Unearthly Times

Short hops and side steps along the way!


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

I’m cheating a bit here.

Back when I was working through the Wilderness Years for this blog, I chose to skip stories such as Downtime, which, like K9, was a Doctor Who spinoff that was not made by the BBC.

While technically unofficial, Downtime did include licensed characters who originated in Doctor Who — namely the Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith, Victoria Waterfield, Professor Travers and the Great Intelligence. There were other direct-to-video spinoff projects in the 90’s — Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans and the Auton trilogy spring to mind — and K9, albeit with a bigger Australian TV production budget to play with, would seem to fit into that lineage.

“Oi, what’s going on here?”

Field Officer, Regeneration

Perhaps it’s because this was the second attempt at a K9-focussed spin-off, perhaps it’s because they did actually complete a full series (unlike the BBC with K-9 and Company), perhaps it’s because K9 had just returned to The Sarah Jane Adventures in its third series and the advance UK screening of K9‘s pilot on Hallowe’en 2009 coincided with this (it would be another six months before we saw the rest of the series), but I thought I should at least include the first episode of Bob Baker’s long-in-the-developing K9 TV series.

The cheekily titled first episode Regeneration sees the K9 we’ve grown to love or loathe arrive to save the day and then get almost completely destroyed, which is a bold way to start things, I have to say. K9’s demise admittedly doesn’t last long. (That’d be some show!) Once he’s undergone his revamp, the new K9, while not looking bad, does look wrong.

And that’s the thing that makes this obviously not a BBC-licensed Doctor Who show — that sense that something’s not quite right. Despite the helicopter’s eye establishing shots, this never truly feels like it’s set in London, even a future London. The accents too, never quite convince you you’re not actually in an Australian suburb.

Everyone does a reasonable job of establishing their characters, John Leeson is predictably excellent in a voice role he has made his own over the decades and I did like the comically inept field officers, but on the evidence of its first episode K9 just lacks that something that makes you believe this is in a fictional universe where the Doctor might — or at least could — turn up to lend a hand, whereas with The Sarah Jane Adventures an episode like The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith always felt possible.