K9 Series 1: Vol 1 Starring Robert Moloney, Keegan Joyce, Philippa Coulthard
TV s Most loved Robot dog K9 blasts back into action via a Space Time Manipulator and arrives in the late 21st Century in a London scarred by Alien Intrusion and Government rule through a Cybernetic Police Force.
As a fan of Classic Dr Who (as it is now called, after the "reboot"), and the current series, I feel fairly qualified at being able to judge another spin-off (whilst also being open-minded to new material). Except, this isn't really a spin-off.
If we look at the Russell T Davies/BBC Wales incarnations of the Doctor as an example, we have had two official spin-offs; Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Torchwood is aimed at a more adult audience, like say, mid to late teens and Sarah Jane is aimed at pre-teens. I would say that K9 is aimed at the 5-10 age range. It's difficult not to compare K9 with The Sarah Jane Adventures as both feature a K9 model. When I look at the older design, I can't help but feel a pang of nostalgia; it's in my genes.
To it's detriment, K9 is not an official spin-off. Despite lowering budgets the Whoniverse that RTD has created is still full of creativity and entertaining storylines. K9 suffers from poor production standards, sadly. For example, the creatures in K9 don't have the same character as the Who shows have had. Make-up effects are poor and haven't allowed the actors to act through the appliances. If the idea was to emulate the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker era of Who, then good job!
The CGI is horrible. It reminds me of early 90s attempts. You may be familiar with CG elements that don't seem to match up with the live action footage that it's supposed to interact with. The series is full of this type of problem.
The premise must have looked good on paper and the actual story doesn't suck as bad as the rest of the production. There is an air of mystery from the pilot episode on. Nothing is given away immediately, so patient viewers should be rewarded if the rest of the production values don't scare them off, first. Despite the young age group that the series appears to be aimed at, hints of adult storylines are there; such as the fact that Professor Gryfen is experimenting with time travel to return his dead family to him - hardly childish themes.
I pay tribute to K9 creator Bob Baker for finally bringing his creation back to the screen after a number of years in development hell. I do wonder if the series released is not what the creators originally wanted. The premise and plots come across as the dilution of an existing idea rather than the actual idea itself. I'm speculating here, of course.
The acting is fairly awful and the silly trend of fake London accents distracts the viewer at times; similar to the Italian actors attempting to get through the English scripts during the production of Season 2 of Space 1999. John Leeson continues to voice the robot dog but when K9 "regenerates" it seems to lose any of the witty charm that it had in Doctor Who. It's too dumbed down, for my taste.
Because K9 is set outside of the official Who universe, it can't refer to it. The only remote reference was a sound in the pilot, not unlike a bar of the original Ron Grainer theme music. This has also meant that the original design of K9 is lost to a modern, more "cutesy" look that I, personally, don't favour. Of course, it may also be a change in line with the need to appeal to a young target audience.
The positive is, that it might keep young viewers interested. There are some exciting elements to it and there's enough (low budget) flashy stuff going on to amuse children. Whilst not aesthetically appealing to adults and hardcore Who fans like me, the new K9 design model will undoubtedly appeal to young viewers. I imagine that merchandise would be as equally as popular and expect to see K9 toys in stores soon.
I wouldn't recommend this to hardcore Doctor Who fans; stick to The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, this is an inoffensive show that children could enjoy, so I feel it shouldn't be disregarded. There is potential for a developing series that might increase in quality once it gains an audience.