‘A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND’ (K-9 & CO)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Sarah Jane’s First Adventure with K-9
So yeah! This was a thing back in 1981! This was the only spin-off to be made from the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’! I’m amazed this got made! ‘K-9 & Company’ was an attempt to try and give K-9, the Doctor’s robotic dog, his own spin-off series and he had Sarah Jane Smith to join him on his TV show.
I was initially surprised when I found out this spin-off special existed. The first time I saw it was when it was part of the ‘K-9 Tales’ DVD box set along with ‘The Invisible Enemy’. I wouldn’t regard the ‘K-9 Tales’ DVD box set very highly, but it was a fairly enjoyable collection of tales when I first watched it.
I suppose ‘The Collection’ range of classic ‘Doctor Who’ seasons couldn’t find a place to put this one-off special of ‘K-9 & Company’ before it was decided to put it at the end of Tom Baker’s final season, Season 18, when it was re-released on Blu-ray. Mind you, it’s not a bad place to put it in that box set.
‘K-9 & Company’ was released in-between Season 18 and Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’ when it was transmitted via BBC1 on the 28th of December 1981. Having ‘K-9 & Company’ in the Season 18 Blu-ray box set acts like a bonus story, even when you want to have the Blu-ray box set for Christmas! 😀
This one-off special is of course where Sarah Jane first meets K-9 in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. I was surprised their first meeting didn’t happen in ‘Doctor Who’ and it happened in a spin-off show that ended up being a one-off. I have seen ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘School Reunion’ set after this TV story.
I enjoyed ‘K-9 & Company’ and found it very interesting indeed. I wouldn’t say it was a great spin-off episode and it’s a shame ‘K-9 & Company’ didn’t get to have its own series. But from what I’ve seen, it did have potential if only the correct writing team and producer had been employed to make this.
The spin-off was devised by John Nathan-Turner, the current producer of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1980s. JNT had hoped to make a series out of ‘K-9 & Company’ when he had the robot dog exited from the TV series recently. I’m so surprised by this since JNT made his views clear that he didn’t like the dog.
Mind you the reason why ‘K-9 & Company’ was produced was to counteract the backlash JNT received about K-9 being written out of the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series during Season 18. JNT wanted to make ‘K-9 & Company’ in order to fulfil fans’ desires to see K-9 on TV but not travel with the Doctor.
It is actually a brave thing to do and to give credit to JNT, I’m impressed he saw to it that he got it made. Sadly the intention of spawning a TV series for K-9 wasn’t to be and only the pilot episode was made. Whilst that’s sad in itself, I am glad I got to see how K-9 and Sarah Jane first meet each other.
It is unusual to see Sarah Jane and K-9 meeting each other after watching the ‘Doctor Who’ series overall from beginning to end. In the days of being uninitiated into ‘Doctor Who’, I assumed K-9 travelled with the Doctor and Sarah Jane in the TARDIS. How wrong I was when it turned out not to be.
By the time K-9 joined the Fourth Doctor in the TARDIS, Sarah Jane had long gone. The female companions K-9 encountered with the Doctor were Leela and Romana. So it seems rather an oddity for Sarah Jane to meet this robot dog whom she hadn’t met before and not had an association with.
Mind you, Sarah Jane had already been hailed as a popular ‘Doctor Who’ companion by that point long after she left the series. So her return to the ‘Doctor Who’ universe in this one-off special with K-9 was a welcome one. And this would not be the last time as Sarah Jane returned more and more.
So the pilot episode of what would’ve been a potential ‘K-9 & Company’ series is called ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’. It’s a 50-minute special episode by Terence Dudley. This wasn’t Terence Dudley’s first association in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. For Season 18, he directed the four-part TV story ‘Meglos’.
Dudley would later write three ‘Doctor Who’ stories for Peter Davison’s Doctor including ‘Four To Doomsday’, ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘The King’s Demons’. Out of all the stories Dudley wrote for the series, I still regard ‘Black Orchid’ as his best one. The ‘K-9 & Company’ episode he wrote is average.
Don’t get me wrong. Watching it again made me realise that Terence Dudley was going for a more mystery element as he’d done in ‘Black Orchid’ which I liked, especially with people disappearing. But I wouldn’t have chosen the subject matter Dudley applied for in the first ‘K-9 & Company’ story.
The episode involves a satanic cult which isn’t to my liking and most of the episode is pretty grim and serious like a thriller. I would’ve gone for a more child-friendly approach especially for a spin-off pilot featuring a robot dog and a former ‘Doctor Who’ companion. Maybe have something in outer space.
Another reason for why the spin-off series never happened apparently was that there was a change of controller on BBC1 who decided ‘K-9 & Company’ didn’t have enough legs to stand-on. This could be due to the belief made that only satanic cult stories could be made with K-9 and Sarah Jane here.
