The 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie Sonic Screwdriver Prop.

It just goes to show that if you’re patient, eventually you’ll get the answers that you’re looking for.

The other day, I was on the Gallifrey Base forum and a photograph of both the original TARDIS toolkit and the Sonic Screwdriver prop from the Paul McGann 1996 Doctor Who TV movie was put up and it was the screwdriver that caught my eye.  I immediately recognised it for what it really was… so I was right all along.

Here’s a picture of the said items in question, not the image that was recently put up, but I’m sure that you can find that if you really wanted to.

When the movie came out and this image was shown in a variety of publications, I thought that the Sonic looked strangely familiar, in fact near identical to a replica that I’d owned since the early 1990s and therefore way before the movie was produced.  Thing was, there was a slight difference, the one in the movie had a gold band around the lower main handle and it had the ability to telescope down into itself, mine didn’t as it was a single piece, turned from aluminium.

It’s widely known that the TARDIS key that was used in this production was an off the shelf replica made by 800-Trekker and at the time, I did wonder whether their Sonic could have been from a similar source and it wasn’t until this photo was posted the other day that I finally got the answer that I’d been pondering over for the last 16 years – not obsessively mind you.

Now, the Sonic and Toolkit as displayed in the picture on Gallifrey Base came directly from the producer of the movie, Philip Segal, so it had excellent provenance, but the screwdriver itself was the static version with no gold band.  That confirmed it, at least to me anyway, that back when the film was being made, a replica must have been bought and then handed over to an effects company, whose name I cannot recall right now, and they then replicated the replica.  In doing so, not only did they go as far as to duplicate the dimensions of the off the shelf replica exactly to the millimeter, but they then went on to embellish the design (superficially) by giving it the ability to telescope down in on itself and then finally prettied up the over all appearance with this gold / brass band on the handle.  It’s also more than likely that the static version (made from aluminium) was used as the stunt prop as again, it’s fairly common knowledge that a stunt version was also used, so it stands to reason.

I’ve looked at the recently published image and it matches mine perfectly.  I even scaled the picture to full size and placed my prop right next to it and guess what?  A perfect alignment over every aspect – result (!), for me at least because now I can say that I have the same prop that they used for the movie.  I guess my next step is to have mine duplicated with the gold band added and the telescoping feature included too, but by the same token, I guess I should now house my current copy somewhere on display, rather than relegated to a box as it has been for the last two decades.

Just out of interest, in the photo above, I’ve also included the pen torch that the 4th Doctor has in Genesis of the Daleks, during the scene in which he’s emptying out his pockets in episode one after having been captured by Kaled soldiers.  I bought this back in the 1980s and it was only “recently” when I was doing some screen cap work from the DVD that I noticed that it was identical to mine.  Another happy accident then, that too can now go in the box of props that I never look at.  I’m only including this here today as I was chatting to Lee Moone about this a few weeks back, here on the blog, and I thought that he (and maybe you) may like to have a look.

So there we are then, two items that I’d never really liked and didn’t really give a second thought to, but now it turns out that they are a bit special after all.  Not a bad turn of events then.

About these ads

~ by PurpleBlancmange on May 5, 2012.

40 Responses to “The 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie Sonic Screwdriver Prop.”

  1. I too thought maybe they used an 800-TREKKER sonic for the basis for this sonic. And of course you are right! Also to note that in the toolbox are a few of the tools that were made to mimic the ones seen in Earthshock.
    Here’s the link to the original post.

    • Thanks for the link! The text is identical to what was written on Gallifrey Base, so I guess the chap has just copied and pasted this all over the Interwebz.

  2. I swear that image of the toolbox is a CGI representation… or am I a clutz and that was on purpose/I am blind.

    • If you’re talking about the image at the top of this page, then no, it is the actual prop. These were all over various publications back in 1996 and let’s be honest here, in those days, CGI was pretty bad. I think it may just be the lighting and saturation that’s throwing your eye here.

  3. Iguana Props was heavily involved in building sets and props for the film. I don’t know for sure if they made/modded the sonic prop or not though.

    Also, with the restoration and display of the 1996 console at GallyifreyOne Convention recently Mr Segal thanked the team behind saving and lovingly restoring the console with a gift of some of the film props from his personal collection including the Tool Bag and a wooden stunt replica of the sonic.

    • That’s kind of what I’m talking about here, the fact that the screwdriver has been handed over.

      Now, I would be interested to find out whether this “stunt” screwdriver is actually made of aluminium, rather than wood because it is 100% identical to the one I have here, in terms of shape, form and dimensions – though in the 20 years I’ve had it, I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned it and it could really do with a polish up.

