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DVD Review

Doctor Who
K9 Tales (K9 & Company / The Invisible Enemy)


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 16 June 2008

Another month and another Doctor Who offering from Auntie Beeb, this time we have a couple of the weaker stories on offer in Doctor Who: K9 Tales which contains The Invisible Enemy and K9 & Company in a two disc DVD set...

The TARDIS and Titan base are invaded by the swarm, a viral sized species which plans to invade the macroverse by infecting human beings. With the Doctor himself a host for the swarm, Professor Marius creates clones of Leela and the Doctor and injects their miniaturised forms into the Doctors brain to battle the Nucleus before it can breed...

The Invisible Enemy is a four part Tom Baker tale, the second story in season fifteen, which was originally transmitted in October 1977. The show was directed by Derrick Goodwin, written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with another sterling remastering by The Doctor Who Restoration Team, a fine set of chaps who can’t be given enough praise.

Let's not white wash this. When the show first aired it was met with a rather deserved amount of derision, once again driven by an inadequate budget and some of the naffist special effects to adorn a Who show. The story is okay, especially as it's pretty much a rip-off of the rather better Fantastic Voyage (1966) directed by Richard Fleischer.

Obviously this is included here as it represents K9’s debut story, but could they make it any more palatable? Well, the answer is yes and no. The show has had a CGI makeover, so the spaceships look better. The flame-like ray guns are pretty impressive and add a lot to the action scenes, of which there are many and the general tarting up of some of the other special effects has gone a long way to rejuvenate this story. However, the Nucleus still remains a risible villain. Lets face it, when it is grown to full size it’s a man in a shrimp costume, a bad shrimp costume at that. Unfortunately there is little that anyone could have done to improve on this.

Tom Baker continues to dominate the show with his performance, though some of the other actors are able to make their mark, especially Michael Sheard as Lowe and Frederick Jaeger as Professor Marius.

Once again there is a reasonable amount of extras for you to get your teeth into, including a full length commentary by Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (the voice of K9 and in this story the voice of the Nucleus as well), visual effect designer Matt Irvine and co-writer Bob Baker. Dreams and Fantasy (20 min 37 sec) is a look at the making of the show with an emphasis on K9 himself. Studio Sweepings (20 min 34 sec), which is a collection of black and white rehearsal film, mostly from the section when Leela and the Doctor are traversing the Doctor's brain. Visual Effects (16 min 27 sec) has Matt Irvine teaming up with his old colleague Ian Scoones to discuss some of the effects from this and other shows. We have the inevitable Blue Peter section (4 min 33 sec) featuring K9. In this section you also get a chance to turn on the new CGI effect and my advice is do as the show is pretty awful with the old effects. To round the disc off we have the usual suspects, the option of the info text, which will tell you everything you never knew you wanted to know, whilst the show is playing; a Photo Gallery; trailers and continuity; Coming Soon, which features Brain of Morbius and the Radio Times listings.

Sarah Jane Smith, having stopped travelling with the Doctor, has settled back into life in England, part of which is visiting her Aunt Lavania. Problem is her aunt is missing and Sarah Jane has found herself battling the forces of darkness. Luckily for her the Doctor has left her a present in the form of K9 mark 3.

K9 & Company, also known as A Girl's Best Friend was originally aired in 1981 between seasons eighteen and nineteen. The show is a one off fifty minute story which takes Sarah Jane and K9 into Denis Wheatley country full of devil worshipers and dark goings on.

The show was apparently produced when there was an outcry after K9 was written out of the show. Not really sure who these people were, certainly not me, as I thought that K9 was a very irritating part of the show, that’s not to say I didn’t have a dodgy VHS copy of the show. So, if nothing else, it is nice to see the show restored. The story is fairly pedestrian and its obvious why it never made it to a series, that said it still hold the title of the first fully fledged Doctor Who spin off.

Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane) is as gorgeous as ever, even in the slightly funny opening sequence with her posing for beauty shots. It is nice to see her given a role where her character does not have to play second fiddle to the star of the show. Well it is, until K9 turns up.   

Extras on the show are surprisingly impressive including a good natured full length commentary from Elisabeth Sladen, John Leeson, Linda Polan and script editor Eric Saward. The K9 Files (11 min 43 sec) looks at the whole phenomena of K9 in his various spin offs. K9 - A Dog’s Tale (3 min 28 sec) has John Leeson reprising his vocal role of K9 in an amusing piece where K9 is interviewed as if he had been an actor. There is a 2 min 42 sec segment of Pebble Mill at One - essentially promoting the show - and  the trailer and continuity slots (2 min 12 sec). The inevitable info text is included as is a photo gallery and the same Coming Soon as was on disc one. Something I hadn’t seen before are the four children’s books, in PDF format showing further K9 adventures.

These were never going to be the two strongest stories to place together and, for all the extras and CGI tarting up, they are still going to be mostly for either younger viewers or completists. At nearly thirty quid, and with so many other more deserving stories still to be re-mastered, I think Auntie Beeb may have made a bit of a mistake with these stories.


Charles Packer

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