More Than Just the Tin Dog! K-9 Lands Solo Film!

Modern Day K-9

Modern Day K-9 from the DisneyXD series.

K-9 Returns…
You can’t keep a good dog down, and it seems, even after almost 40 years, our beloved robotic canine (get it?) appears to have more lives than a cat. K-9 is set to return again, this time in a standalone film of his own. The inner-seven-year-old inside me couldn’t help but get excited when I read earlier this week that K-9 would be back. He was part of my childhood. I first fell in love with Doctor Who during the Tom Baker era, and for me, K-9 was part of the family.

It was announced earlier this week that K-9 Creator and writer Bob Baker, along with Nick Park from the Wallace and Gromit series, is producing the film K9: TimeQuake, which is due out in theaters in 2017 and will feature our robotic hero facing off against a classic Doctor Who villain from the 3rd Doctor and 5th Doctor eras – Omega.

Omega, 2nd Doctor and 3rd Doctor

Omega staring down at the The Second and Third Doctors (Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee) in “The Three Doctors” (1973).

Omega, a legendary Time Lord himself and an intergalactic engineer, had been credited with founding early Time Lord society, along with the great and mighty Rassilon, and with harnessing the power from a supernova to give the Gallifreyans mastery over space and time. Unfortunately, Omega was trapped in an anti-matter universe and had gone mad as a result. He has come close to destroying the galaxy more than once, only to be stopped on each occasion by The Doctor. Omega has appeared in several Doctor Who stories including – The Three Doctors 10th Anniversary Special (with Stephen Thorne as Omega) (1973) , The Arc of Infinity (with Ian Collier and Peter Davison as Omega) (1983) and the Big Finish 5th Doctor audio Omega (2003), with Ian Collier reprising the role.

K-9 and The 4th Doctor

K-9 Mark I (as voiced by John Leeson) and The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) in the TARDIS.

A Girl’s Best Friend…
K-9 first appeared in the 4th Doctor adventure The Invisible Enemy (1977). He was the creation of Professor Marius, in the year 5000. K-9 joined The Doctor and then-companion Leela (played by Louise Jameson) on various adventures. With his computerized brain and laser snout, K-9 soon proved to be a valuable member of the crew.

Even after The 4th Doctor left Leela on Gallifrey with K-9 Mark I and Romana in E-Space with K-9 Mark II, we knew we hadn’t seen the last of our beloved tin dog. K-9 seemed to have as many lives as The Doctor, returning for not just one, or two, but three TV spinoffs, several specials and Big Finish Audios over the years.

K-9 Mark III was left as a gift for former companion Sarah Jane Smith from The 4th Doctor in the TV pilot K9 and Company (1981) – the first attempt at a Sarah Jane spinoff (starring Lis Sladen). K-9 resurfaced again in the The Five Doctors 20th Anniversary Special (1983), with Sarah Jane, and yet again for the David Tennant story School Reunion (2006), reuniting Sarah Jane, K-9 and The 10th Doctor.

Lightning struck twice for K-9 and Sarah and the result was the hit BBC Kids series The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011). Sadly, K-9 Mark IV was trapped in a void for most of series, as he was promised to DisneyXD (featuring modifications and design changes – I favored his original design) for a K-9 Series (2009-2010) for Australia. Each time he was voiced by the original actor John Leeson (actor David Brierly voiced him briefly in 1978).

Sarah Jane Smith (Lis Sladen) and K-9 Mark IV in the Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” (2006).

Initial Reaction to “TimeQuake”…
To be honest, I’m having trouble seeing this work on the big screen and don’t understand why they haven’t just done a theatrical release based on The Doctor (yes, they made two movies with Peter Cushing, but that was a long time ago).

I held out hope that K-9 would return to the current series of Doctor Who alongside Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Let’s face it, Capaldi would have a blast, and K-9 would quickly endear himself to the irascible old Time Lord, as well the rest of us, as he always does.

I also held out hope that Time Lady Romana and K-9 Mark II might have survived the Time War and resurfaced during the 9th Series along with the resurrected Time Lords, or Team Sarah Jane: The Next Generation featuring her kids (now grown), might end up working for U.N.I.T. with K-9 Mark IV at their side. A gal can dream, right?

Instead, the Time Lord’s best friend will be fighting the big bad alone, facing off against one of The Doctor’s oldest enemies. Not sure how that will play out, but happy to hear K-9 is still out there, fighting the good fight.

Affirmative, Mistress…

Here’s a classic moment with K9 Mark I and Leela (Louise Jameson). 

And another, a rare clip featuring an inebriated (not sure how) K-9 Mark II with Romana Mark I (Mary Tamm) and The Doctor Mark IV. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Attention Female Sci-Fi Writers: Doctor Who Needs YOU!

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Sandman and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman

Recently, Sandman and Neverwhere author Neil Gaiman, commented on the lack of female writers in Doctor Who.  He would know, having penned two stories himself (The Doctor’s Wife, Nightmare in Silver) for the current series.