I would disagree on that regard. There’s more potential for stories with K-9 and Sarah Jane solving mysteries other than satanic cults. They could do seaside murder mysteries or fairground mysteries or something. Again, the right team of writers chosen for ‘K-9 & Company’ could’ve made this work.
In fact, I would say Terence Dudley was the incorrect person to write the pilot episode for ‘K-9 & Company’. It should’ve been Terrance Dicks or Barry Letts, since they know the character of Sarah Jane inside out. Either one of these two would give a stronger re-introduction to Sarah Jane with K-9.
I’m surprised Terrance Dicks wasn’t asked to write the pilot episode of ‘K-9 & Company’ instead of Terence Dudley. Terrance Dicks wrote for Season 18 with ‘State of Decay’. He even wrote K-9 for that. He would’ve been ideal to re-introduce Sarah Jane as well as K-9 in this special spin-off episode.
Anyway, the episode was also directed by John Black who had previously directed ‘The Keeper of Traken’ in Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’. He would go on to direct ‘Four To Doomsday’ in Season 19. I enjoyed John Black’s direction on this ‘K-9 & Company’ pilot, especially with some action sequences.
It must’ve been so exciting for ‘Doctor Who’ fans to watch this special episode of K-9 over Christmas time in 1981. It could’ve done without the satanic cult and attempts could’ve been made to make it more Christmassy. But besides all of that, it must have been great for kids to see Sarah Jane and K-9.
It’s interesting to note that whilst ‘K-9 & Company’ didn’t get off the ground as it could’ve done, the pilot episode received some strong viewing figures. About 8.4 million viewers apparently! ‘K-9 & Company’ must’ve been great TV viewing at the time in Christmas 1981. It wouldn’t be like that now.
It was lovely to see Elisabeth Sladen return to the world of ‘Doctor Who’ as Sarah Jane Smith in ‘K-9 & Company’. As many know, Sarah Jane was a former companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors during the 1970s. It was interesting to see what Sarah Jane was doing she left in ‘The Hand of Fear’.
It was equally fun and interesting to see how Sarah Jane and K-9 first meet. It transpires K-9 was a gift given to her by the Doctor which is amazing. I assume it’s the Fourth Doctor who built K-9 to give to Sarah Jane and not a later incarnation which I’ve indicated in my Fifth Doctor story ‘Junglos 4198’.
This version of K-9 is the Mark III model, not the Mark I model who stayed behind with Leela on Gallifrey in ‘The Invasion of Time’ and not the Mark II model who stayed with Romana in E-Space in ‘Warriors’ Gate’. This pilot marks the first appearance of K-9 Mark III in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe. 🙂
John Leeson returns to voice K-9 in this pilot episode. It’s always a joy to hear John voice the robotic dog whenever I watch or hear ‘Doctor Who’ in the TV stories and the Big Finish audios as well as this pilot episode for a spin-off series that never happened. K-9 even gets to take part in the theme song!
Yeah, I did find the ‘K-9 & Company’ titles sequences a bit contrived especially when showing Sarah Jane and K-9 in a montage of fast-paced editing that seemed all over the place. But the theme song was catchy to listen to, especially when K-9 repeated “K-9! K-9!” over and over again when I heard it.
The ‘K-9 & Company’ theme song was composed by Fiachra Trench and Ian Levine. Interesting that Ian Levine, the continuity advisor for ‘Doctor Who’, co-composed the ‘K-9 & Company’ theme song. But then he and Fiachra Trench did compose that ‘Doctor In Distress’ charity single together in 1985.
Like I said, the story of ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’ isn’t really great. But the mystery aspects are interesting especially when Sarah Jane tries to solve the whereabouts of her missing Aunt Lavina with K-9’s help. The satanic cult becomes the cause for this mystery in the sleepy village of Morton Harewood.
I enjoyed the location scenes being shot in the pilot special. The episode was filmed in the Cotswolds during November of 1981. Wow they filmed this episode a month before it was transmitted over Christmas time that year. The cast and crew must’ve been under a lot of pressure to make this one.
The guest cast includes Mary Wimbush as Aunt Lavina, Sarah Jane’s aunt. I’ve seen Mary Wimbush before as she played Aunt Agatha in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. It was a delight to see her in this K-9 special. I’m glad she’s playing Aunt Lavina in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe.
Aunt Lavina has been talked about in ‘Doctor Who’ right from Sarah Jane’s debut appearance in ‘The Time Warrior’. It was a shock to see Aunt Lavina smoking in the episode as this is supposed to be a TV show for children, right? I wish we could’ve seen Aunt Lavina more in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe.
