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K9 From Doctor Who

"Shooty Dog Thing"

K9 - sometimes spelled "K-9" - is a robotic dog from the BBC TV series Doctor Who. K9 is perhaps the ultimate "robot pet": a cute metallic dog that can move, talk... and shoot people!

K9 was initially introduced as a one-off character for a single story but was so popular that he joined the Tardis crew and is classed by some as a proper "companion".

The name is a fairly obvious pun on the word "canine". This is possibly slightly better than the originally intended name of "Fido" ("Phenomenological Indication Data Observation" unit).

Although K9 was a sophisticated prop operated by remote control, these abilities were rarely used during filming. The radio controls would frequently interfere with other electrical devices on set. In addition the prop had problems with much of the bumpy terrain used for location shooting. So the world's greatest robotic dog often ended up being pulled along by a concealed piece of string. Such is the reality behind the magic of television.

K9's distinctive voice is the work of John Leeson.

Past

The name K9 refers to several separate robots. Most people agree that there have been three versions which are labelled Mark I through Mark III.

The first, K9 Mark I, appeared in the 1977 story "The Invisible Enemy", starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. K9 Mark I was created by Professor Marius on Titan as a robotic replacement for the dog he had left on Earth. At the end of the story K9 joined the Doctor and Leela in the Tardis.

At the end of the story "The Invasion of Time", Leela remained on Gallifrey with K9 Mark I. The Doctor had already obtained or built K9 Mark II. This version remained with the Doctor until - damaged - it was given to Romana at the end of the wonderfully surreal story "Warrior's Gate."

The Mark III K9 only appeared in one of the original Doctor Who stories, "The Five Doctors". It was given as a gift by The Doctor to Sarah Jane Smith in order to generate the spin-off TV series K9 and Company. This series didn't last long.

One problem with K9 was the temptation for writers to use him as a sort of Deus ex Machina that would come in and rescue the Doctor when things looked bad. Even when the writer was aware of this trap, the viewer would simply ask "What about K9?". K9 thus has almost as many detractors as fans.

K9 has been popular with science fiction fans since its first appearance and there have been many K9 models available to buy along with other products. He also made a guest appearance in the BBC mini-series "Queer as Folk", written by Russell T. Davies who went on to develop the new 21st century Doctor Who. In Queer As Folk, one of the characters is a Doctor Who fan who receives a life-size model K9 as a birthday present.

Present

As I type this (March 2006) Doctor Who is enjoying a long overdue revival. The first series of the New Who deviced by Russell T. Davies has ben a huge hit. For the second series, David Tennant taks over from Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor.

K9 will guest star in a story in series two this spring. He appears with Elizabeth Sladen, who will be reprising her role as Sarah Jane Smith, and Anthony Head of Buffy fame. The Doctor and friends will be up against the evil Krillitanes in a story called "School Reunion".

Future

Rumours abound as to the future for K9. Some suggest that there be another attempt at a spin-of series, much as Captain Jack with Torchwood. Others have speculated that the Doctor's favourite robotic dog is to be put down for good.

The result will probably depend on the viewing figures for the new series and the popularity of K9 with today's audiences.

The new range of licensed toys to accompany the series includes a figure of Rose with K-9. In addition you will be able to buy a 5" Doctor complete with radio controlled K-9 model.



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