Has Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver changed its name?

Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has a bit of an epiphany about her favourite gadget in series 11

Jodie Whittaker in a Doctor Who series 11 poster (BBC, HF)

“New” is the watchword for Doctor Who series 11, from debutant Time Lord Jodie Whittaker and her first-time Tardis team all the way through to the the writers and visual effects artists making their Who debut this year.

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Accordingly, the “new” series has also seen a redesign for the Doctor’s trademark gadget the sonic screwdriver, which now has a melted metal, almost crystalline design.

But along with the new look, could the sonic also be getting a new name?

That’s the question we were asking after watching Whittaker’s first Doctor Who episode The Woman Who Fell to Earth, which sees the Thirteenth Doctor craft a new screwdriver out of some outer-space scrap (and some handy cutlery), before pondering whether she’d been describing it wrong all these years.

“Sonic screwdriver – well I say screwdriver, but it’s a bit more multi-purpose than that,” the Doctor tells her new friends after building the sonic.

The toy version of Whittaker's sonic screwdriver (BBC, HF)
The toy version of Whittaker’s sonic screwdriver (BBC)

“Scanner, diagnostics… tin opener. More of a… sonic Swiss army knife. Only without the knife. Only idiots carry knives.”

Later, when confronting evil alien Tim Shaw, the Doctor repeats her new description for the sonic after using it to defuse and move the DNA bombs he’d planted in to her companions.

“Swiss army sonic – now with added Sheffield steel,” she says proudly.

So does this mean the Doctor is officially re-branding the sonic screwdriver? It might sound unlikely, but remember the sonic sunglasses? When Peter Capaldi first whipped them out in 2015 episode The Witch’s Familiar, we all assumed the Doctor’s “wearable tech” was a one-off gag that we’d never see again.

But in the end, the Doctor used the sunglasses for the rest of that series and beyond, only finally replacing the sonic screwdriver in the 2015 series finale. He even brought the glasses back once again for the 2017 series (when Capaldi’s Doctor went blind). Fans even started a petition to bring the sonic screwdriver back, and were happy to see it return in a new form when the 2015 series ended.

So are we in for another sonic rebrand? Well, probably not.

RadioTimes.com contacted the BBC about this crucial topic, and based on what they told us it seems like this is a one-off bit of wordplay from Whittaker’s Doctor, with the gadget referred to as the sonic screwdriver throughout the rest of the series.

Amidst all the new and exciting parts of Doctor Who, it’s nice to know that some things don’t change.

Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sunday evenings

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This article was originally published on 7 October 2018