Tuesday, July 25, 2017

K9 & Company



I am sure there are people out there that love K9 & Company but I'm afraid it is almost entirely terrible. From one of the worst title sequences ever & a theme tune so horrible and inappropriate that you wonder what the hell everyone was thinking who was making this. It's like JNT's brief to the director was 'let's start the programme in such a way as no one will ever want to watch it.'

It's easy to blame Ian Levine. who co-created the theme tune, with Fiachra Trench but that's not entirely fair. They might have written it. The producer didn't have to use it.

The story itself, written by Terence Dudley, involves Sarah Jane (Lis Sladen, of course) coming to her Aunt Lavinia's (Mary Wimbush) house to do some writing. Or something. I never quite got why she was going to live with her Aunt. She is also joined by Brendan (Ian Richards) who is Aunt Lavinia's 'ward'. You only seem to come across 'wards' in television series. I'm sure there are some out there in the real world but the only two I've ever heard of are Robin, in the 1960s Batman series, and Brendan in K9 & Company.

Anyway, Aunt Lavinia has left mysteriously early and Sarah starts to fret. Meanwhile, a big box that's been sitting around Aunt Lavinia's house in Croydon turns out to contain K9, Mark III. A gift from the Doctor. K9 is voiced in his usual fine way by John Leeson.

There is talk of witchcraft. Then there is an attempted kidnapping. Then an actual kidnapping, when Brendan is snatched by Peter Tracey (Sean Chapman) to be used for sacrifice. By this time we've met an assortment of the villagers. There's Lily, the Post Mistress and Bill Pollock, who is Aunt Lavinia's farm manager and played with gurgling grumpiness by Bill Fraser. Colin Jeavons crops up as George Tracey. There's Juno (Linda Polan) and Howard (Neville Barber) Baker who seem to throw parties and invite Sarah Jane for drinks and dinner. We're obviously meant to suspect these two are part of the coven, especially as Howard keeps popping out mysteriously and Juno makes sinister looking phone calls.

Turns out that rural England is still home to a witches coven. Worshipping Hecate. At this point, I started to feel like I was watching Hot Fuzz. And this is the main problem I have with this story. It's all played too damn straight. It either needs a splash more camp and comedy - although George Tracey's reaction to K9 is hilarious not necessarily for the right reasons - or it needs to be a lot darker. It needs to have the atmosphere of a Philip Hinchcliffe production. It all feels a little amateurish, which is perhaps the point.

Most of the acting is fine. After all, there are some good actors here but some clunking performances too. The only thing stopping it from being an utter catastrophe is Lis Sladen. You can see, even in the rubble of this disaster, that there could have been a Lis Sladen spin-off that would work. It didn't really need K9, although that helps. One day we'll get one and people will the character and the actor justice. One day.

The other problem with K9 & Company is that in 1981 the technology didn't exist to make K9 anything but a clunky box on wheels. K9 was never the most mobile of creations and the site of Sarah Jane lifting him out of the car amuses me.

I'm almost certainly being too harsh on something that was created to fill a Christmas slot but it never really works for me at all. I found myself reminded of Hot Fuzz or Mindhorn (oddly) because this feels more like a pastiche than a programme in its own right.

You also find yourself wondering where they would have taken the series if they'd made one. Brendan's role in this story is to be Sarah Jane to Sarah Jane. He's the character that gets kidnapped and almost sacrificed. Sarah Jane herself is more the Doctor. Would this have carried on? Would Brendan be kidnapped, hypnotised etc each week to be rescued by K9 zapping away whilst Sarah Jane does some very mild martial arts on a collection of fine British character actors? Would they have stayed in the countryside? Would Aunt Lavinia have come back and had more of a role to play? Who knows. Who cares.

In the end, this is a mild curiosity that doesn't quite work hamstrung by awful titles and music but you can see potential in Sarah Jane.

So, if you do like K9 & Company let me know why. I'm intrigued.



*Yes, I know the titles and theme tune are an easy target but that's because they might as well be painted with a series of coloured rings ending with a small red bullseye.

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