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Dr Who

Up to date as of January 31, 2010

From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

This article is written from the Real World point of view. TARDIS

K-9 and Company was a proposed television series in the early 1980s which was intended to be a spinoff of Doctor Who. Ultimately, however, only a single pilot episode was produced, which aired on BBC One as a holiday special in 1981.

The series was to have starred Elisabeth Sladen reprising her role as Third- and Fourth Doctor-companion Sarah Jane Smith, with John Leeson returning as the voice of K-9, or to be more precise, K-9 Mark III.

The pilot episode was produced by then-Doctor Who producer, John Nathan-Turner, and is significant for being the first televised spinoff of Doctor Who. It is the precursor to The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Despite the fact that the pilot did not result in a series, the K-9 and Company concept has had a lasting impact on the character of Sarah Jane and the Who franchise. Most significantly, it gave insight into her family history, aspects of which been used to build her post-TARDIS life in subsequent stories across all media. Most Doctor-less Sarah Jane fiction written after 1981 — like The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Big Finish Sarah Jane audios, as well as the 2006 Doctor Who episode School Reunion — uses elements first seen in K-9 and Company to inform their presentation of the character.

Contents

Details

The pilot episode was titled A Girl's Best Friend, and was broadcast on 28th December 1981. In the episode, Sarah Jane gained a companion/assistant of her own, her aunt's ward Brendan Richards, played by Ian Sears. Brendan was studying computers and additional maths at school among other subjects.

The pilot episode began with Sarah discovering a boxed K-9 Mark III, a gift from the Doctor. The plot which followed involved a strange mixture of occult spookery and mundanity, with robed pagans chanting "Hecate!" and the supposed goddess revealed as a human in a mask. The action took place in early to mid-December, the last scene taking part on Christmas Day. As a result, A Girl's Best Friend is the first holiday-themed Doctor Who-franchise special (as opposed to regular episode), thus predating the tradition followed by the later revived Doctor Who series by a quarter-century.

Many Doctor Who fans remember it most clearly for its electronic theme music, composed by long term Doctor Who enthusiast and record producer Ian Levine. Both the theme music and title sequence have been ridiculed by some fans. Levine, who was also the unofficial continuity consultant for Doctor Who in the 1980s, said in an interview with Dreamwatch Bulletin that the music was intended to be an orchestral score, but was instead arranged directly from his electronic demonstration arrangement by Peter Howell (who also arranged the 1980s version of the Doctor Who theme) without Levine's knowledge. In an interview included on the DVD release, John Leeson jokes about being hired to come to the recording studio and being asked to simply repeat the name "K-9" several times (this later being edited into the theme music, allowing K-9 to "sing" his own theme song!)

Story Notes

  • K-9 is referred to as "Mark III" in this story because he is actually the third robot dog owned by the Fourth Doctor. As chronicled in the main series, the first K-9 chose to stay with Leela on Gallifrey at the end of The Invasion of Time, while K-9 Mark II was forced to stay with Romana in E-Space at the end of Warriors' Gate due to being damaged by time winds.
  • The story features The Army Game actor Bill Fraser as Bill Pollock, who had also recently appeared with Tom Baker and K-9 Mark II in the Doctor Who story Meglos.
  • The original outline by John Nathan-Turner proposed that K-9 Mark III was in fact sent by and under the control of the Master, but this element never made it to the screen.
  • There is some significance in the names writer Terence Dudley gave his characters. One couple is named Baker, the name of Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker.
  • Sarah Jane's Aunt Lavinia was played by Mary Wimbush, the voice of Julia Pargetter in BBC Radio 4's soap opera The Archers and Bertie Wooster's long-suffering Aunt Agatha in Jeeves and Wooster. She later starred in Russell T Davies' children's drama Century Falls. Aunt Lavinia had been mentioned since Sarah's debut story in Doctor Who (The Time Warrior), but had never before appeared on screen.
  • Ian Sears, who played Brendan, carried on acting throughout the 1980s and later became a director, producer, writer, and film editor.
  • Peter is seen polishing his crash helmet with Mr. Sheen, a proprietary brand of furniture polish often used by motorcyclists. This is an unusual example of a product's brand name being visible in a BBC drama.
  • There appears to be a continuity error in a section where Sarah and K-9 go out to look for Brendan in Sarah's car. Sarah leaves her aunt's house when it is dark and arrives at the Church in the dark, but the intervening driving scene is in daylight.

Accolades

The viewing figures for the pilot were very strong, but due to a changeover in channel controllers at BBC One a series was not made (the new controller, Alan Hart, disliking the idea while his predecessor, Bill Cotton had approved it).

Aftermath

Despite the fact that a full series was never commissioned, the concept of K-9 and Company was acknowledged within Doctor Who itself as part of the show's continuity. In the 1983 anniversary special The Five Doctors, which featured appearances by many past companions, Sarah Jane makes her entrance accompanied by K-9 Mark III (the presence of whom is not explained for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the spinoff). Decades later, DW: School Reunion once again feature Sarah and K-9 Mark III, and this in turn was followed by another attempt at a spin-off series, this time successful: The Sarah Jane Adventures (which as of 2009 has seen three full seasons produced).

The Doctor Who franchise would not attempt another TV spinoff until Torchwood in 2006.

Other media

The pilot episode was novelised in the late 1980s as the last in the Target Books series called Companions of Doctor Who.

The adventures of Sarah Jane would later continue in audio form as part of a series of licensed Doctor Who-related projects made for audio in the early 2000s by Big Finish Productions. Although this series did not include K-9, John Leeson reprised the role for several other Big Finish productions.

There was also a K-9 Annual dated 1983.

Video release

The story was released on VHS on 7th August 1995.

It was released on DVD in the UK on June 16th 2008 in a box set called "K-9 Tales". This set also contains "The Invisible Enemy", which is K9's first story. A North American release followed soon after.

External links

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This article uses material from the "K-9 and Company" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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