So I just saw Assignment: Earth again and, although I'm not a fan of Doctor Who, Gary Seven's pen-like multi instrument immediately reminded me of the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver:

enter image description here

Among the things he uses it for:

  • Disabling the force-field on his cell
  • Locking / Unlocking doors
  • Dazing humans so they become compliant
  • Popping open a panel on the space shuttle

I had dismissed it as coincidence, but then saw this note on Memory Alpha's talk page for the episode:

The device/weapon Seven wields looks awfully like Dr Who's "sonic screwdriver". Assignment: Earth aired March 29 1968; the sonic screwdriver made its first appearance in an episode of [of the Deep]: between March 16th 1968 and April 20th.

So, are the two items related or is it nothing more than a coincidence?


  • The original teleplay for Assignment: Earth was done on Nov 14, 1966. This version wasn't connected to Star Trek in any way, and little extra information is given - I have no idea whether or not it contained the pen servo.
  • The first draft for Assignment: Earth (the Star Trek one) was finished on Dec 20, 1967.
  • Filming finished on Jan 10, 1968.
  • I see nothing on when Doctor Who's Fury from the Deep was filmed.

So I'm inclined to say that, if they're related, the Doctor was influenced by one of the two versions of Assignment: Earth. But that's why I'm asking for sources/quotes.

(Also note that Star Trek's The Squire of Gothos went only 10 days between first draft and filming, so the nearness of the dates isn't necessarily that good an indicator)

  • 1
    Quibble: The panel was on the side of a Saturn V rocket, not a space shuttle (which didn't exist yet). Aug 23, 2014 at 7:52

4 Answers 4


Did some research and both devices were introduced within days of each other. But neither team knew of the other or their productions. It's nothing more than an awesome coincidence.

  • First appearance of the sonic screwdriver in Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep - Part 1 first aired on 16 March 1968
  • First airing of the Assignment Earth episode: March 29, 1968.
  • 3
    So, Gary Seven isn't a Time Lord? Jun 11, 2012 at 4:31
  • 3
    I think that was one of the great misses in the saga of Star Trek. I think Assignment Earth had such promise. If we wait long enough, Hollywood's great remake engine may get around to it... Jun 11, 2012 at 4:42
  • 2
    Do you have a source for the teams not knowing? 'Cause the dates are in the question..
    – Izkata
    Jun 11, 2012 at 10:33
  • 1
    I wouldn't expect them to somehow spy on the others or whatever. Back then you haven't had something like the internet and less than two weeks are simply too short to see something and then come up with your own episode, etc. So, yes, I'd say it's coincidence; especially due to the fact it's essentially just a "high-tech wand". You don't have to be very ultra-creative to come up with something like that. Also there'd be lawsuits and stuff back then as well, so guess they just kept the episode and air it due to not knowing it or simply the fact they knew they couldn't have spied on them (time).
    – Mario
    Jun 11, 2012 at 14:41
  • @Mario Not really. The Squire of Gothos was 10 days from first draft to filming. And just to add another date, Assignment: Earth was filmed in January 1968, so it could have leaked out to Doctor Who depending on when that script was done - that's why I'm asking for sources.
    – Izkata
    Jun 11, 2012 at 23:25

Been doing some extra Googling ever since I posted this, since Thaddeus's answer really didn't satisfy me. Here's some of the things I'd found:

  • The original one was either really limited, or just not used very often. And many of those uses were for the same type of thing (jarring something loose, presumably by sonic waves). (List of uses)
  • Only in the early/mid 70s, with the 3rd Doctor, did it gain its myriad of uses.
  • They do actually look more different than I had first thought. I had only seen ones like the two in the middle before, but the one on the far left is the version that appeared in Fury of the Deep: enter image description here

And finally, the thing that actually convinced me - the Sonic Screwdriver most likely came first, if not by name: "It is possible that the screwdriver had appeared before Fury from the Deep without the Doctor referring to it by that name: the prop used there appears to be one used by the Doctor in many earlier stories, including the First Doctor's sabotage of Dalek equipment as early as the second serial."

This doesn't discard the possibility of later influence, but given how different the Sonic Screwdriver was when it first appeared, the above is what's convinced me that their original conception was unrelated to each other.


Sorry, Guys, but this one we can just chalk up to coincidence. Let me add in a few more dates for you. Although 'Assignment Earth' was first broadcast on 29 March 1968, that's in the US. UK television didn't start showing 'Star Trek' until 12 July 1969, and it's unlikely that the 'Doctor Who' production team knew anything at all about the American show prior to that date.
The reverse is also true; although CBC broadcast William Hartnell's first 26 episodes in North America beginning on January 1965, they declined to broadcast anything else after those 26 episodes. 'Doctor Who' didn't appear on North American screens again until Time-Life syndicated a number of Jon Pertwee episodes in 1972; regular broadcast of 'Doctor Who' didn't take off in the US until 1978, when PBS began buying and broadcasting it. It's therefore unlikely that 'Fury From the Deep' was EVER broadcast in the States because it had been long junked by then.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This covers actually seeing the other show; is there any other information you can dig up about possible cross-pollination between creators? For example if X from Dr. Who worked with Y from Star Trek, and had a chance to see scripts in progress.
    – DavidW
    Jul 11, 2022 at 17:19

It isn't at all impossible that both teams dreamed up this techno-wand for the same reason, both might use augmented waveformes , sonic or otherwise , to use a "random walk" type change in any apparatus to affect change, both British and American writers probably seized on this versatile concept in the development of their ideas

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