K-9 and Company

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K-9 and Company
K9 titles.jpg
Title card
Format Science Fiction
Starring Elisabeth Sladen
John Leeson (voice)
Theme music composer Fiachra Trench
Ian Levine
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 1
Production
Producer(s) John Nathan-Turner
Running time 50 min.
Broadcast
Original channel BBC1
Picture format PAL
Original airing 28 December 1981
Chronology
Followed by The Sarah Jane Adventures
Related shows Doctor Who

K-9 and Company was a proposed television spin-off of the original programme run of Doctor Who (1963–1989). It was to feature former series regulars Sarah Jane Smith, an investigative journalist played by Elisabeth Sladen, and K-9, a robotic dog. Both characters had been companions of the Fourth Doctor, but they had not appeared together before. A single episode, "A Girl's Best Friend", was produced as a pilot for a proposed programme, but was not taken up. "A Girl's Best Friend" was broadcast by BBC1 as a Christmas special on 28 December 1981. The story was released on DVD on 16 June 2008 as a double pack with K-9's first Doctor Who story "The Invisible Enemy".[1] Although a full series of K-9 and Company was not produced, the two characters did re-appear two years later in The Five Doctors, an episode of Doctor Who broadcast in 1983 celebrating the show's twentieth anniversary.

Following the successful revival of Doctor Who in 2005, Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 would be re-introduced to the show in the second series episode "School Reunion", which aired in 2006. In addition to subsequent appearances by both characters in the main programme, this became the basis for another series featuring the two characters, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which debuted in 2007. K-9 appears only occasionally in the first and second series, and becomes a regular character in series three. Another unrelated programme, not produced by the BBC and without Sarah Jane, K-9, began airing in 2010. This series, created by one of the originators of the K-9 character, features a different version of the robot dog.

Programme origins[edit]

The programme has its roots firmly in the desire of Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner to get Elisabeth Sladen back into the TARDIS. He had wanted her to have the contract eventually awarded to Janet Fielding in late 1980. John Nathan-Turner's preferred plan for the transition from Baker to Davison was to have Sarah Jane be along for the ride from Logopolis to the second story of series 19. However, Sladen had no interest in returning simply to reprise a role and function identical to the one she had left years before.

Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner was trying to figure out what to do about K-9. The robot dog was very popular among children but was difficult to deal with technically and Nathan-Turner felt that it made the TARDIS crew almost overwhelmingly formidable. He decided that a child-orientated spin-off series with K-9 might be just the thing. However, such a series would require a human as the lead, and his prime candidate for this role was Sladen. He pitched the part to the actress as a departure from what she had previously done: she would be returning as Sarah Jane Smith, but she would do so as the heroine and not just a sidekick. This offer Sladen accepted.

"A Girl's Best Friend"[edit]

"A Girl's Best Friend"
K-9 and Company episode
Cast
Starring
Others
  • Colin Jeavons – George Tracey
  • Bill Fraser – Bill Pollock
  • Nigel Gregory – Vince Wilson
  • Sean Chapman – Peter Tracey
  • Mary Wimbush – Aunt Lavinia
  • Ian Sears – Brendan Richards
  • Linda Polan – Juno Baker
  • Neville Barber – Howard Baker
  • John Quarmby – Henry Tobias
  • Gillian Martell – Lily Gregson
  • Stephen Oxley – P.C. Carter
Production
Writer Terence Dudley
Director John Black
Script editor Eric Saward, Antony Root
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Incidental music composer Peter Howell
Production code D300A[2]
Length 50 minutes
Originally broadcast 28 December 1981

Plot[edit]

Sarah Jane Smith visits her Aunt Lavinia, who was occasionally mentioned but never seen in Doctor Who. When she arrives at her aunt's house, though, she finds that her learned relative has left early for a lecture tour in America, Christmas notwithstanding. Sarah is thus left disappointed by the prospect of another holiday without family. Fortunately, Lavinia's ward, Brendan Richards, breaks her moment of reflection on her aunt's sudden disappearance. After picking him up from the train station, they return to the house and discover a large crate that has been waiting for Sarah for a number of years. When they open it, they discover a mechanical dog named K-9. Upon activation, it tells Sarah that it is a gift from the Doctor.

