re free of background noise or have it near your ear – and why would you? – then you may find it hard to hear what on earth it’s telling you to do.

Set-up and remote control

If you’re easily daunted by technology, then setting this thing up so that it can control infared devices is going to be your Everest. There are instructions, of course – a sea of text on the opposite side of the aforementioned blueprints – but that isn’t really the problem. It’s the fact that you have to program a device with a wealth of functions and modes using only one small button. It’s not very user-friendly, and can prove frustratingly fiddly to get to grips with.

When you do – eventually – get to grips with it, then it’s relatively simple. Each gadget that you wish to control has to be synced with the sonic – meaning that, no, you can’t just stand outside people’s houses turning their TVs on and off. To command, say, your own TV, though, you just have to point the existing remote control at the sonic’s infra-red tip, press the button you want it to imitate, choose the gesture, click and hope that the sonic recognises it. Honesty, after a while, it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Three memory banks of thirteen gestures mean that it can handle 39 different commands for use with variousinfrared technology (as before, you can split banks of gestures across multiple hardward, or reserve a bank for each and switch between them.) Theoretically, having spent the time to sync it with the right devices, you can very well swan around the house like you’re in some terrible adaptation of Fantasia.

When all of the fiddly set-up is out of the way, controlling stuff like your TV or the volume on your iPod dock is definitely more fun that it has any right to be. Granted, you will look – and feel – like a total berk, but the novelty is certainly worth it. A word of warning, though: the gestures will take some getting used to and you will, more than once, end up turning the TV off when you meant to turn it down. But then again, even the Doctor must have needed practice.

Where, when and how much?

The tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver remote control is available to pre-order from Firebox now. It will set you back £69.95.

Final verdict

What could have been an essential for tenth Doctor fans is let down by a price that doesn’t reflect the lacklustre quality of its build. Still: it’s a lot of fun.


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