Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sarah Turns Silver

Fans with long memories will remember that 25 years ago to the day the very first Doctor Who spin-off serial, "K9 and Company", aired on BBC One television.

Arriving mere days before Season Nineteen brought a new Doctor (Peter Davison) the special saw Sarah Jane Smith arrive in a sleepy English village - to find that it's not so sleepy after all! There, she's (sorta) reunited with her Aunt Lavina and Lavina's ward Brendon (who was so poor at acting, BAFTA threatened to award Matthew Waterhouse a Best Actor award in comparison).

Oh, and along the way, Sarah picked up a robotic mute called K9 - who, like Sarah, has been left behind on Earth following a stint in the TARDIS travelling with the Doctor. The rest, as they so fondly say, is history.

Though the special received fairly average ratings for the time a full series was never commissioned - and the honour of Doctor Who's first full spin-off series went to Torchwood.

Looking back though, "k9 and Company" is very much an exercise on how to make Eighties television, and how to make it badly. Bad theme music (thanks to Mister Levine...). Check. Poor characterisation. Check. Plots that make absolutely no sense. Check. The annoying "look at me I'm so clever. Honest!" sidekick. Check. The series ticks all the boxes; but then, that's why we love it so much.

Without question, the series renewed interest in Sarah Jane Smith, in a time when VCR was still in its infancy. After all, audiences hadn't seen Sarah on their screens for almost five years. Her subsequent appearences in "The Five Doctors" and "Downtime" were made all the more memoriable because of "K9 and Company" - and even today, on the eve of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" it's impossible to look at 'Invasion of the Bane' as a pilot episode.

That honour must surely fall to "K9 and Company" - because this is still the same series; 25 years on, and all the wiser. This is what the original episode should have been like, and more.

"K9 and Company" - a series 25 years in the making.
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