Nancy Drew: 10 Questions About Tom Swift, Answered

In the second season of Nancy Drew, a new character speeds into town to team up with the Drew Crew. Tom Swift, brought to life by Tian Richards, comes to Horseshoe Bay looking for the titular detective because he needs her help on a case. The wealthy inventor clashes a bit with Nancy since she’s more likely to come up with supernatural explanations for strange events in town after everything she witnessed in the first season, while he favors a logical and scientific approach.

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The two characters learn a lot from one another in their one shared case: searching for a missing meteorite fragment. Nancy Drew and Tom Swift do, however, have a bit of shared history in the real world. Both of them literary characters with massive series, they both made their debuts on the page in the early twentieth century. Nancy has arguably become the more famous of the two, so fans looking to learn a bit more about Tom have come to the right place.

10 What Does Tom Swift Have In Common With The Bobbsey Twins?

Gilbert and Amanda Bobbsey appear in different encounters with Nancy in Nancy Drew season 2

Neither Gil nor Amanda Bobbsey interacts with Tom Swift in “The Celestial Visitor.” Fans will be interested to know, however, that they, like Nancy Drew, all have the same origin story. All of the characters were originally created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was a publishing group led by Edward Stratemeyer. Started in 1899, the group published stories as series rather than standalone novels, employing numerous writers to craft books about the same characters under a collective pseudonym. For Nancy Drew, that was Carolyn Keene. The Bobbsey Twins had Laura Lee Hope. Tom Swift had Victor Appleton. Each new character would see a group of novels released all at once to test public interest. If the novels were successful, a full series followed. All of the characters went into multiple reprints and rebrandings in later years.

9 How Many Volumes Of Tom Swift Novels Are There?

The original series of novels–published over three decades–included 40 titles. They didn’t stop there. There are six volumes of Tom Swift novels released, some focused on Tom Swift Jr. instead.

The first novels released in 1910, the second volume in 1954, the third in 1981, the fourth in 1991, and the fifth in 2006. Each new set of books updated the character for the era. The most recent volume of novels began publishing in 2019. In total, there are over 100 books about the young inventor so far. If that seems like a lot, remember that both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys have Tom Swift beat with more than 150 books apiece.

8 Is Tom Swift Getting His Own CW Series?

Tian Richards as Tom Swift Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew Backdoor Pilot

Though it’s not official just yet, the plan is for Tom Swift to spin out of Nancy Drew with his own series on the CW. The character is introduced in Nancy Drew, but a pilot episode has still been ordered.

If the pilot is ordered to series, it will feature Levar Burton as the voice of Barclay, Tom’s trusted A.I. assistant. So far, no other casting announcements have been made, though his father, named Barton in the novels, will likely be a mainstay for the series. The novels also feature several recurring characters, including his friend Ned Newton, though the writers might not use the same names since there’s already a Ned Nickerson on Nancy Drew.

7 Have Some Of Tom’s Fictional Inventions Become Reality?

Tom Swift modifies an invention in Nancy Drew

One of the hallmarks of Tom’s original book series is his penchant for inventing things. Some have compared his innovative nature, high intelligence, and natural aptitude for technology to Marvel’s Tony Stark. Plenty of his fictional book inventions have actually become reality.

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Tom Swift And His Wizard Camera, for example, was published in 1912. The novel featured a movie camera that didn’t have to remain stationary. A portable movie camera wasn’t used in reality until 1923. Tom Swift And His Electric Locomotive was published in 1922. Two years later, New Jersey had the first electric diesel locomotive. It will be interesting to see if any of Tom Swift’s inventions created in his (potential) TV series come to fruition in the real world.

6 What Is Significant About Tom’s Car?

Tom Swift Easter egg in Nancy Drew

By now, fans of the Nancy Drew series know that the writers and art department love to sneak in Easter eggs from the books and movies. When Tom Swift comes to Horseshoe Bay, they do the same for him.

His car features a pretty significant license plate. The numbers on his plate read “07011910.” Standard license plates in the US only have five to seven numbers. Custom vanity plates, however, can have up to eight, which means this particular plate would have been commissioned by the character. The number sequence reflects the original publication date of the first Tom Swift novel, Tom Swift And His Motorcycle. It released in July 1910.

5 What Is The Logo On Tom’s Equipment?

A swift on Tom Swift's computer in Nancy Drew

Eagle-eyed Nancy Drew fans are always on the lookout for clues and hidden details in the TV series. One of those is the symbol on the equipment Tom uses.

If fans look carefully, they can spot a symbol that looks like a bird on the technology Tom uses, like his computer. That bird is purposeful according to producer Melinda Hsu Taylor. She revealed on Twitter that the logo was designed by producer Larry Teng. It is, appropriately enough, a swift.

4 Does Nancy Drew Mark Tom Swift’s First TV Appearance?

Side by side images from The Tom Swift And Linda Craig Mystery Hour

Multiple writers have attempted to bring Tom Swift to television over the years. Most of the projects failed, but one came pretty close to being made. In the ’70s, there was an idea to combine several Stratemeyer properties for television series taking place in the same universe. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys made it to television, alternating in the time slot, but Tom Swift did not.

RELATED: Nancy Drew: 5 Reasons To Binge-Watch (& 5 To Skip Entirely)

Nancy Drew doesn’t actually mark his first time on television though. In 1983, Tom Swift came to TV screens with Willie Aames in the role. The Tom Swift And Linda Craig Mystery Hour (with Lori Loughlin as Linda) aired in July, but never went further than that first hour.

3 How Does Tom’s A.I. Provide A Nod To The Voice Actor?

Barclay is a Star Trek nod in Nancy Drew

Tom doesn’t just bring his own ingenuity to Horseshoe Bay. He also brings his A.I. who appears to exist in several of his devices. Given the name Barclay, likely inspired by the character of Bud Barclay from the novels, the A.I. is voiced by LeVar Burton.

TV fans will know Burton for his commitment to literacy with the children’s program Reading Rainbow, as well as his long-time role in the Star Trek franchise as Geordi La Forge. The Nancy Drew production team gave La Forge a shout-out in the design of one of the devices to feature Barclay. The “eyes” of the piece are shaped like La Forge’s visor from Star Trek.

2 How Is The CW Version Of Tom Swift Different From The Novels?

Tom and Nancy work together in Nancy Drew "The Celestial Visitor"

In 1910, the idea of the “all American” teenage boy was frequently written as Caucasian, blonde, and blue-eyed. That’s true for Tom Swift. After more than 100 years, that idea has changed, leading to a change in how adapted characters are cast as well.

Casting Tian Richards, a Black man, in the role, already creates a welcome change in the character. Another is that the character is a gay man who has repeatedly attempted to come out to his father, a point brought up in his introduction in Nancy Drew. The changes help the character from being just another version of Tony Stark in a world already familiar with a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”

1 What Real-Life People Inspired The CW Version Of Tom Swift?

Tom Swift enters the Claw in Nancy Drew

Though the writers have the Tom Swift books to fall back on for inspiration, actor Tian Richards pulled some inspiration from real life. When speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the role, he provided three examples of people who inspired his portrayal.

The first is Iddris Sandu. From Ghana, Sandu’s family immigrated to the US when he was very young. Raised in California, he’s a self-taught coder and tech developer who interned with Google at the age of 13. He’s gone on to work for companies like Boeing, Instagram, and Uber. The second is fellow entertainer Jaden Smith, according to Richards for his “fashion… [and] that connection with a very visible father.” Of course, Richards also referenced Elon Musk when it comes to Swift’s interest in aerospace.

NEXT: Which Nancy Drew Character Are You Based On Your Zodiac Sign?

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