Ladies and Gentlemen I have a confession. I obsess over how to make fictional objects work. If you have ever seen someone put down a book with a world weary sigh and stalk out of the room only to return with reference books, legal pads, graph paper, and drafting pencils, odds are good you've seen me or one of my ilk. I get distracted sketching out schematics, making notes, and leave real and digital sticky notes with drabbles and snippits focused on what an object does. I love cool gadgets and the less sense they make, the more I obsess.
Case in point, the Vortex Manipulator of a Time Agent. At first glance it's totally fine. Visibly rugged? Check. Able to fit into the vast majority of cultures and time periods as imagined by human beings? Sure! A couple lights, sleek design, and buttons to press? Hey, it has all of that! The vortex Manipulator is obviously the accessory of the Future!
Yeah, I made that joke. Shake your head and move on.
The point is that it looks awesome and does a perfect job as Jack's do-anything-never-fail gadget (you know, like Bob's keytool Glitch, or Inspector Gadget's hat) unless
like myself you are an obsessive world builder who must know how everything works. In that case you, like me, find yourself congratulating the Time Agency on inventing the most useless super powered mini-computer ever. Think carefully about Jack's wrist strap for me.
here's a peek if you don't have it memorized.
People, this thing has three buttons. THREE BUTTONS. Three freaking buttons, the D-pad from a Nintendo DS, a light that you probably shouldn't look directly into,(but I would. Every time cause it's just so blue) and a screen roughly a quarter the size of an ipod nano (which is only a little more than twice the size of my icon). It looks slick, but when you consider the fact that this thing does all of the following according to Tardis.wikia...
- Communication between users, including storage of messages, and listening to radio broadcasts. (TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, TV: The Sound of Drums)
- Projection of holograms. (TV: The Empty Child, TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Fragments)
- Tracking of life signs. (TV: Bad Wolf, Journey's End)
- Remote control of electronic devices. (TV: Everything Changes, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Exit Wounds)
- Muting Torchwood Three's comm system. (TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang)
- As a "front door key" to the Torchwood Three hub. (TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang)
- Playing music. (TV: Exit Wounds)
- Detection of low sodium levels. (TV: Rendition)
- Scanning and alteration of printed texts. (TV: Immortal Sins)
- Unlocking combination-locked vaults. (TV: Immortal Sins)
- Scanning a body for life, specificaly Angelo Calasanto. (TV: End of the Road)
- Acting as a beacon. (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan)
...some problems arise.
I'm surely not the only person who sees that these are a lot of complex features of ask of three buttons, a d-pad, and a screen too small to read a tweet on! It drives me insane. I have spent good man hours working out all sorts of awesome sci-fi crazy ways for this thing to do all those functions at the same time. I've played with omni-tech capabilities where the manipulator is designed to assimilate pathways Borg style to adapt other bits of period appropriate technology as it's control panel, but it made a much better steampunk picture than it did description in a story. I've had crazy fun with developing a really complex version on the Vortex manipulator where symbiotic nanites produced by the strap allow the agent to sync themselves at the push of one of those three stupid buttons and use their own body as monitor, mouse, and keyboard, forming extra connections that allow themselves to see a HUD display similar to the contact technology Torchwood uses in cannon without the contacts while allowing for a full visual mode that operates a full scale interactive holographic interface. (Like Jarvis from Iron Man). There was even an explanation cut from a longer piece where agents wrist straps were programmed to respond on a psychic level using buttons just for things like hitting enter or cancel.
Sorry, I was imagining tweeting at the speed of thought again. It's sooooo good. Anyway.
I think about how much memory they need and how to store it (It was a ridiculous hunt through Wikipedia to discover that the largest unit of data storage invented by man is the Yottabyte
. It is, seriously, 1 quadrillion bytes. A QUADRILLION. I figure a manipulator must need approximately that to be able to handle time travel) I imagine using actual clouds (nebula clouds to be precise) to encrypt and store data. I almost literally drive myself insane coming up with complex ways for these things to work that never leave the notes pages because they'd bog down a story line.
NO LONGER SAYS I!
I am not alone. I know I cannot be the only person who stays awake at night pondering the line between physics and metaphysics. Have you ever given Jack's wrist strap any thought? How do you think it works? Do you hate the possibilities I've thrown together? What are your favorite non-cannon features to add to a vortex manipulator? Does Jack use it more like a Wikipedia that just happens to time travel when in good repair, is it full of pictures/holograms/recordings or his life? Does it secretly hold Earths largest digital music collection? The topic is Vortex Manipulators and all the odd quirky thoughts about them that you've never been able to fit into a normal conversation. This is your chance. Tell me about them.
I'm REALLY interested.