A Girl’s Best Friend
After closing out the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who, it felt appropriate to spend another 1980s adventure with two of his iconic companions.
After a set of trippy opening credits, we come to a cult ceremony where two goat-headed figures are leading a chant against a heretic: Sarah Jane Smith’s aunt Lavinia. We last heard of her in The Time Warrior.
Lavinia is packing for a lecture tour in America, but has a box that arrived a long time ago addressed to Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane has been working abroad as a reporter and arrives too late to meet up with Lavinia, but luckily her aunt left the crate behind. She gets delayed by her aunt’s ward, Brendan Richards, and his surprise arrival at the train station. He reveals that Lavinia’s absence is awfully sudden. Suspicious, even.
Sarah Jane retrieves Brendan and returns to her aunt’s house to meet Bill Pollock, Lavinia’s partner in a local market garden who lives in the east wing of the house. The man is awfully standoffish and rude toward Brendan, and their discussion is interrupted by a suspicious call from Juno Baker, a friend of Lavinia’s. Pollock leaves shortly afterward, leaving Sarah Jane and Brendan a chance to open the crate.
Inside is K9. Mark III to be exact.
And since K9 joined the Doctor after Sarah Jane’s departure, she has no idea what it is. Luckily, K9 fills in the details: He was sent by the Doctor as a gift in 1978 with his fondest love. So, he’s been in the crate for two or three years.
I’d wonder where the Doctor found time during the search for the Key to Time to build and send K9, but he’s a Time Lord. He has nothing but time.
Brendan is very curious about K9’s workings and origins – “Who is the Doctor?” followed by the only logical response, “Affirmative” – and Sarah Jane follows the leads on her aunt. Lavinia was disliked in town because of her outspoken views on local witchcraft. While Sarah Jane talks with Juno, Brendan runs an analysis on the local soil and K9 thwarts an abduction attempt on the young ward by George Tracey and his son Peter, both of whom are tied to the coven. Of course, Tracey is Lavinia’s gardener, and he arrives the next morning to inspect the resultant damage in the garden. Later that night, Peter succeeds in abducting Brendan and cutting the phone lines.
Sarah Jane is suspicious of Tracey and hides K9 in the gardener’s house. The robotic dog overhears plans to sacrifice Brendan for the coven, forcing Sarah Jane and K9 to investigate. Of course, she is unable to involve the local police because she cannot explain her actions or K9’s presence, and none of the locals believe her story about witchcraft. While she continues to investigate, Peter is inducted into the coven, and K9 explains that they have only a few scant hours before the winter solstice occurs.
In the nick of time – the countdown was more annoying than tension-building – K9 and Sarah Jane save Brendan and unmask the cult members, revealing the leaders as Pollock and Lily Gregson, the postmistress of the village. The reason that Sarah Jane never got her aunt’s telegraphs was that the two of them stopped them from getting out, fueling Sarah Jane’s suspicions about Lavinia’s disappearance. Luckily, Sarah Jane gets a Christmas call from her aunt to sort things out while K9 learns how to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
So, it’s not a terrible story, but not a great one. It was nice to see Sarah Jane once again and K9 one last time in the classic era, and it was a good way to close out the Fourth Doctor’s adventures. I think the stories would have gotten better if the series had been picked up, but as a pilot, this tale was cute but weak.
As with the other specials, this rating won’t count toward anything since this isn’t an official Doctor story, though it does provide me things to think about when I move into the multiple spinoff television series at some point.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Castrovalva
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.