The Tardis and the sonic screwdriver might be Doctor Who‘s most famous gadgets, but they’re far from the only gizmos hidden in the Doctor’s capacious pockets (remember, they’re bigger on the inside).
In travels across time and space the Doctor has encountered all kinds of alien technology, and invented a fair amount herself, ranging from believable upgrades to completely off-the-wall new creations.
But which is best/strangest of the modern era? RadioTimes.com thinks we know, so have compiled our top ten.
Best Doctor Who gadgets ranked
10. Superphone (The End of the World)
Rose’s “superphone” in Doctor Who (BBC)
We all get a bit annoyed at our phone tariffs sometimes, but imagine what the bill cost must be on the ‘superphone’, a normal mobile phone modified by the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver so that it can call anyone from any era of time.
Used by the likes of Martha and Donna, Rose was the first companion to have her Nokia 3200 significantly upgraded, being able to ring up her mum from millions of years in the future, while watching the earth burn up in front of her. Still, it’s no Angry Birds, is it?
9. Progenation Machine (The Doctor’s Daughter)
David Tennant and Georgia Tennant in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Although Doctor Who isn’t exactly a strong advocate for realism, this particular invention seemed… well, massively unrealistic. The Progenation Machine was introduced to us in The Doctor’s Daughter for the first, and only, time – which is surprising, considering it can create fully fleshed lifeforms by just putting your hand in it. Indeed, this is how Jenny is invented in a matter of seconds, when the Doctor is required to present his DNA on the arrival of the planet Messaline. The machine is also rumoured to have been the way One Direction were invented.
8. Rassilon’s Gauntlet (The End of Time/Hell Bent)
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon in Doctor Who (BBC)
If the Progenation Machine sounds a bit too good to be true, then this Gauntlet is practically magic. Featured in The End of Time, this nifty piece of apparel is owned by Rassilon, Lord President of the Time Lords, played by Timothy Dalton (or to you and us, Flash Gordon). This magic glove can essentially do anything – from disintegrating fellow time lords that get on Rassilon’s wick, to restoring 6 billion people back to normal after The Master has modified them all to turn into him. Handy for any situation, we’re quite surprised we’ve not seen any in our local branch of Currys.
7. Vortex Manipulator (Various episodes)
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator
The Doctor, owner of one of the most famous time travel machines in history, wasn’t best pleased when Captain Jack Harkness popped into his life with one as a bloody watch. Indeed, the Vortex Manipulator is a special wrist device used for ‘Time Agents’ such as Captain Jack, allowing the user to ‘hop’ from one moment in time to another – although it’s not very accurate.
The Doctor, always skeptical of them, confiscated Jack’s, lest he “went anywhere in time twice, the second time to apologise.” Jack’s Manipulator now sits in UNIT’s Black Archive, which came in handy in 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor – though the villainous Krasko managed to get his hands on one for 2018 episode Rosa.
6. All the different variations of the Sonic Screwdriver
Whether it’s the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s silver version, Matt Smith’s chunkier design, Peter Capaldi’s late arrival or Jodie Whittaker’s “Sheffield steel” casing, the sonic screwdriver had been a crucial (and merchandise-friendly) part of the series since it returned to screen in 2005. You can even buy a whole set of them if you’re so inclined, such is the power of the brand.
And while we might have ruled out sonic screwdrivers (and the many, many versions different Doctors have possessed) from this list earlier for being too obvious, it’s worth nothing all the times Doctor Who has created spin-off versions of the Doctor’s greatest tool. Namely…
Sonic lipstick (The Sarah Jane Adventures)
In between the Doctor reuniting with Sarah Jane Smith in 2006’s School Reunion and the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, his old companion had got hold of a snazzy new sonic lipstick. Handy both for alien invasions and boozy nights out.
Sonic sunglasses (various episodes, 2016 and 2017)
Peter Capaldi and David Bradley in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor branched out into “wearable tech” back in 2015, swapping his sonic screwdriver for sonic sunglasses for a number of adventures.
Unfortunately, the shades weren’t too popular with fans desperate to see the original sonic screwdriver back in action, and they were parked by the end of the 2o15 series – though the Doctor did find another used for them when he lost his sight for a few episodes in 2017.
Sonic pen (Partners in Crime)
While in Partners in Crime, the sonic screwdriver appears in pen form, courtesy of the evil Ms. Foster. Appearing largely the same as the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, the effect of putting both devices together was pretty hair-raising…
Sonic probe (The Girl Who Waited)
In The Girl Who Waited, OAP Pond manages to fashion herself with a “sonic probe” out of what looks like a mobile phone and some string. Who needs MacGyver?