      And yes, Iguana Props is who I was thinking of…

      What is blatantly obvious though is that the TV Movie Sonic is the same as the off the shelf product – which as I say above is a happy little coincidence for me.

  4. Just caught up with this, another fantastic read. I love the fact that replicas of originals have now become screen reps themselves. A ‘prop circle’ so to speak! ;)

    It would be great to see some close-up pictures of the original Movie Sonic as it is now, if only the current owner would step forward & post some. After all we now know the dimensions etc, so its no longer a secret.

    Yep, I had that pen torch too, as mentioned in a previous post I ripped off the clip & gutted it up to make a Sonic. With a washing-up liquid top as the emitter head attached to a bent car arial that I fed inside the torch, Bingo I had my instant Sonic! Good to see a clearer picture of it. Thanks for that Purple. I just hope we don’t have to wait another 16yrs to find out what that spinny-hypno thing was in Curse of Peladon.

    • I have to say that the “original” sonic from Philip Segal that is now in private hands, if it really is what I think it is (and I have no doubts) then I don’t actually believe that it’s had any screen time at all, or if it has, very little now that I think about it…

      Where there any scenes shown of it in its extended position as a static prop? From what I remember, when we did see it extended, it was always closed down in the scene thus that version was the hero action prop. In the scenes where we saw it not moving at all, it was always in the closed position, so again, it was still likely to be the action prop.

      I’m certainly not trying to down play its value, I just think it’s the reference copy that was used to be duplicated and then produce the “moving” hero prop that we saw. I suppose we could call it the progenitor or prototype.

      The toolkit is more than obviously the prop that we saw on screen and I do think it’s the more exciting of the two pieces.

      Oh, and I thought you may like to see the pen torch again. Not very interesting, but it’s an unusal diversion.

      • I think there is a shot of McCoy or McGann pushing the top down, will have to have another look. There has just been a run of these props, but I’m betting they didn’t use the static early 90’s prop meaurements. Reading this, as I’m sure they will, I bet the 2nd run will be changed accordingly.

        Yeah much appreciated a 2nd look at that pen. Many thanks. Looking forward to the blog about the Season 18th scarf if you have the pattern details, may get me old Ma to knit me a smaller version. Intime for Christmas ;)

      • Oh yes, McCoy does close the prop down right at the start of the film, just after he’s locked that box that the Master’s remains were in. McGann does the same thing right at the end of the movie just after he’s finished repairing the console. As I said, while there may have been a static stunt prop available, I’m fairly certain that it didn’t make the final cut. I could be wrong as I haven’t seen the film in years.

        The scarf, hmmm. I’ve driven my Mother to distraction with this (and the original version) for years now – continually getting her to do little prototypes for me, like the one above.

        The ultimate goal for me is to replicate the season 16 scarf, complete with the hack job joins. I’m sure when it’s being done, a blog entry will be forth coming – for that and the season 18 version… she’s almost completed a season 18 as it is, she’s about 90% of the way through, but because it’s for someone else, I haven’t talked about it. It’s very nice though.

        Can’t wait for mine.

  5. Well, the background thing came in useful after all.
    Louis is 12 today.
    Mother Purple.

    • I’m saving the scarf for another entry, but yes, it proved useful for this. :)

      And Louis is 12? He’s an old man now or is he just slightly over middle aged? Happy Birthday to him then.

  6. are those tools based on the tech manual ? look familliar and not going diging for the book
    Nice to see lovingly restore dlooked after conosle like that
    IN a verry good home
    Now we need to find the Box prop, Segal sold the model but wheres the box
    so off the shelf replicas i se nice for people to get these and know there that good makes you wonder if we will see Charecters classic props on screen ?
    I thought the key was a spirit of light one ?

    Still all very nice

    • The Technical Manual was more than likely to have been used for this set, so yeah – probably.

      And the key, no, it wasn’t the Spirit of Light version, I have one of those myself, it was the 800-Trekker… which I had the chance to own and stupidly turned it down in favour of something else. Grrrr.

  7. Talk of Uncle Tom’s scarf has prompted me to ask about another item of his costume, his 1st jacket. Do you (or anyone else reading this) know what make it was? I had a brown one very similar as a teen & wore it to death, but looking for a replacement now I cannot find one of these, brown or red, anywhere. I wondered if you knew the make so I could google. Currently ‘Red Cord jacket’ 9 times outa 10 comes up with jackets for women! & not keen on the fan made ones as they don’t look quite right.