But that can’t be right, can it? I thought long and hard to myself, and truthfully, while I can recall female directors and producers (after all, the series was birthed by the late Verity Lambert and producer Julie Gardner was instrumental in helping Russell T. Davies bring back Doctor Who in 2005), I can’t – off the top of my head – recall female writers for the series. This really gnawed at me.

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Verity Lambert and Russell T. Davies

FROM FANDOM TO CALLING THE SHOTS

Often, I cite Paul Cornell as one of my top writers for the current series. Paul writes compelling science fiction and drama, as evidenced in The 10th Doctor story (originally written for 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoyHuman Nature and Father’s Day (for 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston). Even upon repeated watchings, I am always moved to tears by these episodes.

Back in the day, it was Robert Holmes who wrote some of the best stories for the classic era, including The Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng-Chiang (for 4th Doctor Tom Baker) and Caves of Androzani (for 5th Doctor Peter Davison). Surely, my favorite sci-fi show of all time had just as many female writers, right? Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I owe Doctor Who for inspiring my love of science fiction and desire for self-expression. I was one of those fanfic and fanzine writers who felt compelled to expand on The Doctor’s universe. Yep, I was one of the ones people snickered at. We found refuge at conventions and dared not share our creations with the uninitiated. They wouldn’t understand… They just wouldn’t get it. 

Times have changed, and some of those same con-geeks and nerds are among some of the most successful writers and producers in film and television today. Fanboys Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and of course, Steven Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock), all started as fellow nerds and Whovians. But that’s a rather testosteroneladen list.

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Buffy, BSG and Torchwood writer Jane Espenson

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

What about the rest of us? Geek girls, fangirls, nerd girls – whatever label you choose. We’re out here, ready to produce the next Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars, given the opportunity. And yet, my short list is, well, rather… short. This shouldn’t be so hard…

Maybe Buffy and Battlestar Galactica alum Jane Espenson (she also wrote for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood starring Arrow’s John Barrowman) should have a go as head writer/show runner for Doctor Who? She’s written for just about every sci-fi/fantasy series in recent history (the ones I care about anyway), including Game of Thrones and Firefly.

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“Outlander” author Diana Gabaldon with her two Jamies

Perhaps Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, should try her hand at writing for our favorite Time Lord? Considering Outlander’s connection to Doctor Who it wouldn’t be a stretch. I wouldn’t mind a return to purely historical Doctor Who stories like The Aztecs, The Crusades and Marco Polo (from the William Hartnell/First Doctor era).

Fellow Whovians, which female writers would you like to see pen a Doctor Who script?

NEXT UP

Series 8 continues… Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoFlatline.

Airing Saturday, October 18th at 9pm on BBC America.

Into the Heart of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

Apologies for the late, post Labor Day check-in, fellow Whovians, but here are my thoughts on last week’s episode of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek – just in under the wire – written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat.

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Not Just for Kids…
Many fans of the series, like myself, grew up with Doctor Who (we’re loyal to the last). Things that frightened us (or made us hide behind the couch) as children, no longer scare us. Suspending our disbelief was a lot easier when we were young. And while it’s true, kids are more sophisticated now, and special effects have evolved, there are certain truths that reach deep inside and take hold of us all… shaking us to the core.

There has been some debate whether or not Doctor Who is a kid’s show. From the outset, Doctor Who was designed to be, and still is, a family show – meant to appeal to both children and adults for different reasons. It is meant to entertain us, frighten us, and move us… meant to make us feel… whether we want to or not. I doubt there was anyone who didn’t shed a tear when Adric died (Earthshock), even if you had mixed feelings about him. That last shot of his shattered Badge for Mathematical Excellence lying on the ground, as silent credits roll by, still stirs strong feelings in me years later.

I grew up during the Philip Hinchcliffe era and was introduced to Doctor Who via episodes like The Talons of Weng Chiang and The Brain of Morbius. With an overdeveloped fondness for Hammer films, I am particularly predisposed to enjoy the darker, more horrific side of the Whoniverse.

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That being said, Doctor Who always finds a way to get me, even now… because at its core, it wrestles with moral dilemmas we all wrestle with. It moves us deeply on an emotional level. Doctor Who can hit you hard, usually when you least expect it.

In spite of The Doctor’s vast age, Death is always at his shoulder, his constant companion. As we got older, we started to realize our hero is a rather complex man with demons and secrets (beyond his birth name) of his own. He lives more in the gray than we’d like to admit, and with a darkness in his hearts even he would rather not look too closely at. Perhaps that’s why he is always running…

Nature vs. Nurture…
Into the Dalek resonates for me on an emotional level and harkens back to earlier episodes of Doctor Who. Reminiscent of the themes presented in Genesis of the Daleks (Tom Baker – The 4th Doctor), Resurrection of the Daleks (Peter Davison – The 5th Doctor) and Dalek (Chris Eccleston – The 9th Doctor), and the moral dilemmas therein.

