K9 The Series (2011)

Directed By: Various
Directed By: Various
Starring: Robert Moloney
  John Leeson
  Keegan Royce
  Philippa Coulthard
K9 The Series

Doctor Who has a humungous fanbase spanning multiple-media platforms, from computer games to audio books to fan fiction to movies and TV series. It has spawned iconic characters, images and a wealth of ridiculous fashions (a fez? really?). The latest in the long line of cashing-in spin offs is K9.

For those who don’t know, K9 is a metallic robot dog with a squeaky know-it-all voice and a love for humans. First created in 1977 by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, K9 has influenced and appeared in many Doctor Who episodes, most recently the David Tennant episode “School Reunion”, which incidentally brought back ex-companion Sarah Jane to a modern audience.

K9 focuses on a near-future London, where a robotic police state has taken over and people are constantly under surveillance. So modern day London, basically? Our heroes are cyber-anarchists Starkey and Jorjie, who team up with eccentric scientist Professor Gryffen and his errand boy Darius to become Earth’s surprising first defence from alien threats.

The first episode treats us to the introduction of K9, who appears through a dodgy time-vortex portal Professor Gryffen has made in his laboratory / foyer. Gryffen has been using funds to create a portal for the government but when young Starkey accidentally unplugs the time-vortex-manipulation machine thing, four hideous psycho-turtle monsters appear and begin to vomit goo on them all. But K9 also appears – defender of all things human. Sadly the Jixen (turtle-beasts) overwhelm him and he self-destructs, blowing himself into tiny pieces.

So K9 begins the series as an exploded dead lump of scrap metal. That’s the last we ever see of Doctor Who-style K9, but not of K9 himself. Much like the infamous time lord, K9 can apparently regenerate and does so in spectacular fashion. From being the rusty, remote controlled dog-on-wheels we all know he metamorphosizes into a flying super-dog with slick blue-tinted panels and the ability to literally do anything. It’s a good upgrade and makes you wonder why he just didn’t blow himself up forty years ago…

Each episode attempts to be episodic with an overarching theme of doing-the-right-thing and sticking by your friends. It’s rudimentary, mostly unimaginative stuff, but will be infinitely watchable if you’re a child.

If your kids (or you, young child person) love Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures then K9 is a nice addition to the Doctor Who canon. It’s very simple, unchallenging but not as glossy as the other productions mentioned here. There is also no direct link between K9 and Doctor Who, albeit the fact it’s K9. This is due to the BBC’s lack of involvement. They turned down funding, stating; “As the BBC is already committed to a number of spin-off projects, we concluded that a K9 series may simply be an extension too far”. It’s also because it’s about a floating robot dog, which is a hard sell.

The occasional alien-out-of-copyright does appear in K9 (despite last being seen in the 70’s), but nothing appears from the new BBC Doctor Who – no Sontarans, Judoon, Cybermen, Daleks or even a cameo from The Doctor himself (which both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures can boast). In fact, no one even mentions the existence of The Doctor throughout the K9 TV Series, which might frustrate even the youngest of Who fans. This mechanical-canine memory fail is easily explained by an amnesia-due-to-exploding reason.

Doctor Who aficionados will be pleased to hear that John Leeson reprises his role as the voice of K9, which he has done for decades, keeping at least some of the history alive. It’s a shame this series cannot be truly classed as part of the recent Doctor Who mythos, especially now K9 doesn’t even look like he used to (he has a random bone symbol on his neck… you know… for the kids?).

K9 the TV Series is so clearly an Australian production it is hugely embarrassing pretending it’s located in a dystopian future London. Ignoring the Australian Film Finance Corporation and other Aussie TV companies’ logos in the credits, it’s the actors themselves that betray the series’ true heritage. They mostly fail to provide hugely convincing British accents, with the children often lapsing into the Australian accent (especially Daniel Webber as the “cockney” Darius Pike). So desperately shameless is their attempt to appear British they have characters fixing black cabs and one robotic copper utters “what’s going on ’ere then?” before being promptly beaten by a giant turd-turtle.

The production values are hilariously low, with cardboard-looking sets featuring painted-on doors; men dressed as robot policeman and alien monsters that look like rejects from the Power Rangers “school of crappy-looking bad guys”. The occasional shot of modern London with some giant floating TV screens still doesn’t hugely convince us, as even the exterior locations seem eons away from the grimy grey of London (Dystopian or otherwise).

Children’s television, however, rarely cares about realism or accents or convincing sets as their audience aren’t watching it for that – personally I thought Nightmare was realistic when I was a kid! How age destroys our blinkered wonder. K9’s core audience are much younger than Doctor Who fans – aimed at 5 to 10 year olds – and the audience is there for action and comedy and adventure, and luckily K9 has it all… to an extent. It is nothing special, but nothing harmful or controversial. It has interesting themes and a good dynamic between the children (even if they literally cannot act).

Overall K9 the series is a winner. It will please children but probably baffle adults with its frustrating lack of production values and obviously Australian origins. It pushes no boundaries and is mostly unoriginal, but it’s harmless and enjoyable while it lasts. Not special, but not an embarrassing disaster.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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