Brendan's curiosity about K-9 is matched only by Sarah's renewed concern over Lavinia's absence. They thus split up and follow their new-found obsessions. Sarah goes into town to question the locals, and Brendan stays behind to test the capabilities of Sarah's new "pet". In town, Sarah discovers that Lavinia has become disliked by some because of her blunt letters to the local newspaper editors about a growing practice of witchcraft in the area. Brendan, meanwhile, is attacked while using K-9 to analyse soil samples in Lavinia's garden. His attackers, George Tracey and his son, Peter, are tied in to the local coven. Unfortunately, both attackers flee before Brendan can get a good look at them.

Since Tracey is actually Lavinia's gardener, he is naturally called in the next morning to investigate the damage the scuffle with Brendan caused to the garden. After Brendan attempts to brag about the pH balance of the soil, Tracey sharply comments that gardening is more about respect for nature than scientific theory. Otherwise, though, he doesn't betray his more sinister intent towards Brendan. Later that night, he sends his son out to kidnap the sleeping Brendan from the house.

This time, Brendan's attacker is successful, stealing him out from under Sarah, who is elsewhere in the house, reading up on the local practice of witchcraft.

Sarah is now increasingly suspicious of Tracey, believing he would have the opportunity to commit the crime, even if she can't yet put her finger on the motive. She therefore finds a way to hide K-9 in Tracey's house. K-9 quietly monitors the household, until he eventually listens in on a conversation that implicates Tracey as a member of a coven. He also discovers that Tracey intends to kill Brendan in an act of ritual murder.

When Tracey leaves his cottage, Sarah is able to retrieve K-9, who alerts his new mistress to the impending crime. Unfortunately, she has no way to enlist the aid of the local police or, really anyone else in the town, because she can't substantiate her claim of overhearing the conversation without also then having to explain who and what the anachronistic K-9 actually is.

Realising that she and K-9 are effectively on their own, she tries to figure out how to stop the sacrifice. Her first order of business is determining the when of it. Using Lavinia's books on witchcraft, she and K-9 deduce it must occur at midnight on the winter solstice, now just a few short hours away. The where of it is more elusive, however, causing the duo to drive around the shire looking at all the churches. As the last few minutes before midnight tick away, they finally realise that there's an abandoned chapel on Lavinia's property. Rushing home, K-9 and Sarah are briefly upset at missing something that was right under their noses all along.

They arrive just in time for K-9 to use his blaster to stop the coven's Priest and Priestess from plunging a knife into Brendan's chest. Now stunned, the group's ringleaders are easily apprehended by the police.

Finally able to celebrate Christmas, Sarah receives a call from her Aunt Lavinia. She's surprised that Sarah was worried about her, since she left instructions for her business partner to send Sarah a cable. As he turned out to be the High Priest of the coven, Sarah merely laughs and tells her aunt that she has a story to tell her about why that message never reached her. Meanwhile, K-9 tries to connect with the human holiday in his own way, teaching himself to sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

Continuity[edit]

K-9 is referred to as "Mark III" in this story because it is presumably the third to be owned by the Doctor. As chronicled in the main series, the first K-9 chose to stay with Leela on Gallifrey, while K-9 Mark II was forced to stay with Romana in E-Space due to being damaged by time winds. Mark III was commonly assumed to be a gift of the Fourth Doctor, apparently confirmed when K-9 reveals that the Doctor left him on Earth for Sarah Jane in 1978, presumably after the unveiling of Mark II in The Invasion of Time and prior to the events of The Ribos Operation. When K-9 tells Sarah Jane that he is a gift from the Doctor, a leitmotif of the Doctor Who theme music plays briefly.

K-9 Mark III is still functioning and residing with Sarah Jane in The Five Doctors. K-9 breaks down some years before the events of "School Reunion".

When K-9 reveals that he is a gift from the Doctor, Sarah Jane remarks, "Oh, Doctor, you didn't forget." Their parting words in The Hand of Fear were admonishments not to forget each other, as later reprised nearly verbatim in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

The episode's setting is stated in dialogue and a newspaper masthead as being 18–25 December 1981, and Sarah Jane's experiences with the Doctor and UNIT are in her past, indicating that the Third and Fourth Doctor serials took place more or less contemporaneously to their original broadcast dates. Depictions of Sarah Jane's childhood in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? and The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith support this. But see UNIT dating controversy.

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 driving scene that takes place between the two is in daylight.

The newspaper in which Aunt Lavinia's disappearance is reported is the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard.[3]

Continuing Doctor Who's tongue-in-cheek references to the Doctor's name, Brendan asks, "Who is the Doctor?" to which K-9 responds, "Affirmative."

