Sue: I’m really looking forward to this. I am so ready for Peter Davison.
Me: Ah… But before we get to that, we have to watch a Christmas special.
Sue: A Doctor Who Christmas special? From 1981?
Sue: It had better not be some fan thing that doesn’t count. I can’t be bothered with that. It’s not that Shada thing that everyone keeps banging on about, is it? Has it got anything to do with Ian Levine?
Sue: Oh, just put it on. The quicker we do this, the quicker I can watch Peter Davison.
A Girl’s Best Friend
We all know how this begins…
Sue: What the hell is this?
Ten seconds in and I have already succumbed to hysterical laughter. I think it’s a defence mechanism.
Sue: Is this a spoof? I mean, is this actually real?
She soaks up the rest of the sequence in shocked silence.
Sue: Stop the DVD. What the hell is K9 and Company when it’s at home?
Me: It’s a pilot for a series that would have featured Sarah Jane Smith and K9. Like that would ever work.
Sue: But it was never shown on television, right?
Me: No, it’s a real Christmas special.
Sue: Good Lord. Okay, if we really have to do this, can I watch the titles again? I couldn’t take it all in. I think I’m in shock.
We watch it again…
Sue: This is shockingly bad. I love the way they run out of footage so they have to repeat it all again. Are you sure it isn’t taking the piss? You can see K9’s wheels when he’s on top of that dry stone wall. I always thought he was supposed to hover off the ground?
Me: What do you think of the music?
Sue: It’s absurd!
Me: It’s by Ian Levine.
Sue: Is this why Doctor Who fans don’t like Ian Levine very much? This music?
When we reach the end of the title sequence, Sue wants to watch it again.
Sue: I want to be sure it really happened.
Sarah sips on her Chardonnay, with a deadline fast approaching, no doubt.
Sue: Just an average day for Samantha Brick.
Sarah jumps into her car.
Sue: It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when Austin miniMetro cabriolets were very trendy. The second car I ever owned was a miniMetro. It was metallic brown with cream seats. It was a rust bucket. It wasn’t convertible either, but it did end up with a hole in its floor.
I pause the DVD.
Me: Is that enough?
Sue: More than enough, thanks. It’s out of my system, now.
K9 and Company begins with a pagan ceremony already in progress. A priestess with the head of a goat whips her followers up into a frenzy.
Sue: I can’t understand a word she’s saying. Not a single word. Take the mask off, dear.
We cut to a pair of gossiping middle-aged women.
Sue: I know what this is. It’s a sequel to The Stones That Dripped Blood. It’s got elderly lesbians in it and everything.
It’s Sarah Jane Smith’s Aunt Lavinia and her friend, Juno.
Sue: Lavinia is a proper smoker. Anybody who can talk with a cigarette dangling from their lips for more than ten seconds really knows how to smoke a tab.
A little later, Sarah Jane arrives at her aunt’s house.
Sue: What is she wearing? Could she be more frumpy? Even the ridiculous jogging outfit from the opening titles would have been better than the brown sack she has on now.
Sarah is greeted by George Tracy. He begrudgingly welcomes her to Moreton Harwood.
Sue: Wasn’t he in A-ha?
George’s son, Peter, brings Sarah a flask of tea as a welcoming present.
Me: Oh, it’s whatshisface from Eldorado. He was in EastEnders not so long ago; Sharon jilted him at the altar.
Me: It’s not Jessie Birdsall.
Sue: Yes it is.
Me: Okay, have it your own way. It’s not as if adding Jessie Birdsall to this would improve it.
Sarah meets Lavinia’s young ward, Brendan, at the train station.
Sue: What the **** are we watching? What is this?
Brendan and Sarah get into a heavy discussion about the art of market gardening.
Me: What I don’t understand is why anybody thought it would be a good idea to set a TV series in the giddy world of market gardening.
Sue: Shhhh. I’m interested in marketing gardening. Brendan’s right, it is very scientific these days.
Back at Lavinia’s mansion, Brendan and Sarah meet Colonel Pollock.
Sue: It’s Uncle Monty from Withnail and I. Brendan is in all sorts of trouble.
Juno invites Sarah to a get-together with the other villagers.
Sue: Is it Doreen’s sister from Birds of a Feather? I’m probably reading far too much into this but she sounds like she could be a swinger. Or a dogger. Perhaps that’s where K9 comes into it. Where the hell is he anyway?
Commander Pollock warns Sarah not to get involved with Juno and her husband, Howard.
Commander Pollock: He’s so big, what he loses on the swings he gains on the roundabouts. And we haven’t got any roundabouts.
Sue: See! It’s all code.
Once the Colonel has departed, Sarah and Brendan turn their attention to a very large box that has been gathering dust in an attic in Croydon.
Sue: They never got that crate into an attic in a million years. I refuse to believe it.
They open the box and out pops K9.
Sue: (As Brendan) Thanks. It’s just want I’ve always wanted.
Me: He probably thinks it’s the latest gadget from Clive Sinclair.
Brendan: It’s got ears. And a tail.
Sue: And it must be a bitch because it’s got no cock and balls.
K9 is a gift from the Doctor.
Sue: That’s sweet. Did he give K9s to everyone for Christmas one year? Did Benton get K9 Mark IV?
Brendan is very excited. Too excited, probably.
Sue: This is basically Matt Smith 25 years too early. His performance is so similar, it can’t be a coincidence. Did Matt watch K9 and Company when he was preparing for the role?
Me: I’m sure it was on the top of his viewing list.
Sue: Brendan just needs a bow tie and he is playing the Doctor. Seriously.
Sarah visits Lily, the local postmistress.
Sue: We had a gas fire just like hers when I was growing up. It’s making me feel quite nostalgic. It was such a cozy house. I like the locations in this one. They just need to speed up the plot a bit.
Sarah arrives at Howard and Juno’s party.
Sue: When they’ve drained the punch bowl, they throw their car keys into it. Everyone will be after the keys to the miniMetro cabriolet, just you wait and see.
You could cut the sexual tension with an electric carving knife.
Sue: What time did this go out? Was it post-watershed?
Sue: Jesus. What did the kids make of it?
Me: I remember being bored shitless by the whole thing. But I stayed with it to the bitter end, through gritted teeth, probably.
Sue isn’t a fan of Peter Howell’s incidental music…
Sue: It’s terrible. It’s a weird combination of Pink Floyd and Play School.
Meanwhile, the Tracys gang up and attack Brendan. K9 stuns Peter before chasing after his dad.
Sue: (singing) Take on me. Take me on.
Sue has an issue with K9’s new sound effects, too.
Sue: The other K9s didn’t make silly tinkly noises. The Mark III is too noisy for me. I think the Mark II was the best model.
Meanwhile, back at the
Sue: Is that Les Dawson I can see eating a ham and cheese sandwich in the background?
George Tracy believes that K9 is a fire-breathing hound, sent by the pagan goddess Hecate, but Peter thinks his father is crying wolf. The next morning, Colonel Pollock surveys the damage the devil dog has caused to a greenhouse. It’s that exciting.
Colonel Pollock: We must tell the police.
Sue: (As the Colonel) We may be forced to camp!
Brendan and George Tracy discuss the local soil’s pH levels.
Sue: This is fascinating. They should spend more time on the science of market gardening. This is very interesting if you are into this sort of thing.
George finds his son polishing his helmet.
Sue: Mr Sheen. That’s very early product placement. And on the BBC. Tsk.
George Tracy starts raving like a lunatic.
Sue: Never trust a man who tucks his jumper into his trousers.
Sue: Bloody hell. Sarah Jane just made a silk kimono look unsexy. This is her own series, she should look fabulous. She’s had hundreds of costume changes and each one is worse than the one before it. I know the early eighties wasn’t a great time for fashion, but this is ridiculous.
Peter kidnaps Brendan and Sarah goes to the local police. They are worse than useless.
Sue: She should call in a UNIT airstrike. That’ll teach ’em.
When she leaves the station, Sarah bumps into Lily.
Sue: I really like Lily from the Post Office. Would she have been a regular character if this had gone to a series? I bet she would have been Sarah’s best friend.
Me: No, that’s K9’s job. Didn’t you read the episode title? You saw it three times.
Sarah changes into another outfit.
Sue: Her coat looks like it used to be a continental quilt.
She sets off in her trusty miniMetro, with K9 riding shotgun.
Sue: She should stick K9’s head out of the window. Dogs love that.
Sarah finds a dead copper in the middle of the road. But worst than that, there be goats around these parts.
