If there’s one thing every Whovian dreams of, it’s the chance to pilot the TARDIS. If there’s two things? Well, “Working Sonic Screwdriver” would probably rate pretty high on that list. So when we heard we’d have the chance to demo one this morning at BBC America’s booth at San Diego Comic-Con, we dropped our fish sticks and custard, and whooped a happy “Geronimo!”
Now, before you get TOO excited, this isn’t the all purpose tool sported by the Doctor, but it is a brilliant recreation, and a rather incredible gesture based Universal Remote. Thanks to the good folks at Think Geek, and The Wand Company, we got a hands on with the unit (which won’t be on sale until August 31st), as well as a rundown on how it works. So here’s the gist of it:
The Screwdriver, first of all, is an incredibly detailed and authentic recreation of the Eleventh Doctor’s favorite tool (other than Rory, of course). Not only has each piece been lovingly recreated, from a soft rubber handle, to two specially made green LED’s in the tip, this thing has heft. It doesn’t feel like a shoddy plastic toy, and given the nearly $100 price tag, that’s a good thing. But the care doesn’t stop there...
The base unit for holding the Screwdriver also is riddled with Easter Eggs and shout-outs to fans; and that even goes as far as the directions, which have key pieces of art hiding behind them, and on the opposite side of the directions, blueprints to build your “own” sonic screwdriver. The guy from The Wand Company I talked to told me that they spoke extensively with the BBC on this, to make sure it was as authentic, geeky, and fun as possible, in every stage of the packaging.
And that’s all well and good, but how does it work? First, you need to link up the screwdriver, using the sensor in the tip, to any remote you have in your house. That includes TV’s, of course, but also Air Conditioners, ceiling fans... Heck, if you have a remote for your microwave, you can use the Sonic Screwdriver to control it. The unit holds up to 39 individual commands, for as many different things as you like. Basically? You could control everything in your house with one, or maybe two of these. Also, it was very hard for us to not write, “Run,” after “Basically?” so there’s our Whovian Geek Cred for you.
So once you’ve linked up the Screwdriver with a remote, you can program up to thirteen different gestures to control the electronic of your choice. We tried this out, watching the rep simply re-program the screwdriver. Then we were able to control an iPad playing the Who theme (naturally). By rotating to the right, the volume went up. By rotating to the left? Volume down. Pushing forward stopped the track, pulling back started it, and flicking it to the right made it go to the next track. All simple, fluid movements, and anyone familiar with a Wii or other gesture based gaming system should have no problem jumping right in... And just to clarify, these were the gestures they programmed, so if you want to flick right to raise the volume, that’s your choice.
By the way, in case you’re wondering how we got it to control an iPad, which doesn’t have an Infrared sensor: you can buy a separate iPad base station to get the infrared to work for it... Though most other devices - as long as they have a remote - should be fine.
Before we let you go, though, we got a cool tease that pretty much pushed this from awesome, usable collectible into the geeky stratosphere. Beyond the basic functions, this Sonic Screwdriver has tons of Easter Eggs you’ll find the more you play with it. The one we were able to get out of the (very reluctant) Think Geek rep is this: you can set the screwdriver to display mode, which means it will flash every few seconds. Once it’s reached one thousand, nine hundred and sixty three flashes, or 1963 - the year Who premiered - it will flash a sequence in morse code, with a special Doctor Who message.
And that’s the only Easter Egg they’d tell me about, so you can imagine fans can spend hours figuring this thing out... And I think this just became an essential tool for watching Doctor Who.