Big Picture Big Sound

Comic-Con: Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control

By Lora Grady

Time Lord Technology Now Available In Your Media Room

Calling all Dr. Who fans! The must-have media accessory of the year is being shown at Comic-Con this week: the Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control. This ingenious gadget is the brainchild of a partnership between The Wand Company and BBC Worldwide, and it is exactly what it sounds like: a TV remote control modeled after The Doctor's iconic tool, the sonic screwdriver. This gesture-based remote is a picture-perfect recreation of the well-know prop from the beloved BBC series, which debuted in the 1960s and has since become a long-running staple of science fiction television.

Really, the remote has to be seen to be believed: the components are molded separately and connected seamlessly; there are no visible screws or connectors to mar the versimilitude of the reproduction. It feels very substantial when handled, and during use it generates a number of sound effects that viewers will happily recognize from the show.

I talked with Chris Barnardo and Andrew Green of The Wand Company during my visit to the BBC America booth on the floor of the Comic-Con exhibit hall. Both are British, and they spoke enthusiastically about their lifelong connection to Dr. Who. Chris gave me a quick tutorial in how the remote works: you get started in practice mode to learn the basics of the command gestures, which are more or less logic based. For example, when pointed at iTunes in play mode, a flick of the remote to the right will skip the music track forward, while twisting the remote to the right or left will increase or decrease playback volume. When the basic gestures have been mastered, the user can then train the remote to work with their existing home theater setup. The remote can store up to 39 commands, providing control for a number and range of media devices.

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It might very well be bigger on the inside...

Technology lovers will be drawn to its novelty and ease of use, but the Sonic Screwdriver is really meant to appeal to Dr. Who loyalists, and it's clear that it was crafted with hard-core fans in mind. In fact, the remote's design was drafted in response to requests from fans, who saw The Wand Company's first offering, a magic-wand remote control (the Kymera), and lobbied for the sonic screwdriver option.

Fannish details of the screwdriver/remote include a standby mode wherein the remote beeps out a morse code message every 1,963 minutes - the 1963 is in homage to the year that Dr. Who initially debuted on the BBC. It comes with a very detailed user manual, which could be considered a collectible on its own. Also included is a display case that complements the remote's design and would be a point of pride in any fan's media room.

The Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control will be available beginning August 31, when it will be released exclusively for the first 60 days at ThinkGeek and the BBC America shop for US buyers, with other exclusive retailers carrying the product for the UK market. It will cost $99.95 - but really, for Dr. Who fans, the opportunity have a piece of Time Lord technology for their very own should be considered priceless.

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View all articles by Lora Grady