Sonic cane (Let’s Kill Hitler)
The sonic cane in Doctor Who (BBC)
In twist on the old favourite, the Eleventh Doctor brought out the sonic cane in Let’s Kill Hitler. Stylish, but pretty pointless…
Sonic trowel (The Husbands of River Song)
River Song’s sonic trowel in Doctor Who (BBC)
Ever the archaeologist, Alex Kingston’s River Song had her own spin on the Doctor’s gadget ahead of receiving her own screwdriver. Clearly, they’re still not running out of obscure tools to make “sonic”…
“Squareness Gun,” aka Sonic blaster/cannon (various episodes)
Why have a gun that can shoot bullets when you can have one that blasts perfectly shaped squares into walls instead? That is the joy of the sonic blaster – dubbed the much more accurate “Squareness Gun” by Rose Tyler.
Using digital technology to create a sonic wave, the gun has proven pretty useful across the series, enabling Jack Harkness to get through locked doors, the Doctor to escape a bunch of gas mask zombies, and by River Song to escape the deadly Vashta Nerada. So the rumours are true: it is hip to be square.
Michelle Gomez as Missy in Doctor Who (BBC)
Michelle Gomez’ Missy had her own spin on the Doctor’s signature gadget when she starred alongside Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord, though her predecessor preferred something a bit more deadly…
Laser screwdriver (The Sound of Drums / The Last of the Time Lords/The Doctor Falls)
John Simm – The Master BBC
The Master put a spanner in the works (well, not a spanner obviously) when he presented his Laser Screwdriver, which not only seemed more powerful than the Doctor’s regular Sonic, but including the ability to dramatically age its victims. Still, it’s no Tissue Compression Eliminator. Speaking of which…
5. Tissue Compression Eliminator (Various episodes)
One of the Master’s favourite gadgets from the classic series, the TCE compresses its victims into tiny doll-like figures, killing them instantly and providing the renegade Time Lord with a grisly souvenir.
Sacha Dhawan’s Master brought the Tissue Compression Eliminator back to the series with some style in 2o20, and we hope it never leaves his side again…
4. Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator (Boom Town)
This catchily named device may seem incredibly important and complicated – but is basically just a surfboard that protects you from explosions. First introduced in Boom Town, this flattened vehicle (surfboard) enables the user to ride away from chaos whilst being defended by a protective forcefield bubble. Pretty useful, if you don’t mind looking like you’re a cast member of Baywatch whilst using it.
3. 3D glasses ‘to see the void stuff’ (Army of Ghosts / Doomsday)
David Tennant wearing 3D glasses in Doctor Who (BBC)
Before Google Glass, kids growing up in the ’80s and ’90s championed the original example of wearable technology: cardboard spectacles with red and green coloured plastic in them. The retro eyewear may seem pasé now, but not for the Doctor, who uses a bespoke version of the 3D glasses to detect people who’d crossed over from a parallel universe, who are henceforth covered in ‘void stuff’. It truly is the stuff of Nobel Prize winners.
2. “2Dis” (Flatline)
The 2Dis in Doctor Who: Flatline (BBC)
In Flatline, the dimensions of our world became blurred thanks to the villains of the piece The Boneless; a creature that can manipulate two dimensions at once. This resulted in the Doctor becoming trapped in a cute, miniature Tardis (the sort of ones you see in Forbidden Planet) and their victims melting into paper-thin versions of themselves. To retaliate, the Doctor invents the ‘2Dis’ (a sort of calculator thing with a golfball strapped on top) that somehow returns objects, such as doors, to their proper dimensions. And yes, 2Dis is of course a pun on Tardis.
1. Timey Wimey Detector / The Machine That Goes Ding (Blink / Day of the Doctor)
David Tennant and the Timey Wimey Detector in Doctor Who (BBC)
David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor made a lot of significant contributions to time and space – but perhaps his most helpful one was coining a term to describe any contradicting logic of time travel: “timey wimey, wibbly wobbly.” Alongside the term, he also invented the ‘timey wimey detector’, a makeshift metal box of scrap that a Blue Peter presenter would openly laugh at, that “goes ding when there’s stuff”.
It helped him get out of trouble in Blink, while a different version of the box appeared in 50th special The Day of the Doctor. And yes, it still went ‘ding’. Truly iconic stuff.
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