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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 533 > A Girl’s Best Friend

A Girl’s Best Friend

Back in 1981, Sarah Jane Smith and K9 had their very first adventure together…

Exploring the hidden depths of Doctor Who’s most intriguing stories…

Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith with her new friend, K9.

Few Christmas gifts have ever been so melancholy as the K9 Annual 1983, as unwrapped by not-all-that-many Doctor Who fans on 25 December 1982.

It told the further adventures of ace reporter Sarah Jane Smith and her robot dog (and Sarah’s cousin Brendan, and her Aunt Lavinia too), roaming the English countryside (mostly), in search of weird mysteries to solve. The story titles alone dripped with promise: Powerstone! The Shroud of Azaroth! Hound of Hell! The Monster of Loch Crag! Horror Hotel! The Curse of Kanbo-Ala!!!

Unfulfilled promise, though – because that annual was the only follow-up to K9 and Company:

A Girl’s Best Friend, the TV special shown the previous Christmas. So all we could do was dream of the parallel universe in which the BBC had dropped boring Jersey detective Bergerac after a year, and began showing K9 and Company – the series – on Sunday 9 January 1983 instead…

In time, A Girl’s Best Friend became a cult within a cult. Then, improbably, a sort of prologue – since K9 and Sarah’s wholly unexpected return in School Reunion (2006) led to The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-11).

Which was, almost certainly, much better than the series we’d been denied all those years before. Let’s not diminish A Girl’s Best Friend, though, because it did one very brilliant thing that had never been done before: it gave Doctor Who companions an afterlife, a post- TARDIS existence. We’d never forgotten them, of course. But now, for the first time, Doctor Who didn’t forget either.

FIRST BROADCAST: 28 December 1981

Night. A witches’ coven convenes at a ruined chapel…

The K9 Annual 1983, published by World Distributors in August 1982.

01m 04s Stage directions describe “a dark, ruinous interior invaded by overgrown vegetation” rather than the open ruins of the Church of St Mary at Woodchester, near Stroud – founded sometime in the 12th century, closed circa 1884.

Writer Terence Dudley was highly critical of how this opening scene turned out, since he’d stressed that “THREE MEMBERS of the coven should be made memorable. … GEORGE TRACEY, a tall spare man of forty with an abundant head of hair and fiercely intelligent eyes; HENRY TOBIAS, an overweight, balding fifty, and VINCE WILSON, a tall, thickset thirty-five.” In one of a series of interviews conducted throughout 1988 – eventually compiled in Talkback – The Unofficial and Unauthorised Doctor Who Interview Book: Volume Three – The Eighties (Telos Publishing, 2007) – Dudley complained that, because the viewer didn’t see Tracey, Tobias and Wilson closely enough at the beginning, the production “lost the dramatic irony of when Sarah Jane comes face to face with a villain, we know it but she doesn’t. That’s why it was important…”

It’s not entirely fair to say that director John Black ignored Dudley’s scripted instructions; his way of making the three ‘memorable’ was to have each of them anointed in close-up by the goat-masked High Priestess. George – played by the great Colin Jeavons, previously Atlantean surgeon Damon in The Underwater Menace (1967) – might have been immediately recognisable to many, but the other two acolytes would have been less familiar.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • An exclusive preview of the New Year's day Special: Resolution. • An exclusive interview with Sharon D Clarke, who played Grace O’Brien in the 2018 series • Frazer Hines answers questions from our TARDIS tin • A tribute to Derrick Sherwin, the Doctor Who script editor and producer who oversaw the series’ transition from black and white into colour • Highlights from a previously unpublished interview with Derrick Sherwin in 2014 • Part Three of The Warmonger, a brand-new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends • The Time Team watches Doctor Who’s very first Christmas Day episode, 1965’s The Feast of Steven • An in-depth look at Series 11’s ratings • An in-depth look at Series 11’s ratings • Share your views on the latest series of Doctor Who in our 2018 Season Survey • The Fact of Fiction delves into 1981’s spin-off K9 and Company, starring Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith • Put your Doctor Who knowledge to the test with the DWM Christmas Quiz • DWM's reviews of Series 11 episodes Demons of the Punjab, Kerblam! and The Witchfinders • The Blogs of Doom, reviews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!