In the early 80s, Doctor Who had its first proposed spinoff in the form of K9 and Company. The show would pair two of Doctor Who’s most popular characters, investigative reporter Sarah Jane Smith and K9, a robot dog from the future. Together they would investigate strange going-ons and solve mysteries. A pilot (“A Girl’s Best Friend”) was commissioned but wasn’t picked up for a full series.
It would take 26 years for Sarah Jane and K9 to get a proper spinoff with the The Sarah Jane Adventures, which had the same concept, but different results. But what of K9 and Company? All it has to its name is this single, pilot episode. Does it hold up? Did it deserve to be picked up as a series?
The show starts with an extremely awesome synth song set to extremely unawesome visuals that are so unawesome that they become awesome again: Sarah Jane jogs, reads a newspaper, and drinks wine, while K9 hangs out on a brick wall.
I love this opening so much. It’s my favorite part of the episode – not just because of the catchy tune’s easy-to-remember lyrics (“K9! K9!”) – but because of Sarah Jane’s mundane activities. If a non-Doctor Who fan were to watch this intro with no context whatsoever, they wouldn’t have the first clue as to what it’s about.
The actual episode opens to a group of costumed people in a coven chanting “Hecate” at night. One of them holds up a picture of an old woman, Sarah Jane’s Aunt Lavinia. As far as openings go, this one is fairly promising.
In a living room, Aunt Lavinia talks to some lady whose name I can’t recall. She looks like a Betty. We learn that Lavinia’s United States science lecture tour will have to be pushed forward so she can replace someone who mysteriously got sick. Hmm! Some guys pull out a large crate, which reads “FOR THE ATTENTION OF SARAH JANE SMITH” Double hmm!
Here Comes Sarah Jane
Some time later, Sarah Jane arrives at Lavinia’s house, and she meets a creepy neighbor who tells her that Lavinia’s gone to America. Inside the house, in a very tedious scene, Sarah Jane accomplishes the following: she finds the large crate, gets a tea delivery from the neighbor’s son, Peter, and makes a couple phone calls to inquire about Lavinia’s whereabouts, but to no avail – Lavinia’s missing. But, hey, free tea.
Eventually, Sarah Jane gets a call from Brendan, Aunt Lavinia’s teenage ward (is Aunt Lavinia Batman?), who wants a ride home. After a visit from another townsperson, and a phone call from Betty, Sarah Jane finally decides to open the large crate. Inside is K9 Mark III, a robot dog from the future – a gift from the Doctor. “Who is the Doctor?” asks Brendan. “Affirmative,” says K9.
Sarah Jane goes around town picking up clues about Lavinia’s disappearance, while Brendan geeks out with K9. Sarah Jane learns that Lavinia’s been publicly accusing her neighbors of witchcraft, and Brendan gets attacked by Peter and his father, George. K9 repels the attackers, but Brendan doesn’t get a good look at any of them.
The next day, Sarah Jane gets suspicious of George and sends K9 to spy on him. She gets the proof she needs that he’s a member of the coven, but is too late to stop Brendan from getting kidnapped. He is to be sacrificed at midnight.
Sarah Jane and K9 use their investigation skills to track down the coven. After a few well-aimed shots from K9’s nose blaster, the coven is dispatched and Brendan is rescued.
In the final scene, Sarah Jane celebrates Christmas with the only neighbors who weren’t a part of the coven. I think one of them is Betty, but I’m not sure because I think there was someone in the coven who looked like her, too. Unless I’m mistaken and that person wasn’t in the coven and was in fact Betty.
Sarah Jane finally gets in touch with Aunt Lavinia on the phone and finds that she is safe and sound, and K9 attempts to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
It’s padded and extremely forgettable. I had previously seen K9 and Company twice before, and I could remember very little of what happened – just the unboxing of K9 scene and the fact that a coven was involved. Its biggest problem is that, it’s long and boring. It would have benefited from a much brisker pace; it should have been half the length, like an episode of Doctor Who at the time.
Viewers don’t have time to know Sarah Jane, really. Perhaps the writer/producer is assuming the audience is already familiar with her from Doctor Who. Sarah Jane just pops into the episode, and we’re expected to already know and care about her; she should have been reintroduced for the sake of new audience members.
Brendan’s surprisingly not as annoying as he could have been, considering he’s a “boy genius” character, similar to Adric, who was introduced in Doctor Who the year before. Unlike Adric, however, Brendan isn’t an obnoxious braggart (for the most part) with a tendency to throw whiny tantrums.
Instead, Brendan seems more like your average nerdy teenager, albeit one with an annoying laugh. Of course, Brendan also has the advantage of K9 and Company being his only appearance. Had the series been picked up, he may have outstayed his welcome.
K9’s cool. Well, except for the last scene where he tries to sing. That was terribly unamusing. Had K9 and Company become a series, would we have had to endure such “cute” scenes every episode? No thank you.
Was the coven “that” bad? They’re apparently responsible for that person getting sick, but what were their motives exactly? In fact, the only really bad thing they do is attack and then plan to sacrifice Brendan at the end, which was probably done so the audience would be sure they’re bad and have to be stopped.
I only recommend this if you’re a completist or interested in viewing an artifact of 80s television. If you want to see this series done right, watch The Sarah Jane Adventures instead. At the very least, check out K9 and Company‘s awesome intro sequence. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there.