K9 and Company.

TV Who was K9 and Company made for? It's about a robot dog with a laser snout so you'd think -- kids. But consider. Witchcraft. Smoking. Heavy drinking. Poor driving. Chunky knitwear. Long scenes of people sitting around in living rooms just talking about ... stuff. Very little onscreen action. Incomprehensible dialogue "I rendered aggressor insensible. Suggest he is pinioned." More chunky knitwear. More incomprehensible dialogue -- "This soil has a PH of 6." Human sacrifices.

My only two favourite moments (other than finding out that Sarah Jane is Guardian reader, thank goodness) were both connected with the use of sound. When Sarah goes to pick up Brendan at the station, the only evidence that he's stepping away from the platform is the sound of a train whistle in the background. It's a perfect example of creating a setting on a tiny budget and a trick someone obviously picked up from working in theatre. The other is musically when K9 mentions The Doctor and there are just three notes of the Ron Grainer theme. It demonstrates how ingrained that sound is in our collective psyche and I was sad that the timelord wasn't going to burst through the door, all teeth, curls and scarf to give the story a lift.

But then - "Give Sarah Jane Smith my fondest love and I shall remember her always." Does that sound like The Doctor? Can you imagine Tom Baker saying those words? Wrong. Although I love that he dropped the robot dog off in Croydon in 1978 and it's sat in an attic for three years until it's finally been opened by Sarah. I'm guess the silver foil kept the dust off.

The golden rule of spin-offs that you have to assume that your viewer hasn't seen the parent series before and at least make some attempt to pretend that this is a whole new show. The introduction of Sarah Jane is massive fumble. Getting out of car and knocking on a door? Compare and contrast with the opening moments of the first episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer which layers on all kinds of information about who she is and her mission right up front. By the first commercial break the whole premise is set up. Here it's a full twenty minutes before we have any idea who she is and before we meet K9. His introduction scene wise is just about ok, although wouldn't have been too hard to have the whole box fall open for the reveal and not just the front section making him seem a bit shadowy).

Inconsistencies abound:

Brendan: Who is The Doctor?
K9: Exactly.

Is that supposed to be funny or a factual statement?

Really it's not very good is it? There does appear to be a lot going on without anything much happening. There's barely enough to fit one of the short stories which appeared in the subsequent annual which turned up a couple of years later. But whilst that's also true of the Rose episode in the new series, that spent the rest of the time setting up and introducing the main characters. The witchcraft itself doesn't seem to have any real purpose, they don't seem to be trying to do anything in particular with it.

What is it with George Lucas and limbs? I've just been watching Revenge of the Sith again and everyone loses an arm or leg or head. The only person who seems get get away is Obi-One Kenobi, but then he loses his whole body in A New Hope. I know that has nothing to do with K9&Co, but it's been bugging me.

By the end of the episode do we have any idea what the premise of the show will be? Are Sarah Jane and K9 going to be spending all their time in this small village investigating the supernatural or will they be traveling about? How much would they exploit Sarah Jane's journalism and is that going to be the driving force of each story? Is Brendan going to be following them around? It all seems a bit limited to me and I'm not sure that there's hardly enough going on to sustain this one episode let alone a whole series.

This was no way to launch a spin-off. 8.5 million people tuned in to watch and I wonder how many of them talked about it afterwards or were excited enough that they couldn't wait for a series to be made. It does the usual early Eighties approach to tv drama and Doctor Who in particular of taking a really great concept and then drowning it in dull production and poor writing. This is one of those occasions when I'd really wished I hadn't rewatched something because the nostalgia was better than the real thing. Another part of my childhood has been taken away...

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