    • As far as I remember, it was a variation of the Norfolk jacket. I know you can still buy these today, but they only sort of look like Tom’s as styles have changed over the years. You may be able to convert one though.

  8. Can’t wait for the scarf entry. Hopefully some new info will come to light as I’m always trying to improve the site. The next scarf I’m knitting is the S18 with some of the best chenille options available short of dyeing your own.

    • Oh gosh, the scarf entry will be a way off yet. I counted every single stitch and row of the original back in the mid 1990s and got my Mother to knit it all up for me, however, while being accurate in that regard, the colours were somewhat off (chose them by eye with no reference while in the wool shop) but the main problem was that it ended up far too long as I had no clue about what needle size to use. I should have listened to Mater.

      I’ve really hankered after the season 16 version and will make it rather crappy like the original, I just want to find the shades of wool that match the scarf as it was back then, not how it is today with fading and what not… if all else fails, I’ll stand for the “today” shades because at least it’s true to the original.

      As for the season 18, the suede is okay, I’m not overly fussed by the deep red as that looks a little too pink in some lights, but I can deal with it. I began work on the pattern a long time ago, but gave up as it didn’t really interest me. It’s only through speaking with our mutual friend on GB (who I’ve known for some 26 years) that I’ve gotten back into this scarf.

      Between me and my Mother, I think we’re on to something with a good alternative for materials to make it, but I need to physically visit her to check it all out. I’m hoping to see her in the summer to look at choices, so I’ll see what happens then.

      Whatever happens with these scarves, I’ll be sure to blog about it here – even though it’ll be my dear old Mother who’ll be doing the actual knitting – witty little knitter that she is. You should see her, she’s lightning quick and turns out work that looks like it’s been machine made. She’s probably a robot in disguise… Add your own jokes and transforming sound effect noises here.

  9. If you want the scarf resource, all you need to go to is . It was previously owned by Chris Brimelow, who has direct access to the Season 16/17/Shada scarf. So he has been able to find current yarn colors that almost exactly match the original.

    • I’m aware of the old site, not seen the new site yet, but as I mentioned – I wanted to match the scarf colours from the 1970s, not from how it is today with its colour fading. However, as I mentioned, if all else fails, I’ll go with “today” colours.

      One thing is for sure (and I don’t give a hoot if people believe me or not) but I kick myself to this day over the fact that I never took Gary Downie’s offer – to collect the scarf for myself. I kept putting it off and putting it off because I was busy, then… well, Gary passed on and the rest is history. Still, I’m thankful for what I have and that’s all that matters.

      • The color are addressed to a reasonable degree on the site. Before I began maintaining it, I made the S16 for a UK friend complete with the wonky graft and tassel remnants (but no simulated damage). I test lots of yarn and have the luxury of rapid prototyping thanks to an old garter machine. If you can get your hands on one, I highly recommend a Custom 131, Passap D, Lanofix Negri or a Zip machine. Funny that the most basic knit stitch is a rarity by machine…

      • I’ll have to take a look at your site, but I’m guessing that all your yarn choices will be US brands. These usually are extremely hard to come by here in the UK and many dealers from your side of the pond either don’t want to ship stuff over to here or if they do, they charge extortionate fees for the pleasure.

        Thanks for your recommendation on the machine, but my Mother knits like one anyway… :)

      • I’m sure the scarfies will be more than helpful getting you yarn you may need and ship it off to you from the US.

  10. We will visit the mills “oop north” and find exactly what you need. :)
    Mother Purple

  11. here oop north has many wool shops im very interested in this scarf now ALWAYS wanted one does mum want to start a business :)
    look foward to that blog,that looks right in the pic got my mitts on the one in blackpool once

  12. Manchester :) Finest city there is

  13. tred….carefull ….

  14. Durham is the finest city. I thought everyone knew this?


  15. The Who Shop have sold static replica Sonic Screwdrivers for years (I bought one in 2003), but I am not sure whether they started to stock them before or after the TV movie came out.

    I recently successfully bid on a working metal turned, spring loaded replica of the Tom Baker Sonic and the Paul McGann Sonic. They are very nice!

    • I don’t know about the WHO Shop, though it’s possible that they took stock of these replicas at some stage. I can’t remember where mine came from, but I do remember that I got it as a birthday present while I still lived with my parents – so that places it during the 1990s at the latest.

      Congratulations on your purchases. One day I hope to get a collection of Sonics myself, but that’s a long time off because of the way that I wish to do it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers

%d bloggers like this: