Thursday, April 13, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who K9 and Kamelion

Doctor Who K9
Rose Tyler: [referring to K-9] Why does it look so... disco?
The Doctor: Oi! Listen, in the year 5000, this was cutting edge!

- Doctor Who, School Reunion

Most of the Doctor's companions have been human, most of whom are from Earth. But two stand out as not only non-human but non-living robots. I am talking about K9 and Kamelion.

K9 was a robot dog (get it, K9?) from the year 5,000 during the Tom Baker years. Invented by Prof. Marius who lived on a space station and wanted to bring his real dog but couldn't. 

K9 went on to join the Doctor and Leela, who he referred to as "Master" and "Mistress." He stayed behind on Gallifrey with Leela. When the Doctor left he introduced his new version K9-Mk2 who traveled with him and both Romanas.  He stayed behind in E-Space with Romana and that was the last time we saw him. For a while.

K9, this time Mk-3 was given to Sarah Jane Smith as a present and for the start of his own spin-off show K9 and Company. But that only lasted one episode. We would not see him, or Sarah Jane again until the 10th Doctor episode, School Reunion. The Doctor rebuilt him to give us K9 Mk-4.

K9 would appear again, briefly in the Sarah Jane Smith spin-off and in his own Australian version, "K9" with a different look. We only got such brief glimpses of him because the character is still owned by its creators, Bob Baker and Dave Martin. So to use him, the BBC has to pay Baker and Martin. 

K9 though was extremely popular and I can remember my younger brother desperately wanting to build one (he is an engineer now, so I suppose he could) and I know others that loved that "little tin dog" as well.


On the other end of the popularity spectrum is Kamelion. Originally a tool of the Master to disrupt the signing of the Magna Carta in "The King's Demons." He was a robot that could appear as anyone commanded. 

Let's be honest here. The episode he stared in was a bit weak. Even the Doctor admitted that the plan was small time by the Master's standards. And Kamelion, well he was really kind of lame.  The prop used was not built for the show, but was found by then producer John Nathan-Turner as a K9 replacement.  Plus it was a prop and not an actor in a suit, so it was always breaking down.  

Kamlion seems to have been cursed from the start. The man who designed it's software, Mike Power, had been killed in a boating accident around the time the show was aired and no one knew how to operate it properly.  Terence Dudley (1988) and Peter Grimwade (1983), who scripted the robot companion's appearances, left the show or died while the show was running. His voice, Gerald Flood, died in 1984. And the last actor to play him as a human also died. 

The companion/prop was so hated in fact that Peter Davison has said that any sign of regret shown by him/the Doctor during Kamelion's (the prop's) "death" scene was pure acting. He was happy it was gone.

I remember the fans at the time also rather hated it. I guess they all can't be winners. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.


PT Dilloway said...

Sounds like that Kamelion is kinda jinxed. The K9 story reminds me of the original Battlestar Galactica where they built a weird dog/bear-looking robot thing because a kid missed his dog that they couldn't take with them. I'm going to assume K9 came first. But of course now there have been plenty of robot dogs so we don't even have to wait until the year 5000

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

K9 is... kinda cute, actually. Cuter than I would have expected from a robo-dog.