During the two-episode opener to the current season of Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi’s time lord made a bold move, replacing his sonic screwdriver for a pair of sonic sunglasses. The response from Who purists has been vocal enough that showrunner Steven Moffat has been forced to defend the move, according to Digital Spy.
“Sometimes you have to be heretical,” Moffat told the BBC. “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?” Moffat also acknowledged that the screwdriver has grown from humble origins to take an outsized role in Doctor Who mythology:
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?
Moffat is responding to a trending social media outburst against the sunglasses. Doctor Who fan Jason Irving is spearheading the opposition, launching a Change.org petition to banish the sunglasses. The petition includes a sprawling treatise on the history of the sonic screwdriver, criticizing both the tackiness of the sunglasses and the laziness of any tool that amounts to a magic get-out-of-jail-free card. Irving calls on Moffat’s team to recall the shades, and to consider retiring the sonic screwdriver as well.
Of course, the fourth Doctor sported a 12-foot scarf, and the sixth Doctor’s outfit should have come with a seizure warning, so Ray-Ban Wayfarers aren’t the tackiest thing to come out of the TARDIS. (In fact, there’s a good argument to made for the glasses being slightly less garish than a buzzing, Victorian-era flashlight.) And while it’s definitely true that the sonic screwdriver has become an omnipotent, plot-solving crutch for rescuing The Doctor from impossible corners, it should also be noted that his main method of conveyance is a physics-defying box that can go anywhere in space and time. And Steven Moffat obeys “Doctor Who rules” about as often as The Doctor does, which is to say only when he feels like it.
Moffat has previously said that he’s not planning on reincarnating into a different showrunner anytime soon, so it’s probably best not to antagonize him over the sanctity of canon. He’s no stranger to criticism, and if Moffat is sufficiently tickled by fans railing against sunglasses, it might just motivate him to swap out the police box for a pup tent, or regenerate Peter Capaldi into Margaret Cho.