The Doctor struggles in all three stories with his hatred of the Daleks, and with the right course of action take. Whichever way he turns, even the audience is uncertain. Should he have aborted the development of the Daleks in Genesis, or killed Davros in Resurrection? He chose the to take the moral high ground in both those stories, only to be faced with a surviving Dalek after the Time War in Dalek. He had to have wondered then if his inability to take action on those previous occasions could have prevented that fateful day, leading to the Fall of Arcadia on Gallifrey, and the destruction of his world.

These themes come up again in Into the Dalek. The Doctor is forced to help an injured enemy, and in doing so, it challenges him look into to the depths of his own soul. Is there such a thing as absolute evil? Is everyone, even a Dalek, capable of redemption? Can there be such a thing as good Dalek? Or, no matter how much it changes, at its core, does it remain the same – a hate-filled killing machine, bent on destruction? When it comes down to it, the real question seems to be – is The Doctor a good man? He wonders himself and that question troubles him. Even his dear friend and carer, Clara, is not certain…

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Samuel Anderson as Coal Hill School teacher Danny Pink

Not the Tin Dog!
I like Clara feisty. No longer the fawning girl with a crush, she puts The Doctor in his place when he gets out of hand. She isn’t afraid to slap some sense into him, much like former companion Donna Noble (played by the indomitable Catherine Tate). Clara is more than his carer, she’s become his moral compass. Because as Donna once observed, The Doctor shouldn’t travel alone – he needs someone – someone to keep him grounded, someone to hold onto, and keep him from slipping deeper into the void.

Our brief introduction to Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) was promising. A fellow teacher at Coal Hill School (the same school Susan, The Doctor’s granddaughter, attended on Earth) working with Clara, Danny is definitely likable.  There is a mutual attraction between Danny and Clara, but male love interests tend to take a backseat to The Doctor. Hopefully he won’t suffer the fate of previous companions Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Mickey (Noel Clarke) – chasing after women who appeared to love The Doctor more.

Given what little we know of Danny’s past, he was in the military and he suffered a great loss. It is likely, knowing how The Doctor feels about soldiers, there’ll be friction when they finally meet. However, there was friction with The Brigadier (played by the late, great Nicholas Courtney) too, and he went on to become one of The Doctor’s greatest friends and allies.

Perhaps Danny will take on the more traditional role some early companions filled (like Ian, Steven, Ben and Jamie). Once The Doctor(s) started growing younger, male companions started to to become somewhat obsolete, often sidelined, landing themselves in dungeons (like Mark Strickson’s Vislor Turlough, whom I quite liked), or dead (like Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric). As a side note, I would be fascinated to see a companion like C’Rizz (portrayed by Conrad Westmaas in the 8th Doctor Big Finish Audios) on screen.

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Zawe Ashton as Journey Blue

Clearly, there is a traumatic event in Danny’s military career that he doesn’t want to talk about, something that still haunts him, and we’ll learn more as his story comes to light. The chemistry between Danny and Clara seemed a bit rushed and I couldn’t help but get a Coupling vibe from their interaction – after all, Moffat and his wife, Sue Virtue, produced Coupling (which reminds me, I still want to see Richard Coyle on Doctor Who, but I digress).

Even though I quite liked Danny, I think it would have been interesting to see a female soldier like Journey Blue (portrayed by Zawe Ashton) on board the TARDIS to challenge The Doctor at every turn. For some reason, I can’t help but recall Brigadier Winifred Bambera from Battlefield – the first female soldier to make a noteworthy appearance in the Whoniverse. I wonder what she’s up these days? But I digress… as I often do…

The Mysterious Missy…
There have been so many theories about her identity at this point, I’d almost rather not venture a guess. I’ve heard everything from The Master to The Rani (I would like to see her return), to Romana (another character I’d welcome from the Classic era) to an embodiment of the TARDIS herself, but with Doctor Who anything is possible, so I won’t lay odds just yet. Keeping my cards close to the vest, but let’s just say I feel like we’ve been in that Garden before…

Final Thoughts…
I’ve observed that Capaldi exudes the irritability of Harntell, with the alien madness of Tom Baker. Truth is, I see shades of all the Doctors – as it should be – and Capaldi, as a fan of the series himself, clearly embodies the spirit of all that has gone before.

As he was quoted as saying in an interview during the recent Doctor Who World Tour:

“I think this show’s kind of in my DNA. I think it’s sort of part of me. So I think I can recognize when it’s right and when it’s not right.” – Peter Capaldi

That being said, I rather enjoyed Into the Dalek. It was a good follow up to the season opener. We gained more insight into The Doctor’s personality post-regeneration and the demons dwelling within him. I’m eager to learn more as future episodes unfold.

NEXT UP: This week The Doctor meets the legendary Robin Hood (Or does he?) in Robots of Sherwood, guest starring Tom Riley from Da Vinci’s Demons. I can’t wait for this one.

Doctor Who airs Saturdays on BBC America 9pm/8c.

Here is the trailer for Robots of Sherwood.