Lavinia describes Sarah Jane as being "never in one place long enough to lick a stamp." Sarah Jane describes Lavinia with the same words, twenty-seven years later, in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode, "The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith", which depicts the events which caused Sarah Jane to be taken into Lavinia's care. Similarly, Lavinia Smith's spinsterhood, lack of biological children of her own, and her eagerness to care for orphans (i.e., Sarah Jane and Brendan), are traits passed on to Sarah Jane who later adopts Luke and Sky Smith.

In the 2002 Big Finish audio drama, Sarah Jane Smith: Comeback, Sarah Jane (voiced by Sladen), states that Lavinia has recently died and Brendan is living in San Francisco, and mentions Juno Baker. The canonicity of the story is uncertain. Lavinia's death is implied periodically in The Sarah Jane Adventures: Sarah Jane laments in 2007's "Invasion of the Bane" that she is "all alone". Clyde refers to "the money her aunt left her" in 2009's "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith"; neither Lavinia's nor Brendan's absence from Sarah Jane's aborted wedding is addressed.

Outside references[edit]

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. Sladen's character can also be clearly seen reading The Guardian in the opening titles.

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"A Girl's Best Friend" 28 December 1981 (1981-12-28) 50:00 8.4
[4][5][6][7]

Cast notes[edit]

Bill Fraser previously appeared with Tom Baker and K-9 Mark II in the Doctor Who story Meglos.

Theme music[edit]

Many Doctor Who fans remember A Girl's Best Friend most clearly for its electronic theme music, composed by long-term Doctor Who enthusiast and record producer, Ian Levine, with his musical partner Fiachra Trench.[8] Both the theme music and title sequence have been ridiculed by some fans.[who?] 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 music) without Levine's knowledge.

Broadcast and production[edit]

The viewing figures for the pilot were strong, achieving a viewership of about 8.4 million Britons on its première.[9] This meant that it attracted more viewers than the average episode of Doctor Who during John Nathan-Turner's era as producer.[10] It was even more popular than the other seasonal special of the era, The Five Doctors, which posted a rating of 7.7.[11] Only when one looks narrowly at Season 19 – the one which immediately followed the broadcast of K-9 and Company – can one find a period where sustained ratings in the parent show were higher than the ratings for this spin-off pilot.

Despite these above-average ratings, the show did not go to series. The proximate cause for this was a changeover in channel controllers at BBC One. Bill Cotton, who had approved the pilot, vacated his position soon thereafter. He was replaced by Alan Hart, who simply disliked the idea and the resulting product. Further episodes were therefore not commissioned. The show was repeated once on BBC2 during the Christmas period of 1982.

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

The story was released on video in the UK on 7 August 1995 as Doctor Who: K-9 and Company. It first appeared in the US in August 1998. Neither version is currently available. It was released on DVD on 16 June 2008 alongside The Invisible Enemy in the Doctor Who: K9 Tales (The Invisible Enemy / K9 And Company) box set.

Reception[edit]

The pilot attracted 8.4 million viewers on its original broadcast.

In Doctor Who Magazine's The Mighty 200 fans gave K-9 and Company 51.55% likeness.[12] The title sequence came first in TV's Top 5 worst title sequences as part of David Walliams' Awfully Good TV.

Further adventures[edit]

While the pilot did not lead to a series on the BBC, the concepts introduced in A Girl's Best Friend were retained by later Doctor Who writers. Subsequent nods to the team-up continue to the present series of the programme. These references appeared in virtually every medium in which Doctor Who stories have been told. In production order, the somewhat linked narrative begun with A Girl's Best Friend was:

