It’s an odd choice to pit Sarah Jane and K9 together considering they never appeared on screen. However it’s a relationship that works and so a superb duo was born. The way that K9 was introduced was built up very well as he just appears in a box and once released there is a nice play of the Doctor Who tune. That’s about as close to Doctor Who as we get and that’s a good thing because if a spin-off of Doctor Who is to survive then it needs to show it can do without the Doctor.
The plot itself is fairly standard and would probably have had better effect when it was transmitted at Christmas in 1982. The whole thing moves along at a fairly slow pace which is surprising because the running time is a shade under 50 minutes. Some of the scenes are painfully slow, not because of John Black the director but because of the dialogue. Some of it is not exactly exciting and the sets are a bit drab and doesn’t live up to the impression that it’s a big house and not filmed in a BBC studio. On the upside the location stuff does work very well and it helps create the right impression.
Elisabeth Sladen is very good as Sarah Jane and takes the lead very well. She has grown since she left in The Hand of Fear in 1977. She is more like the Sarah Jane we saw when she debuted in the series and this makes the character even stronger for me. She is only let down by having Brendan around her all the time. Brendan is totally annoying .From the very moment he comes onto the screen he is immediately unlikeable. His laugh when he hears K9’s name totally grates me and its at that point that I wished K9 would zap him. Ian Sears comes across as too much of a smartarse for my liking and I was glad when they said he had disappeared though disappointed when he returned. I’m not a massive K9 fan but I would prefer him to Brendan.
I liked Colin Jeavons performance as George Tracey purely because I think he’s brilliant as Stamper in The House of Cards. In this he someone who is suspicious from the moment he appears on screen and that proves to be the case. In fact all the residents of the village are suspicious due to the ritual rubbish. I also liked Linda Polan who plays the wonderfully named Juno Baker. I was almost disappointed when it turns out she wasn’t on the dark side because her performance was wonderful and it came close to pantomime which with this story airing at Christmas is appropriate.
On the one hand it’s a shame that this story didn’t lead to a full series but that was due to BBC executives and not how the story was received because it got 8.4 million viewers which even by today’s standards is a fantastic achievement. On the other hand I’m glad it didn’t lead to a series because it made her return to the Doctor Who world in 2006 even more important and the subsequent series in 2007. As a part of Doctor Who history it’s a good story that could have benefited from a better writer but is watchable partly due to Elisabeth Sladen and also due to some of the supporting characters.