on July 31, 2014
What makes K-9 a fun show to watch is that it's more than a Doctor Who spin off show, it's simply a good show. It may be a show for children, but it's a smart show for children. The special effects and production values aren't the best, but the writing and acting is spot on perfect.
K-9 takes place on Earth in the future, where humanity is controlled by "The Department". People still have freedom and rights, but it's far reduced from what it once was. One of the Department's lead scientists: Professor Gryffen is attempting to create a machine that can manipulate time and space, not for the sake of the Department, but to bring back his wife and children that all died years ago. However an accident when he first uses the machine causes several evil aliens to be transported to Earth. However, following this evil aliens through the portal is the heroic robot dog: K-9! During this first encounter, the Professor is suddenly aided by Starkey: a 14 year old rebel who is wanted by the Department, Jorjie: a 14 year old girl whose mother works for the Department (against Jorgie's wishes), and Darius: a sarcastic and self-absorbed teen. The four eventually become allies as they deal with problems relating to a growing number of aliens that are beginning to visit Earth, along with controversies related to the Department's unfair control over humanity.
One of the strengths of K-9 is it's characters. Professor Gryffen (Robert Moloney) for starters has far more complexity to his character than most others found in children's television. He's a lonely man who lost his family, but rather than just be a man who is dealing with depression, he's also a man who's so afraid of the terrors of the outside world now, he's afraid to even leave his house. His problem is not done in a silly or corny way and despite having an odd phobia, the character is still treated with a lot of dignity. For example, while in the house he acts like a very reasonable, normal, and intelligent man, and will still come up with very reasonable, normal, and intelligent plans for his colleagues to implement outside of the house, he just won't do them himself. It's great to see a character in television show audiences that while there are people in this world that have strange and odd phobias, they can still be very sane and rational in other types of scenarios that don't involve that phobia.
Even though Professor Gryffen is a great character, the show is really driven forward by it's younger characters. Starkey (Keegan Joyce), Jorjie (Philippa Coulthard), and Darius (Daniel Webster) are fascinating characters each with interesting back stories and personalities that are explored as the series progresses. There is a love triangle between the three leads in the show that feels contrived at first, but gets more and more intriguing as the show continues. What's interesting about these three teenage characters is that they are not perfect. When the show begins Starkey may be a rebel that wants to bring down the Department but he doesn't care about working with other people, Jorjie wants to be helpful but finds herself being rude to people often (especially her mother), while Darius is very self-absorbed and is only hanging out with the gang because the Professor actually pays him. In fact, all of the characters are very reluctant to work together at first, but as the series progresses, you begin to see some real friendships grow.
The "villains" of the show are also much more complex to watch. In fact, from a writing stand point, they even rival the complexity of most Doctor Who villains. While evil aliens of the week do show up in some episodes, the main antagonists of the show are the leaders of the Department. While they don't have strong moral ethics, their mission does make some sense. The world has become a mess and it needs order, people are committing tons of crimes and they need to be stopped quickly and efficiently, and aliens are beginning to come to Earth and they need to be better understood. Meaning that many of the plans the Department is implementing in several episodes do have good ends, but their means of getting there is unfortunately always bad. For example, in one of the best written episodes of the series: Sirens of Ceres, the Department needs to find a way to deal with many children in a city that have become delinquents. Their solution - mind control them into becoming well behaved children. The ends seem good, but then you have a conflicting moral debate over what's more important - making sure a child acts absolutely perfect, or allowing a child to have the human right of free will. It's really good story telling like that makes this show an incredible and thought provoking watch.
Strangely enough, the least entertaining character in the K-9 series is K-9 himself. First off, K-9 is nowhere near as funny as he was when he appeared in Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures. In this show: K-9's jokes are too corny, out dated, and just aren't executed that well. Yes, he serves his use to the series plot, but honestly: this show would honestly be entertaining if K-9 wasn't even in the show. There are however a few good scenes that K-9 has when he's interacting with the human characters. He's essentially the lovable pet of the group, and when K-9 is hurt or in trouble, you see the characters really show some good emotion the way an actual person gets emotional over their real life pet. There's a particularly well done scene in the second episode where K-9 is knocked out, and the Professor while in a panicked emotional state, begins to talk about how he let his family down and that he can't let anybody else down. Essentially, K-9 may not be the best character of the show, but he's a good object for the characters to project their emotions onto. The only strong quality K-9 has alone though is his long time voice actor from Doctor Who - John Leeson who is back, and considering the material he is working with, really does give a good performance.