  • The Five Doctors, in which Sarah Jane was shown to be transported to Gallifrey from just outside her home, after ignoring K-9's warnings of danger.
  • The educational special "Search Out Science: Search Out Space", in which K-9 appeared with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, featured the K-9 and Company theme song as incidental music while K-9 compared differently coloured Smarties to stars at various points in their lives.
  • Comic strip:
    • "City of Devils", written by Gary Russell, illustrated by Vincent Danks, printed in the Doctor Who Magazine Holiday Special 1992 (Marvel, 1992). At Aunt Lavinia's request, Sarah and K9 accompany an archaeological dig in Egypt, which has uncovered a lost city of the Silurians (which K9 refers to by the more accurate name 'Eocenes').
  • Short stories:
    • "Housewarming", by David A. McIntee, a short story in Decalog 2 (Virgin, 1995). This Doctor-less story teamed K-9 and Sarah with Mike Yates in visit to a haunted house that turns out to be run by the Master.
    • "Moving On", by Peter Anghelides, a short story in Decalog 3 (Virgin, 1995), which relates how Sarah's travels with the Doctor impacted her emotionally, and how K-9 Mark III eventually broke down due to a lack of available parts. This was obliquely referenced in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre, also by Anghelides, and addressed in the 2006 episode "School Reunion".
    • "The Sow in Rut", by Robert Perry and Mike Tucker, short story in More Short Trips (BBC, 1999). This featured Brendan from K-9 and Company and also involved an encounter with ghosts, this time in and around a Lake District pub called "The Sow in Rut".
    • "Balloon Debate", by Simon A. Forward, a short story in Short Trips: Companions (2003, Big Finish), involving Sarah writing a work of fiction about being trapped in the TARDIS. However, how she comes to know so much about the Doctor's other companions is not explained.
  • Audio dramas:
    • Comeback, by Terrance Dicks (2002, Big Finish), which starts off the Sarah Jane Smith audio series, relating her exploits as an investigative journalist. The play mentions that Lavinia has died, and starts at her funeral. Brendan is mentioned as living in San Francisco and unable to attend the funeral. It also sets the stage for her journalistic "independence" by portraying her as the sole inheritor of Lavinia's estate. Not only does she get the sprawling manor and market garden shown in A Girl's Best Friend, but she also is the heir to the royalties from Lavinia's patents.[13]
    • Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (2002, Big Finish), by Peter Anghelides, a 2002 Sarah Jane Smith audio adventure by Big Finish Productions. Although not named as K-9, an electronic device referred to only as a "pet" is found in storage at Sarah's house and further disassembled by the story's villain.
  • "School Reunion", by Toby Whithouse (2006), an episode of the 2006 series of Doctor Who. K-9 here is shown to still be in Sarah's possession, and in a state of disrepair. He is destroyed in the episode and replaced with K-9 Mark IV.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011), K-9 Mark IV appeared briefly in "Invasion of the Bane", the pilot episode of this spin-off[14] as well as another cameo appearance saving the day, in the episode The Lost Boy, but was not expected to appear often in the ongoing series. This was due to the simultaneous development of K-9 by Jetix Europe (with no BBC connections). In "Invasion of the Bane", K-9 is shown to be busy sealing off an artificially-created black hole (explaining his absence from most of the subsequent series). The black hole is resolved in the second serial of the third series, and K-9 Mark IV returns to the Smith home full-time.
  • "Journey's End", by Russell T Davies, an episode of the 2008 series of Doctor Who. K-9 appears briefly at the end of the episode, where he assists Sarah Jane's computer Mr Smith and Torchwood to create a lasso of temporal energy, allowing the TARDIS to tow the Earth back to its original position in time and space. (Sarah Jane also appears in the preceding episode, The Stolen Earth, but K-9 does not.)

Release[edit]

K9 and Company originally released on VHS 7 August 1995 by BBC Worldwide[15] It was then released onto DVD 16 June 2008 as a double pack with K-9's first Doctor Who story "The Invisible Enemy by 2entertain.[16]

K9 and Company was re-released on DVD by 2entertain on 25 October 2010,[17] since then the BBC have it released it via the Doctor Who YouTube Channel on 1 December 2012.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "News". Phoenix Film and Television Productions Ltd. Retrieved 2 October 2007. 
  2. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – K-9 and Company – Details". Retrieved 13 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard
  4. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. "K-9 and Company". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 9 July 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ "K-9 and Company". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  6. ^ Sullivan, Shannon. "K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  7. ^ "K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend". Sarah Jane Guide. Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  8. ^ "Full cast and crew for K-9 and Company". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 January 2008. 
  9. ^ Lyon, Shaun. "K-9 and Company". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2006. 
  10. ^ Lyon, Shaun. "Doctor Who Episode Guide". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 15 August 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2006. 
  11. ^ Lyon, Shaun. "The Five Doctors". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2006. 
  12. ^ Doctor Who Magazine: Issue 413
  13. ^ Dixon, Cameron. "Sarah Jane Smith: Comeback". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 19 August 2006. 
  14. ^ "Russell T Davies creates new series for CBBC, starring Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith" (Press release). BBC. 14 September 2006. Retrieved 14 September 2006. 
  15. ^ "Doctor Who: K9 and Company VHS". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Doctor Who: K9 Tales Box Set (Invisible Enemy/K9 and Co) DVD". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "K9 & Company DVD". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend : BBC". BBC. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 

External links[edit]