Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver universal remote control hands-on
Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver can do pretty much anything, from re-attaching barbed wire to igniting swamp gas. Now, thanks to this replica from The Wand Company, it can control your TV – just in time for the first episode of the new series on Saturday.
The sonic screwdriver remote is an impressively accurate rendition of Doctor Who's space-age gadget. It's based on the one carried by Matt Smith in the TV series, a chunky metal cylinder with copper detailing and a plastic grip (filling in for ceramic on the actual prop).
It's capped off by a bright green light – the claws on the end don't pop out, unlike the TV version, but other than that it's pretty close to what the Eleventh Doctor waves around on your screen each week. A Who fan could cheerfully purchase this as a replica prop even without the TV control wizardry packed within.
The packaging warrants a mention too – the sonic screwdriver sits on a (slightly plasticky-looking) presentation stand, while the manual takes the form of a blueprint littered with Doctor Who references for fans to pick up on.
On the back, the instructions look like something from a 1950s Meccano set – exactly the sort of thing you can picture Matt Smith's bowtied Doctor playing with.
Like The Wand Company's Kymera remote, the sonic screwdriver uses 13 different gestures to control your TV – an internal gyroscope lets it know which way is up, so it's always oriented correctly.
It can learn up to 39 IR codes stored in 3 memory banks – so you should be able to control most of your TV's key functions. Or control your iPod dock, or anything else that uses an IR remote – we could see it being particularly impressive if you have a remote controlled lighting setup.
Mercifully, you can switch it to silent mode if the efforts of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop start to lose their appeal.
First you've got to train it to talk to your telly – a bit of a pain, since there's no display or way to input commands other than by making the gesture, tapping the relevant key on your existing remote, and then waiting for the sonic to say "OK."
It coped fine with modern TVs, but struggled with Stuff's antiquated Telewest box – something to bear in mind if you've got an older TV. The sonic screwdriver's response time leaves a bit to be desired, too – we spent a lot of time vainly flailing at the telly. Doctor Who didn't have these problems when he was resonating concrete with it.
It's tricky to see who this is aimed at, really. As a novelty remote, the appeal quickly wears off. Dedicated Whovians will probably end up playing with the FX mode more than anything else, though they're exactly the sort of people who'll complain that most of the sound effects are taken from 1970s aliens the Foamasi.
Is it worth £60 of your hard-earned? For a Who fan, it's certainly better value than some of the tat that's been put out with the Doctor Who logo in the past – Tom Baker underpants, anyone? You can buy it over at Firebox.