There’s Ian Sears as Brendan Richards, who is Aunt Lavina’s ward that Sarah Jane meets. He is a bit of a nerd when he comes across K-9. As I understand, Brendan was meant to be one of the regulars had the spin-off series got green-lit. But honestly I think Brendan would end up being another Adric.
Poor Brendan though. He gets knocked out once and then gets knocked out again to be captured and taken away to be used as a sacrifice for the satanic cult’s purposes. Thankfully Sarah Jane does rescue him by the end of the episode. I’m certain Ian Sears was very cold filming the sacrifice scenes.
There’s also Bill Fraser as Commander Bill Pollock. Bill Fraser had previously appeared in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Meglos’. He plays a different character here compared to General Grugger. 😀 Thankfully he doesn’t kick K-9 here and he seems to be a kindly gentleman smoking a pipe. But is he really nice?
Linda Polan guest stars as Juno Baker with Neville Baker as her husband Howard Baker. Juno seems to be good friends with Aunt Lavina as the beginning of the story and even invites Sarah Jane around for a party one night. But are Juno and her husband Neville suspects in Aunt Lavina’s disappearance?
There’s Colin Jeavons as George Tracey, who is one of the satanic cult that is rather humourless and firm in his beliefs in serving the goddess Hecate (which sounds like ‘Hegatty’ when the cult chant her name). There’s also Sean Chapman as Peter Tracey, George’s son who’s so reluctant to be involved.
There’s also Gillian Martell as Lily Gregson, who seems to be another kind lady living in the Morton Harewood sleepy village that offers Sarah Jane a cup when she comes to visit her house. She seems friendly enough, but could she have a part to play in the satanic cult as well during the tale’s events?
And of course there’s John Quarmby as Henry Tobias, who is the editor of Morton Harewood’s ‘Standard’ newspaper when Sarah Jane meets him at Juno Baker’s party. I was delightfully surprised to see John Quarmby in this as he played Mr. Carnegie in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode ‘Basil the Rat’.
What I liked about this spin-off episode is how the mystery is created and that you don’t know who the main villain is. The episode has you change your mind on who the suspect is in whether it’s Juno and Neville Baker or not and whether it’s Commander Bill Pollock or not. I did not have a clue! 😀
Whilst the ‘K-9 & Company’ theme song was composed by Fiachra Trench and Ian Levine, the episode’s incidental music was composed by Peter Howell. I liked it when the incidental music went a bit spooky during some of the night-time scenes and didn’t go all electronic as it usually would do.
I liked how the episode ended with K-9 singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” It all ties in very well before the end-credits roll up with the ‘K-9 & Company’ theme song accompanying it. I’m surprised K-9 wasn’t invited to the Christmas party Sarah Jane went to at the end!
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was ‘The K-9 Files’ making-of documentary; the ‘K-9 – A Dog’s Tale’ interview with K-9 himself; a ‘Pebble Mill at One’ interview with K-9 himself and BBC trailers and continuity announcements of the story. There were two audio options including a stereo sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Elisabeth Sladen, John Leeson, Linda Polan and script-editor Eric Saward. There was also an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a photo gallery of the story and PDF materials including ‘K-9 Stories’ comprising of ‘The Adventures of K-9’ and ‘The K-9 Annual 1983’ as well as a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story. There was also a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Brain of Morbius’ with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.
On Disc 8 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 18’ Blu-ray, ‘The K-9 Files’ making-of documentary; the ‘K-9 – A Dog’s Tale’ interview; the ‘Pebble Mill at One’ interview with K-9; the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; the info-text commentary option; ‘The Adventures of K-9’ PDF; ‘The K-9 Annual 1983’ PDF and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The BBC1 trailers and continuity announcements and the photo gallery for ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’ have been updated for 2019 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’ with John Leeson (K-9), Gillian Martell (Lily Gregson) and Sean Chapman (Peter Tracey). There’s also the ‘Brendan and Company’ interview with Ian Sears and a Happy Christmas trailer featuring Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse in it! Yay!!! 😀 There’s also ‘The Writers’ Room’ with Christopher H. Bidmead, Andrew Smith, Stephen Gallagher and John Flanagan on Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘The Fourth Doctor Revisited’ 50th anniversary documentary. There’s also the ’50th Anniversary Archive’ interview with Matthew Waterhouse; ‘The Panopticon Archive’ panel interview with Tom Baker and ‘Commerical Break’ featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor in a 1997 New Zealand superannuation campaign. There’s also the ‘Galactic Glitter Tours’ Season 18 Blu-ray trailer; the studio clocks compilation for Season 18 and a trailer for ‘Scratchman’, a ‘Doctor Who’ book by Tom Baker. There’s also an updated corrected version of the BBC continuity announcements and trailers for ‘Castrovalva’.
