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Doctor Who: In Defense of Sonic Sunglasses

Because if they ever "fix the chameleon circuit"? Eff those people.

Doctor Who sonic sunglasses

There’s been much ado about the current Doctor on Doctor Who making use of sonic sunglasses as opposed to his sonic screwdriver, and I’d just like to say…can we all chill the fuck out for a second?

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Before I get into sonic sunglasses, there are two things you should know about where I’m coming from:

  1. I like Steven Moffat‘s work. Do I think he’s the best showrunner for Doctor Who? No. Am I thrilled with his misogynist reputation? Of course not. But the man knows how to tell a story and write an episode. While I think that other folks may be better suited to putting a season arc together and not getting lost in their own puzzle-boxes, I’m not one to join the bandwagon of Moffat-hate, jumping on every decision he makes simply because it was made by Steven Moffat.
  2. I’ve always had a thing for older dudes (older dudes and younger dudes – it’s guys my own age I seem to be ambivalent about), and so think that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is hot as hell. Especially in sunglasses. Rock. Star.  Peter Capaldi + long black jacket + sunglasses (guitar optional) = hotness.

So, for me, the Doctor in sonic sunglasses is awesome, because Capaldi looks badass in them.

Now that my completely superficial point is made, let’s get into the nitty-gritty about sonic sunglasses. Sonic sunglasses weren’t simply random in the script, they were given a story-based reason. There’s a reason why the Doctor has given up his sonic screwdriver. He’d given it to young Davros in “The Witch’s Familiar.” So, given that the screwdriver remained out of his possession for years (decades? centuries?) and in the hands of one of his greatest enemies; and given that it was connected to one of the most harrowing decisions he ever had to make, it makes sense that he might want to start fresh with something new.

And what choice makes more sense for a replacement than wearable tech? I thought it was awesome when the Doctor revealed that he’s “into wearable tech now,” because he’s often so curmudgeonly about “what the kids are into.” For once, it was nice to see the Doctor be on our wavelength; especially considering that he’s traveled through time and been exposed to all sorts of tech. Why wouldn’t he try a wearable “sonic” item? And after all, the interior of the TARDIS and the Doctor’s wardrobe change with every regeneration. The idea that he’d always have a screwdriver seems like an arbitrary thing to hold onto.

Now, the thing that can truly never change – and I don’t think ever will – is the TARDIS looking like a phone box. Now, the “reasoning” behind this is that the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, which allows it to blend into any surroundings, is broken, and the Doctor never had it fixed – presumably because he likes the TARDIS being a blue box. But the blue box has also become an icon of Doctor Who. The TARDIS is truly the one thing whose outward appearance can never change – even as its interior changes, or the Doctor’s face and wardrobe changes – because it means too much to us, and I think it means too much to the Doctor. Not just because the Doctor likes the appearance, but because the Doctor never seems to want to control the TARDIS. Whatever changes happen to the interior of the TARDIS are out of the Doctor’s control, and since the TARDIS is pretty much the Doctor’s best friend (and greatest love?), the Doctor would never impose a cosmetic change on the TARDIS that she didn’t choose herself.

But the sonic screwdriver? That’s just a tool, and not nearly as iconic as the TARDIS, and so it – along with anything else the Doctor uses as a tool – is ripe for reinterpretation, redesigning, or even replacement.

And yet there’s been a strong response against the change. There’s currently a petition against sonic sunglasses, and enough people have bugged Steven Moffat about it that he felt he had to defend the choice in a statement to the BBC:

Sometimes you have to be heretical. Sometimes you actually have to embrace the heresy. And I just thought, really, on a whim, why would The Doctor feel wedded to a screwdriver?

The original joke which we’ve sort of slightly forgotten, [is] that the screwdriver was just a screwdriver that made a noise. It’s gradually become this all-purpose everything that looks really cool. It’s fun to be naughty. I know some people are incredibly irate about it, and I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again someday. But just to show that we can – why not?

Indeed. Why not? Especially since it wasn’t intended to be taken quite so seriously anyway. But even if it were a more serious piece of the Doctor’s existence, this particular change makes sense for actual character reasons.

Getting upset about the sonic screwdriver being replaced would be like having gotten upset about Star Trek: The Next Generation using communicator pins instead of the hand-held Original Series flippy ones. Then again, maybe people did get upset about that, but there was no Internet to amplify it. Still, we are all now pretty okay with Starfleet officers communicating by tapping their pins, right? If we did have a problem with it, we got over it.

I welcome the sonic sunglasses, and expect that they’ll be used to solve a ridiculous array of problems just the way the screwdriver did (or the way the teleporter seems to solve every problem on Star Trek: Voyager). It’s that silly, sci-fi franchise function that will and should always remain the same.

Another plus? Kids cosplaying the Doctor won’t have to buy a specialty prop. They can simply pretend the sunglasses they already own are sonic ones.

(via The A.V. Club)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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