Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sonic Servo? Star Trek and Doctor Who Cross Wires

Listening to The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh inspired me to watch an old episode of Star Trek on Hulu - the 1968 backdoor pilot 'Assignment: Earth' which was intended to launch a spin-off show similar to Torchwood (but actually watchable.)

One thing that struck me watching this episode was the stunning resemblance hero Gary Seven's 'Servo' device had to Doctor Who's inerrantly useful 'Sonic Screwdriver.'

Gary Seven's 'Servo' - also available in ballpoint.

The Doctor's 'Sonic Screwdriver' - don't leave the TARDIS without one!

From the size, shape - even down to the blue light they emit - they're practically identical. What's more, they both feature the same tendancy to deliver deus ex machina solutions to whatever problems their wielder is currently facing (from locked doors to disabling armed guards.)

Need to disable a nuclear missile? And distract your sentient cat with a laser pointer? Then Seven's 'Servo' is right for you!

The Doctor's 'Sonic Screwdriver,' on the other hand, can also whisk eggs. Probably.

One must clearly have inspired the other - and although Doctor Who is half a decade older than Gary Seven and his Servo, the light, noise and that 'door' thing make me think that it was the Servo that served as inspiration for the current Doctor's handy little toy, not the other way around.


Andy said...

Both cool devices though...I till prefer the servo.

phrackattack said...

It seems that the two were independently thought of, though I don't know if Dr. Who's Sonic Screwdriver was initially conceived of the as the deus ex machina that Gary Seven's Servo was.

The Sonic Screwdriver made its first appearance in the fifth season of Dr. Who, on March 16, 1968. Gary Seven's Servo appeared in Star Trek's "Assignment Earth" episode on March 29, 1968, but clearly had to have been filmed before the March 16 appearance of the Sonic Screwdriver.

They used a simple penlight for the Sonic Screwdriver's first appearance and the only thing it did in that show was open a release valve on an outlet pipe, whereas Gary's Servo served as an actual deus ex machina - it was a communicator, weapon with stun and kill settings, manipulator of mechanical and electric devices (deactivating cell forcefield, opening locked doors, etc). So, ultimately while Dr. Who's device appeared first I think it's ultimate transmogrification into the deus ex machina that it is today owes more than a little to Gary Seven's Servo.

Of course, there's more than a little in common between Dr. Who and Gary Seven - seeing as both are part of a consortium of beings who oversee time and try to rectify anomolies in the time stream. I'd venture to say that we colonists had a little envy of the motherland as Gary Seven appears to be an amalgam of the Dr. and James Bond and his character was originally slated to star in a spin-off series from Star Trek.

Roland Hulme said...

PhrackAttack! You rock - thanks so much for sharing your clearly ASTONISHING knowledge.

phrackattack said...

Thanks Roland. Actually, I just came across the Gary Seven stuff by accident yesterday when, being reminded of the Servo, I came to the same observation that you did - that the Servo and the Sonic Screwdriver ("SS") might be related. Then on Slashdot today they had a story about some efforts related to creating a "real-life" SS. Since I had just read up on Gary Seven and wondered about the connection I just dug a little deeper on the Net and found your site and the info I posted. I enjoy geeking out every now and again. Cheers!