(Moment of silence; deep breath and sighs)
Okay, I need to go into a bit of background with this special feature on the ‘K-9 & Company’ Blu-ray disc and explain why it’s misplaced here when it should be on the ‘Castrovalva’ Blu-ray. When the Season 19 Blu-ray box set was released before the Season 18 Blu-ray box set, there was an error with one of the special features – an updated version of the ‘Castrovalva’ BBC continuity announcements and trailers. I noticed the error when I watched the special features on the ‘Castrovalva’ Blu-ray disc. Apparently the audio for the updated version of the ‘Castrovalva’ BBC continuity announcements and trailers didn’t match to what was shown in the video presentation. It was the audio for the original DVD version of the ‘Castrovalva’ BBC continuity announcements and trailers instead of the brand-new audio version for Blu-ray. Thus there was a fault with the audio which I found disappointing when I saw it on the Season 19 Blu-ray. Thankfully this has been corrected into a new version of the ‘Castrovalva’ BBC continuity announcements and trailers which can now be watched on the ‘K-9 & Company’ Blu-ray disc via the Season 18 Blu-ray box set. It would be nice if it was on the ‘Castrovalva’ Blu-ray disc, but still. I’m glad the Blu-ray makers corrected this.
On the PDF front, as well as ‘The Adventures of K-9’; ‘The K-9 Annual 1983’ and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’, there are also production documents and a script for ‘K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend’. There’s also the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1982’ (taken from the ‘The Keeper of Traken’; ‘Logopolis’ and ‘Castrovalva’ DVDs) and some BBC Enterprises Literature for Season 18. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
So anyway, ‘K-9 and Company’ is an enjoyable excursion of an attempted spin-off TV series from the classic era of ‘Doctor Who’ featuring K-9 and Sarah Jane. It’s a shame that this never got a series. It would’ve been interesting to see Sarah Jane and K-9 having adventures on Earth without the Doctor.
Thankfully though, Sarah Jane came back with K-9 in the new ‘Doctor Who’ series to make a guest appearance in ‘School Reunion’. This was before her own spin-off series ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ happened. It wasn’t exactly ‘K-9 & Company’, but K-9 had a fair share of stories in that.
As for the ‘K-9 Tales’ DVD box set…well like I said, I enjoyed it very much. Whilst it wasn’t the best collection of ‘Doctor Who’ stories on DVD, I enjoyed K-9’s first meeting with the Fourth Doctor and Leela in ‘The Invisible Enemy’ as well as his first meeting with Sarah Jane Smith for ‘K-9 & Company’.
Watching ‘K-9 & Company’ again on Blu-ray has been a joy for me. I’m glad it’s part of the Season 18 Blu-ray box set as I’ve enjoyed revisiting Season 18 overall. It’s nice to have ‘K-9 & Company’ as a bonus story to the Season 18 collection and I’m sure it made plenty of ‘Doctor Who’ fans very happy.
Oh yeah! And it made a lot of K-9 and doggy fans happy too!
‘A Girl’s Best Friend’ (K-9 & Co) rating – 6/10
‘GALACTIC GLITTER TOURS’ SEASON 18 BLU-RAY TRAILER
Please feel free to comment on my review.
I was pretty excited to see the announcement trailer for the Season 18 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’ on YouTube back in November 2018! The Season 19 Blu-ray box set hadn’t been released yet. But still, they were announcing these classic ‘Doctor Who’ seasons on Blu-ray box sets pretty quickly.
It was fun to hear Tom Baker narrate the ‘Galactic Glitter Package Tours’ for the Season 18 stories in the Blu-ray box set. I wonder if it was all Pete McTighe’s writing for those adverts or whether Tom adlibbed some lines of his own. Probably both! It was entertaining and amusing to hear throughout.
Watching the trailer, I was excited about a third ‘Doctor Who’ Blu-ray box set featuring Sarah Sutton. This is due to ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’ being the last two stories featuring Nyssa in Season 18. I was looking forward to the other stories as well, but those two were a definite highlight.
It was a nice surprise to see that the ‘K-9 & Company’ special would be included in the Season 18 Blu-ray box set. I was so excited to see Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton included in the extras part of the trailer since they took part in the ‘Hanging on a Thread’ making-of documentary for ‘Logopolis’. 🙂
I didn’t know Sarah, Janet and Wendy Padbury would be in the ‘Behind the Sofa’ items for the Season 18 Blu-ray box set. It was a nice surprise for me. In the trailer, they only showed Tom Baker, costume designer June Hudson and K-9 voice actor John Leeson for those ‘Behind the Sofa’ items. 🙂
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