When Doctor Who began airing 800 episodes and 50 years ago, it was a different beast. Our good Doctor wasn’t yet the handsome subject of creepy, erotic fan fiction, nor was he interested in saving the galaxy from alien menace after alien menace. Instead, old man William Hartnell, The First Doctor, was the star of a black and white show which intended to educate the audience about history. By using the TARDIS, The Doctor and his exceptionally boring crew would visit key points in history and explore their significance. It was a premise that wouldn’t last long. Hanging out with alien conquerors quickly trumped any first-hand observations of George Washington’s cherry tree faux pas. I’ll break it down for you : kid does a stupid thing and then has to admit to it because there’s no possible way that someone else did that thing. Learn some impulse control, George. That’s not honesty. That’s just getting caught. But I’d still pay a dollar to see Jimmy Carter fight the Killer Rabbit.
Doctor Who evolved into a rich science fiction TV series, and subsequently spun off into a number of secondary productions, some of which figured into the show’s continuity and characters. Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures fit into Who continuity pretty clearly, but others weren’t allowed to actually interact with the core Who mythos, like PROBE and K9 and Company. Who‘s most recent spinoff-slash-adaptation is K9, a show geared exclusively towards children and/or the dreaded tween – and the entire series is now on DVD.
For many, the introduction of K9 during Tom Baker’s run as The Fourth Doctor was a low point for the show during its most iconic season. K9, a robot dog, was the Jar Jar Binks of Doctor Who, or if you’re about 20 years older, the Ewok of Doctor Who. The addition of a “cute” character with a grating robot voice didn’t seem necessary to The Doctor’s adventures, especially when The Doctor would normally rely on his intelligence to evade disaster, rather than an overpowered laser dog. The deeper and slightly more sobering truth is that K9 was created by Bob Baker and Dave Martin as a questionable plot device, but also because Martin wanted to create an indestructible dog, as his had recently been killed by a car.
K9 is one of those shows which is not allowed to insert itself into Who continuity, and as a result, has to employ many workarounds which complement the continuity of Who, but cannot address it directly: the regeneration of a K9 unit in the stlye of The Doctor, said K9 having no memory of The Doctor, a malfunctioning time machine in some mad professor’s living room (made from parts of some alien spaceship), and the regular incursion of aliens into a futuristic version of London, controlled by a technologically-overpowered dictatorship. Obviously, The Doctor’s love of Earth, and specifically London, would have stopped this kind of thing before it ever happened, but this is some branch of alternate reality in which The Doctor is not present to cure genteel society of its alien ills. We can assume, but the show itself is strictly forbidden to say, that this is a Who reality that never happened, but is bridged by a solitary character getting sucked into a time-and-space machine. It’s like trying to write a show in the Marvel Universe in which you’re not allowed to talk about Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, or any of the Avengers, but you know it’s Marvel because Bruce Banner’s dog is in it.
K9 bills itself as a “mash-up” of X-Files, Men in Black and Ghostbusters. It also calls itself “zany” and leaves the dash out of X-Files. (You’ve just been proofread, DVD!) I’d say that this self-assessment is patently incorrect on multiple points, the least of which is that this is a completely incorrect usage of the term “mash-up”, which requires existing pop elements to be directly integrated into each other. Unless Agent Mulder makes an appearance, let’s use a different word, like “homage”.
A mash-up is lazy. A mash-up is what happens when pop culture dry humps itself to death and you’re the one who finds the dead, intertwined corpses on the kitchen floor. A mash-up is the product of someone who is too lazy to create something original, so like a slimy lamprey, they latch onto something familiar and easy to digest and suck the life out of it to perpetuate their own life force, because that’s a lot easier than being actually creative. Breaking Bad characters drawn as Adventure Time characters isn’t witty or interesting, world. You’re acting stupid, and I’d like you to think about what you’ve done.
And, oh look, a fart joke.
But I digress. K9 has that unique quality of possessing the warmth, simplicity, and visual values of a show which might have been made in the late 90s, with a surprisingly tragic story about the Professor’s lost family. In this way, it’s a bit more like The Real Ghostbusters by way of Big Bad Beetleborgs. Don’t put any effort into asking any serious questions, like why the big bad guy kinda looks adorable, or why the future has a police force which can only walk slowly after you, but only a few moments after you start running. These Gaiman-sized plotholes are questions for an older audience. Is this meant to serve as a tool to get kids into the larger and more marketable Doctor Who world? Did someone really feel that this was an under-used character? Is this The Cleveland Show of Doctor Who? Why does this exist?
If you’re a Doctor Who completist, or you want to see a behind-the-scenes interview with a robot dog, you’re all good. It’s a curiosity that this even attempts to exist alongside Doctor Who, but here it is, and it’s kinda cute, and it’s on DVD.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.