K-9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend

K-9 & CompanyAfter her Aunt Lavinia leaves for a lecture tour in America much earlier than expected, her niece, Sarah Jane Smith, takes up temporary residence in her house in the quaint village of Moreton Harwood. Sarah finds the locals to be a little bit backward, and one of Lavinia’s recent letters to the editor in the local paper decrying the belief that black magic will help the crops grow – a belief that some of the villagers apparently take quite seriously. Lavinia’s ward, Brendan, also arrives to stay at the house, and Sarah finds a note from Lavinia herself, pointing her in the direction of a large box that has been in Lavinia’s possession for years. The box, which has never been opened, contains a present for Sarah from the Doctor – her very own K-9. Brendan, who’s delighted with computers and technology, makes fast friends with the robotic dog, but that night when Sarah visits one of the neighbors, Brendan finds himself in need of one of K-9’s more unusual abilities when two men break into the house. K-9 stuns one of the men and then pursues the other, but doesn’t catch him. Sarah finds the local police oddly uninterested in the incident, and begins to wonder if there’s something to Lavinia’s witchcraft worries. When Brendan is kidnapped and the police still aren’t interested, her suspicions are even more aroused, and she’ll need K-9’s help to find out how far this small-town conspiracy goes.

Order the DVDwritten by Terence Dudley
directed by John Black
music by Peter Howell / title music by Fiachra Trench & Ian Levine

Cast: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), John Leeson (voice of K-9), Bill Fraser (Commander Pollock), Ian Sears (Brendan Richards), Colin Jeavons (George Tracey), Sean Chapman (Peter Tracey), Mary Wimbush (Aunt Lavinia), Linda Polan (Juno Baker), Gillian Martell (Lilly Gregson), Neville Barber (Howard Baker), John Quarmby (Henry Tobias), Nigel Gregory (Sergeant Wilson), Stephen Oxley (PC Carter)

Notes: Though not strictly speaking an actual part of the Sarah Jane Adventures series, K-9 & Company establishes numerous important parts of the series backstory, and perhaps more importantly established plot points which later Doctor Who episodes (The Five Doctors, School Reunion) regarded as official. It was also the first (and, until Torchwood was greenlit, only) official Doctor Who TV spinoff. As is the case with the current slate of Doctor Who spinoffs being produced by the same team responsible for the parent series, K-9 & Company would have been produced by Doctor Who’s then-producer John Nathan-Turner, who admitted that he wasn’t fond of the dog’s deus ex machina antics in Doctor Who, but realized that the massive outcry over K-9’s departure meant that there was an audience. Nathan-Turner later admitted that the biggest failure of K-9 & Company was its opening episode’s theme of black magic and the occult; like The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9 & Company was envisioned for the younger segment of Doctor Who’s audience, and so the pilot episode’s human sacrifice and pagan ceremonies failed to play well against the Christmas/New Year holidays. (A widespread power outage at the time of broadcast didn’t help ratings either.) Ironically, Sarah did get her own spinoff, with K-9 in the opening episode, premiering 26 years and 4 days after K-9 & Company. (For those wondering: K-9 & Company was to have been the series title, while A Girl’s Best Friend was the name of this particular episode; it’s worth noting that in their book “Doctor Who: The Eighties,” authors David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker reveal that only Nathan-Turner was envisaging a full series, something which his superiors at the BBC had not seriously discussed at the time.)

LogBook entry by Earl Green