Doctor Who puts sonic screwdriver to work to boost BBC funds

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The Independent Online

The mysterious silver gadget has helped to keep the Daleks and assorted life forms at bay for hundreds of years - when it actually worked. Now Doctor Who's unreliable sonic screwdriver is expected to become one of the must-have toys this Christmas.

The mysterious silver gadget has helped to keep the Daleks and assorted life forms at bay for hundreds of years - when it actually worked. Now Doctor Who's unreliable sonic screwdriver is expected to become one of the must-have toys this Christmas.

The BBC will rake in millions from merchandising spin-offs from the sci-fi series, which was revived last night after an absence of 16 years. The products are to be launched at the end of the year to cash in on the seasonal rush. They are aimed at diehard fans and a new generation who had not even been born when the Doctor last roamed our TV screens.

The screwdriver first appeared in a 1968 storyline called "Fury from the Deep", when Patrick Troughton starred as the Doctor. It was regularly used to get him out of a wide range of sticky situations, everything from opening prison cells and doors to disarming his foes.

The toy version of the tool will feature a flashing blue light that retracts into the handle at the mere touch of a button.

Other Who toys launching for the Christmas market include radio-controlled daleks and action figures based on the stars of the show. In his latest regeneration, the Doctor is played by Christopher Eccleston, and his sidekick, Rose, by Billie Piper.

The return of Doctor Who was one of the pet projects of the outgoing BBC1 controller, Lorraine Heggessey. Her replacement, Peter Fincham, is expected to be sympathetic to commissioning further series of the show. He said it was great timing that his appointment on Thursday had come within days of Who's return, and recalled how he "grew up with BBC1 and cowered behind the sofa when Doctor Who was on".

The new 13-part series is a multi-million-pound affair full of special effects, in contrast to the wobbly sets of years gone by. It has already been sold to TV stations in Canada, New Zealand and Italy, and there are high hopes that it will become an extremely lucrative export for the BBC.

Despite the huge interest in the Time Lord's return in the UK, bookmakers were actually predicting that the Doctor was last night facing defeat by a mightier foe. ITV1's Ant and Dec were favourites to win the ratings battle when the two shows went head-to-head.

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