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K9 and Company

by Terence Dudley, Target. Reviewed by David Carroll

First Appeared in Burnt Toast#3, 1990

That about sums this man up, thought Sarah Jane. Man's best friend. Man's best slave, more like. Power. That must be the motive moving every dog lover, every dog owner. The need to dominate, the need to be in complete control of another animal, the need to boost one's ego, one's self-esteem. Good Dog! Good self-gratification!

Ah, yes, yet another Target novelisation, several years old and one out of 154. How exciting. And it's not even a proper Dr Who book, simply one in the Companions series from a television show that was apparently rather boring. (I'll have to plead ignorance at this point, the Chrissie eve it was shown I was stuck in a traffic jam.)

Look at the author and you may display more interest, Terence Dudley may not have been Doctor Who's best screen-writer, but his two novels, King's Demons and Black Orchid, are among the most popular of the range. So, you might try and buy it out of curiosity, or simply to complete your collection. But that in itself is rather difficult, I think I've only seen it on sale once (Yep, I bought it) and while Galaxy seemed to have a stack in their back-room at one stage, I never saw them on the shelves. K9 and Company seems to be the forgotten novelisation. Which is a shame, cause it's a very good book, one of my top five in the series.

The thing that strikes you most about this book is that it extremely mature. Not Ian Marter mature with the word 'bastard' thrown in occasionally and quotes about festering boils (though I haven't got anything against that, either) but quieter, more adult and therefore both more believable and more frightening.

Down in the village of Hazelbury Abbas (which is the sort of place you'd keep away from on the strength of its name alone) something is wrong. Or maybe it is simply us, maybe it is our modern attitudes and morality that is disturbing the centuries-old worship of Hecate. But whatever the philosophical implications, Sarah Jane Smith has got to act. Her Aunt Lavinia has seemingly disappeared, the locals are unfriendly, the police disbelieving, and her young ward Brendan has got himself into all sorts of trouble. Human sacrifice-sort of trouble. Fortunately she's got the help of an aggrevating (though handy with a blaster) mechanical mutt by the name of K9 mark III.

Let appearances not be deceiving, this is not K9's book, despite its title and front cover the novel firmly belongs to Sarah Jane. Outside the shadow of the Doctor she is truly a character to be reckoned with in her own right, bearing about as much similarity to her portrayal in the Five Doctors as Ace does to Melanie. She drives a sports car, both fast and well, she is a black-belt in karate and she has just spent three weeks stuck in an Ethiopian war camp. She's also not about to put up with the antics of a overly-enthusiastic fourteen year old or an equally pedantic digitised dog while she settles down to write her new book. But through-out all this the Sarah Jane we know is apparent, kind-hearted and sensible, not afraid to express her thoughts or emotions. Truly a human hero, in contrast to the Doctor's sometime coldness.

And above all this the book is also an intelligent look at the conflict created by religion. A son torn between his father's wishes and his own common-sense, a father prepared to do anything to bring his much loved son up in the way best for him, a police-man torn between two conflicting vows, and a village torn between allegiance to it's soil and allegiance to the world.

Terence Dudley was a novelist far over his script-writing ability. It is his descriptions that sparkle, his small moments of beauty and his examination of character's background and motives in a way almost inexpressible on the screen. Through-out the book a sense of paranoia is kept finely tuned, building to a climax of almost despair. It is a horror book (though tamer then most of its genre) and, like the best of its type, it draws you into the characters, for no action is horrific unless you care about those it is inflicted on.

This novelisation is a must for Sarah Jane fans, and the K9 supporters shouldn't be disappointed. It might take some effort to find a copy of it, but happy hunting. The quarry is worth it.


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