Monday, 24 April 2006 - Reported by Shaun Lyon
"He has been rusting in his kennel for too long," says today's Times. "Now K9 is taking centre-stage with his own £3 million animated series and a range of high-tech toys." In a rather unsurprising development to anyone who has followed the trail of rumors - first reported on Outpost Gallifrey, in fact, nearly two years ago - K9 will feature in a new animated spinoff series worked on by one of his creators, Bob Baker, and made by Jetix Europe. "Doctor Who's faithful robotic assistant, who will be reunited with his master on Saturday in a special guest appearance on the revived BBC show, will become a star in his own right -- equipped with a lethal blaster -- in a computergenerated series made in partnership with the Walt Disney Corporation. K9 Adventures will be a 26-episode comedy-fantasy series set in outer space. The new-look K9 is a galactic crime-fighter -- far removed from the underpowered pup given to Tom Baker in 1977. Bob Baker, co-creator of the robot dog, promises to give his pet 'a sleek new look using state of the art CGI animation mixed with live action'. The new series is being made by Jetix Europe, owner of 14 children's television channels, which are screened to 43 million households across Europe and the Middle East. Disney is the majority shareholder in Jetix, which hopes to distribute K9 Adventures through mobile phones as well as its UK television channel. The series may also be sold to terrestrial commercial broadcasters. Contractual obligations mean that the Doctor is unable to join K9 on his space mission -- Doctor Who is owned by BBC Worldwide -- but K9 Adventures is the property of Bob Baker, whose writing credits include the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Paul Tams, a veteran Doctor Who designer. Baker said: 'It's thrilling to be able to offer younger Doctor Who fans the chance to get to know K9. I believe they will love the 21st century K9 as much as past generations did when he appeared in Doctor Who.' K9 partnered the Doctor from 1977 until 1981, and Saturday's special episode features a reunion between dog, master and Sarah Jane Smith, Tom Baker's assistant, again played by Elisabeth Sladen. They investigate sinister events at a modern day school run by Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. An animated K9 allows his creators to rectify some original design flaws. When the metal mutt was first presented to Tom Baker's Doctor his motorised noise drowned out the actors. His painfully slow movement meant that the dog, with his catchphrase 'insufficient data', was often more hindrance than help."
Broadcast Online reports additional information not covered elsewhere, that Jetix Europe is developing the 30-minute comedy-fantasy series alongside London-based distribution outfit Park Entertainment, and their report also features the first indication of an official reaction by the BBC. "'We've completely revamped K-9,' said Simon Barnes, head of films sales at Park. 'Instead of being a clunky old model, he's now going to be CGI.' According to Barnes, Baker brought the project to Park Entertainment long before the latest series of Dr Who returned to the BBC. 'We saw it had merit and wanted to invest in it,' he said. 'We never knew quite how well the new Dr Who would do.' ... The original K-9 is set to appear in the BBC's new series of Dr Who later this month. However, the BBC can't launch its own spin-off series based on the character without Baker's permission. 'Dr Who is very important to us and we feel we have to manage the brand very carefully on behalf of our audiences,' said Michael Carrington, head of animation and programme acquisitions at BBC Children's. 'As the BBC is already committed to a number of spin-off projects, we concluded that a K9 series may simply be an extension too far.' Park has high hopes for the series, though, and Barnes has already begun discussions with other international broadcasters. 'Anybody who is interested in Dr Who at the moment is probably going to be beating a path to our door," he said. "Canada is a natural home and the same with Australia. You go anywhere English speaking, apart from the US, and they all know who Dr Who is and who K9 is.' The company is also looking at developing electronic toys, games and comic strips based on the character."
Park Entertainment's involvement hearkens back to an October 2004 news report on the Outpost Gallifrey news page, which notes that, at the time, Park had teamed with Baker and issued a press release at the MIPCOM sales event in France that year. "Baker, who also wrote Aardman's Wallace & Gromit toon," said the news story at that time, "is working with Park's CEO Jim Howell to pitch the show to UK and international networks. The story follows 'a junk space ship led by a cynical old captain and a virtual reality female computer... After finding K9 in an abandoned spacecraft, and picking up an orphaned boy from a passing planet, they become a dysfunctional space-age family.' The proposed series would mix live-action and CGI, with K9 - who is 'cuddly in a robotic kind of way' - now able to morph into new shapes via a special dog collar. Howell and Baker, now in his late-60s, have attracted interest from networks in Canada and Australia. For the UK, Howell said that 'the BBC has some kind of first-refusal' on the spin-off show. 'We're aiming at the Dr Who market,' said Howell, regarding the show's target demo. 'Kids and adults love K9... If you can win both demographics with one show, you're really on to a winner.'"
Of course, there is no word as to whether or not how much of the original proposal noted here will be part of the final product. However, today, Jetix Europe also issued a press release that mentions Park's involvement, quoting Baker as saying, "I am absolutely delighted to be giving K9 a new lease of life and a new look for his own series," noting that kids today would love him as much as past generations. Howell is also still involved according to the Jetix press release, stating that "we feel that K-9 holds a very special place in the hearts of all Doctor Who fans and we are thrilled to be working with Bob, Paul and everyone at Jetix on the development and production of the series," giving the impression that the October 2004 story notes are likely the direction the series will take.
The image was featured in the Times, and according to Jetix is the final version used in the show. Also reported at BBC News and CBBC News and in the Belfast Telegraph, C21 Media, Euronext, the Daily Record, the The Independent. (Thanks to Steve Tribe, Kenny McGuinness, Paul Engelberg, Andrew Norris)