The only real reason to hate this show is it's limited connections to Doctor Who. Unlike Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures, the only direct connection this show has to Doctor Who is K-9 himself. Since K-9 loses his memory in the first episode, all concrete facts about his past are lost including any reference to the Doctor, the Tardis, Gallifrey, the Time War, Romana, Sarah Jane, or anything else related to the Doctor Who show. Any other references are either small, implied, or just tiny Easter eggs. However, the lack of reference to Doctor Who is why this show is good. Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures NEEDED references to Doctor Who to thrive in it's early years, and both shows kind of worked because they retained a sort of "feel" from Doctor Who (especially the Sarah Jane Adventures). K-9 however doesn't need to reference or "feel" like Doctor Who to be good. It can be good all by itself. K-9 is not a "Doctor Who type" show, it is it's own kind of show. Now lets get something straight, Doctor Who is still the far better show. The modern era of Doctor Who has far better writing, acting, special effects, production values, and music. K-9 will never be better than Doctor Who. However if you're looking to take a break from the Doctor Who style experience for awhile and you're looking for an interesting science fiction series that tells different kinds of fascinating stories that explore friendship, romance, adventure, morality, and maturity, then K-9 should definitely be your first choice of a series to check out.
on July 20, 2014
The product description and several of the reviews here suggest that this is a DOCTOR WHO spin-off.
Don't buy this product if you believe that it continues any K9 storyline from DOCTOR WHO. It doesn't. Don't buy it if you think you're going to learn some kind of backstory about the character of K9 as depicted on DOCTOR WHO. You won't. Don't buy it if you think it's going to at least give you the character of K9. It can't.
The truth is that the copyright situation forced the production team into making the dog and his situation far, far removed from DOCTOR WHO. And they did such a good job of avoiding a lawsuit from the BBC — who, it must be stressed, are not the producers of this wreck — that K9 is occasionally quite out of character with his DOCTOR WHO universe self. Many capabilities and speech patterns exhibited by K9 in this series are completely novel TO this series. Sometimes, the differences are so egregious that it's are to reconcile this K9 with the BBC's K9.
So. This is, for all intents and purposes, a completely free-standing show that has nothing to do with DOCTOR WHO. It is mainly about a group of kids you've never met before fighting a series of enemies you don't know, under the direction of an adult character who is vaguely "Doctor-ish", but whose quirks aren't so much charming as genuine social disorders.
Intrigued? I thought not. Still, I'll go on.
From a DOCTOR WHO fan's perspective, there is really nothing here for you, aside from the fact that they employed John Leeson, who originated the voice of K9. Oddly, it wouldn't even be fair to say that it's a place to view the scripts of Bob Baker, because he only wrote a couple of late-season episodes.
And that could have worked, if it were handled by other Australian producers. After all, Australia has a strong and well-deserved reputation for making interesting live-action shows for tweens. But this ain't one of them.
It's got a fairly low standard of acting and directing, and the story that's being told is often confusing. I'm still unsure what the central adversary — the Department — really was. I think it was just meant to be, vaguely, government run amuck — and that's why we never find out what it's "the Department" of. We're just meant to accept that the Department is trying to put the kids down, suppressing individuality and freedom of expression along the way. How did such an oppressive, authoritarian government agency come to exist in London's future? That's as much of a mystery as why the production team set the thing in London in the first place. The story really didn't have to be in London at all. And because they were filming in Australia, it SHOULDN'T have been. No part of Australia can truly double for London, and this is painfully obvious in many scenes. There's just nothing comparable to the Thames down under, and yet the writing staff oddly choose to set several scenes explicitly on that river. As a result, the scenes completely disallow the suspension of disbelief.
It's hard for me to say what audiences would like this thing. None of the major characters have particularly interesting character arcs. Genuine action scenes are few and quite definitely far between. There's a little bit of romance between the kid actors but it never goes much beyond a single kiss in a mid season episode. And the monsters are mostly of the "men in a rubber suit" variety.
That leaves the show with nothing much going for it, beyond curiosity. The interest in this series essentially boils down to the question of how K9 works divorced from DOCTOR WHO, or — if you're just a general kids show fan — how LASSIE can be remade with a robotic dog instead of a collie.
Unfortunately for this show, the answer to both questions is, "not very well".