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4 August 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 581: K9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend

Dear diary,

So here it is. Merry Christmas. I know, I know, I said I was eager to get on to the Peter Davison stories (and I am. Just be thankful that I’m not doing the Five Faces of Doctor Who season. I considered it. Genuinely), but you can’t do a marathon, going from Logopolis to Castrovalva without making a pit stop in the middle to watch K9 & Company. Well, I can’t anyway. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in the Dairy just how much I love The Sarah Jane Adventures. I do, really. They’re brilliant. What we’ve got here is - effectively - a pilot for that series, but made 25 years early. The thing about pilot episodes, though, is that they’re not always the best example of the series that follows. That’s certainly the case with A Girl’s Best Friend - were it to be considered as a part of The Sarah Jane Adventures, it would be a long shot from the best story in the run.

I think what bothers me about this story is that there’s so much potential in the idea, and it’s simply wasted. The idea of Sarah Jane Smith teaming up with K9 and a young companion to investigate things is a great one (and they proved that it can work well when they made it in to five seasons later on), but you do wonder why they’ve decided to launch the series with this story. There’s lots of talk about market gardening which isn’t... well... it isn’t the most thrilling dialogue that the Doctor Who universe has ever given us. Indeed, early on in the story before K9 arrives I even found myself feeling somewhat bored by everything.

The story just doesn’t flow well for me. Scenes are cut together in a way which removes all sense of time scale from events - Lavina is at home, preparing to leave. Suddenly, Sarah Jane is arriving - it’s a few weeks later. Then she’s got to pick Brendan up from the train station, and within the space of a minute, she’s made the trip, met him, had a chat, and come home again. From the manor house to the neighbours and back again... you easily get lost with everything that’s happening, which is odd, really, because not an awful lot is happening. The story never feels like it really gets going.

I think what they needed if they wanted to really sell the idea of a Sarah Jane and K9 spin off was to have something big and spectacular. If nothing else, this went out around Christmas, and while it captures the feel of the winter brilliantly, there’s nothing that really screams at me that this is something I need to be watching. When Sarah announces that she’s come to Morton Harwood for the foreseeable future, you start to wonder if every episode would be like this one. Perish the thought!

It feels like it needs some aliens in there somewhere, really. Probably some from Doctor Who, if they want to sell the idea even harder. Maybe Zygons could work, impersonating the locals? You could go for a Sontaran scout if you wanted (a story like The Last Sontaran from the second series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, for example), or even the Master! As it is, everything feels somewhat wasted - even K9. Once he’s out of his box, he gives us some more thrilling info about the gardening, shoots a few people... and that’s about it. You almost want him to trundle out of the box, announce that he’s been sent by the Doctor-Master to help Sarah Jane with some specific alien threat, and then go from there. Were we not between Doctors, you’d also almost want the TARDIS to appear at the end, so that the Doctor himself can tell Sarah to keep the tin dog (incidentally, I love that the Fourth Doctor’a three main companions - Sarah Jane, Leela, and Romana - have all ended up with their own versions of the mutt.)

It’s quite strange, writing this entry, because I’m suddenly realising that I disliked the story more than I even realised. A shame, because I so want to enjoy is based on everything that came afterwards. Still, as an interesting diversion between Doctors, it’s perfectly watchable - and I don’t know if I’d be so down on it had I not known what it could have been like. I’ll be doing some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures when the time comes, so here’s hoping that I can see them in a much better light!

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