K9: New Australian Series

Monday, 31 January 2011 12:19

K9 from Doctor Who had a pilot made for his own TV series way back in 1981. K9 and Company was not well-received, but you can’t keep a good idea down.  With the BBC already having their own child-friendly spin-off from the Who franchise in the Sarah Jane Adventures, for the cool robotic dog to now get his own series meant having to ‘up sticks’ and head to Australia. Without the BBC’s involvement or blessing, it meant that the owners of K9’s rights had to set it in another time and place.

So, we find ourselves in a future Britain, where the current push to totalitarianism has reached its logical conclusion.  A Cybernetic Police Force keeps a bunch of spin doctors in power, who even manufacture their own small-scale ‘False Flag’ events to keep the public in check.  A heavy background for a series that is obviously aimed at children, but then it harks back to such classics from the past as Knights of God and Tripods. It’s at this stage you’re probably wondering why you’ve not heard of this new show.  After all, it’s already started broadcast in the UK!

K9 finally gets his own show - thanks Australia!Well, this new K9 has become this year’s Crusoe – the excellent family-friendly series that starred Philip Winchester.  Yes, just as the new adventures of Crusoe got blown by Channel Five on daytime slots over the Christmas break a couple of years ago, so the same has been done by Channel Five with the new adventures of our magnificent mechanical mutt.  This is a show which would have assisted Channel Five in getting to a new audience – a family one already in existence and well served by the likes of Doctor Who and Primeval.  But no, they bury it in a graveyard slot (and will do so again with the next batch of episodes they screen over the Easter break!).

As the adventures begin in the first episode, K9 beams in to the home of Professor Alistair Gryffen (Robert Moloney), a renowned cybernetics and temporal dynamics boffin. He is working on the development of an alien Space-Time-Manipulator (STM) which opens portals to anywhere in space and time. Meanwhile, K9 has been tracking down a group of rogue aliens, the Jixen Warriors. These aliens appear through the portal, and attack Gryffen and a couple of teenagers who also become integral to the story: Starkey (Keegan Joyce), a homeless rebel intent on beating the system, and Jorjie (Philippa Coulthard), a feisty girl who has a very influential mother in June Turner (Robyn Moore), the ‘Head of Alien Intrusion’.

In order to save them, K9, in his original form so well-known from Doctor Who, sacrifices himself by exploding and taking the Jixens with him. This isn’t the end for our puppish friend – the incident is soon followed by his own kind of regeneration – made possible by a strange alien device implanted in his mainframe.

The new-look K9 is a considerable upgrade – he can hover and even fly at speed.  He also has superior wagging ears that help display what he’s thinking. This is only the start of his new capabilities, with these being of sufficient magnitude to justify his new role as a series star. However, K9 has lost his long term memory in the refit, and begins a quest to not only protect humanity but to discover more about his time and space travelling past.

The year is 2059, and the Earth has suffered at the hands of all manner of disasters. The world government has developed cybernetic technology, and replaced human police and security forces with Cybernetic Civil Pacification Corps (CCPC) - all controlled by a sinister government Department. The Department have divisions run by Inspectors who control Public Order, and Alien and Paranormal activity. Causing problems for all and sundry is Drake (Connor Van Vuuren), the ‘Head of Public Order’, who is behind many a ‘False Flag’ operation to mislead the public. A cybernetic hand and his dragon–headed walking stick are further clues that this guy’s a ‘wrong-un’.

Working alongside Gryffen in his lab is a glorified errand boy, the brash and boorish Darius (Daniel Webber). Regrettably, he ends up tagging along with the other teens who become K9’s companions in the battle against repression by the Department, and the ongoing intrusions by alien life forms.

The series features many new and bizarre alien menaces from beyond time and space, as well as some evil home grown human adversaries. This first UK DVD release is the initial 12 episodes of the 26-episode first series, spread over two discs.

The biggest problem the format faces is simply that it cannot overlap with any of the established continuity from Doctor Who and its connected series – such is the nature of character rights and so forth.  Immediately fans have started saying that therefore this series can never be considered as ‘canon’.  However, those who know their time travel paradoxes will realise that setting the show in 2059 means that this can be one of many possible futures, indeed one that for whatever reason cannot be assisted by the most well-known of Time Lords.

The next problem is setting the show in London and surrounding Britain. With it being filmed in studio facilities in Brisbane, we have establishing longshots of London, but up close we have to make the leap of faith that much of the layout and architecture of the capital’s streets will be transformed in the next 50 years by primarily Australian architects.

Indeed, it does beg the question as to why not set the series in Australia?  Perhaps it’s easier to believe that lock-down tyranny is more possible in the UK than on the other side of the world – however, there are huge factions of Australian truthseekers who would be able to provide evidence that, actually, this is far from the case!

Setting the series in Australia would have got over the other jarring problem for a British audience – the fake accents being employed by the cast, particularly the teenagers.  It sounds like they’ve all got their larynxes caught in some form of ‘shop demonstration mode’, as their dialects go all over the country in the space of a few sentences.

Of course, we can probably also put this down to the setting of the series five decades in the future.  The nature of the global village, as we are pushed towards global governance whether we like it or not, could see accents change incredibly, particularly in the young.  Living in Peterborough I’ve found it bemusing in the last couple of decades, since I first came here, to find the accent of locals slip from having something of an ‘East-Anglian’ twang to one far more London in its basis.  Perhaps that’s the power of Eastenders?  So, maybe in the future anything is possible.

You can tell that from all these defences I actually like this show. The theme music states the intention of the series, as it has a very bouncy Sarah Jane Adventures feel to it. Employing John Leeson to once again voice K9 is really all the continuity you need – this K9 is more streetwise, more worth having by your side in a battle, and is keen to learn from his young attendants. The series has a really dark underbelly, but takes time to indulge in some comic relief amongst the fear. K9 was originally created by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and Baker teamed up with Paul Tams to redesign K9 for the 21st century, devising the format for the new show, which was then developed for its Australian TV benefactors by Shayne Armstrong and Shane 'SP' Krause.

For those wanting a subtle reference to the original Doctor Who series, have your pause button ready for a succession of drawings of original aliens, including a Sea Devil, a Mandrel, and Alpha Centauri, seen in the ancient book in episode ten, “Curse of Anubis”.

To find out more about the series, the Official K9 Website is highly recommended.

This two disc DVD set is out now from Brightspark. It has a running time of 290 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £29.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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