Sue: That’s the scariest thing in the whole episode. A goat. Says it all, really.
George doesn’t understand why his son doesn’t want to join their weird sex cult.
George: But you’ve always wanted to be let in.
George: But you’ve been chosen!
George: You will initiated tonight.
George: But we must be complete for the solstice!
Sue: Altogether now…
Peter, Sue and Neil: NO!
Me: I think he really mean yes.
The ceremony gets underway.
Sue: So are they alien goats from the planet Goataloid or something? Is that it?
Sue: Oh, don’t you start.
Sarah heads to Juno and Howard’s for some answers. Howard hands our heroine a soothing glass of rohypnol.
Sue: Don’t drink it, Sarah Jane. The next thing you’ll know, there will be topless photographs of you in Readers’ Wives.
Juno strokes Sarah’s arm.
Sue: It isn’t even subtext any more.
The pagan ceremony is in full swing (ahem).
Sue: So it’s basically The Wicker Man meets Gardeners’ World meets Abigail’s Party.
Me: It’s a potent mix.
Meanwhile, Juno calls Sarah to offer her a spot of dinner.
Sarah Jane: I’m a bit tired.
Juno: Oh, we won’t be late. We’ll have you tucked up in bed well before midnight.
Sue: Yeah, I bet you ****ing will.
Sarah and K9 search for the location where Peter’s sacrifice will take place.
Sue: The sun has gone down very quickly.
Me: The sun doesn’t always shine on TV.
Howard arrives at the police station, only to find it empty.
Sue: The bell in this police station sounds like a loud fart.
Me: Yeah, stop honking, Howard.
Brendan is prepared for his sacrifice. Or a gang bang. It’s not clear.
Sue: What is he wearing? Did John Nathan-Turner have anything to do with this?
Sue: I thought so.
But before the villagers can tear off Brendan’s virginal white dress, K9 comes to the rescue.
Sue: You can hear K9 coming a mile off. Turn his notifications off, or put him into airplane mode, for God’s sake.
Sarah Jane uses her karate skills to kick the living daylights out of the coven.
Sue: You go, freelance journalist!
Sarah unmasks the leaders of the coven: Commander Pollock and Lily the postmistress!
Sue: No! I really liked her! She was the only decent character in the whole thing.
Me: She would have got away with it if it wasn’t for that pesky dog.
Sue: So that’s it, then? No aliens? No mind-control involving pH levels or anything like that? They were just nutters?
The episode concludes with Juno and Howard’s third party that week.
Sue: So they weren’t in on it? There are just weird sexual predators? Okay…
Sue has a question:
Sue: So what happened to Aunt Lavinia? Was she sacrificed to the giant goat god?
Right on cue, Sarah receives a telephone call from America.
Sue: So there was nothing wrong with her aunt? They were hunting high and low for her, and all this time she was just gallivanting around America? What kind of mystery is that?
Sarah has some shocking news for her aunt.
Sue: (As Sarah) The whole village is banged up in prison, auntie. Apart from a couple of swingers.
When the credits rolled, Sue sighed. She wouldn’t even sing along to K9’s theme tune.
Sue: If I’d never seen Doctor Who before, I would have said: “What the **** was that?”
Me: Yes, but you have seen Doctor Who before.
Sue: I’m still going to say, “What the **** was that?”
Me: Are you surprised that it didn’t go to a full series?
Sue: Hardly. Would it have been like that every week? It doesn’t bear thinking about. The swinging subplot would have been a nightmare.
Me: So what mark are you going to give it?
Sue: I’m not going to give it a mark. That wasn’t Doctor Who.
Me: It was pretty close.
Sue: It was nothing like Doctor Who! There should have been aliens involved, not middle-aged swingers who were probably brain-damaged from all that interbreeding.
Sue: I just want Peter Davison. Was there really any need for that? Why are we punishing ourselves like this?
As I put the DVD back on its shelf, Sue backs down:
Sue: If I had to mark it – which I’m not – I’d probably give it a 3, but only because Sarah Jane and K9 were in it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the idea – they proved that 25 years later – but it just fell flat. Can we put Peter Davison’s first episode on now, please?
Me: Wouldn’t you rather watch Hot Fuzz instead?
Sue: And why would I do that?
Me: No reason.