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These four books, published in 1980, tell the further adventures of K9 Mark I as troubleshooter for the Time Lords, flying around the galaxy in his miniature spaceship the K-NEL. ("Kennel", geddit?) They are available on the DVD of K9 and Company, and I suppose constitute the first spinoff Who novels (as opposed to the Dalek Annuals), years in advance of Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma or Harry Sullivan's War. Although half of the rather meagre 36 pages of each book are illustrations, the artwork is absolutely gorgeous; the art credits are given to "R.C.S. Enterprises Ltd" and I wonder which gifted artist's name lies behind those initials. The books cost 65p each at the time, which the Bank of England assures me is only £2.17 in today's money, good value for the art alone.

April Books 7) K9 and the Time Trap

The first of the books is the most interesting from a continuity point of view. K9, investigating some mysterious spaceship disappearances, allows himself to be caught by the eponymous Time Trap and is transported to "an immense museum of space exploration, with craft from every civilisation ever to have leapt the stars." The proprietor of this museum turns out to be a bloke in a funny helmet called Omegon (see right), who says that he has met K9's Master, reveals that he was once a Time Lord but was betrayed, and indeed
He had been a great engineer. It was he who had created the system that gave the Time Lords time-travel. 'I harnessed the power of a thousand suns for them,' he said. 'They made me emperor - then plotted to destroy me, and marooned me here! They think I am trapped in this crimson bubble of time,' roared Omegon, 'but soon I shall have my revenge!'
K9 deals with him pretty rapidly after that, but it's obvious who Omegon is meant to be, especially considering who wrote The Three Doctors. (For other Omega revivals see the excellent Big Finish audio Omega, and Arc of Infinity which I'm less wild about but will reach in my rewatch very soon.)

April Books 8) K9 and the Beasts of Vega

Here we have K9 sent to investigate an outbreak of catatonic insanity among the crew of spaceships working in the Vega system; he is assisted (all too briefly) by a Professor Romius (see left, so obviously not Romana). In the end K9 saves the day by taking over the mind of the (unnamed) spaceship captain using his extendable data probe, something we've never seen him do before or since, to appreciate what the humanoid crew are experiencing (which that they are under attack by the Beasts of Vega). These turn out to be imaginary monsters playing on emotion; K9 having no emotion is smugly immune, which rather oddly twists the Cybermen's weakness into being an advantage. As it turns out, however, this is setting up that audacious concept, a character arc for K9, to be developed in the next two books

April Books 9) K9 and the Zeta Rescue

Another day, another crisis: K9 is sent to investigate vast explosions in the Zeta Cancri system (also referred to Zeta Four Sector) where it is feared that if the stars collide the whole galactic neighbourhood will be devastated. (I checked, and ζ Cancri is indeed a well-known and complex multiple star system, though of course any the consequences of two of the stars colliding would be neither as immediate or as widely devastating as the book would have it.) Here for the first time we see the Time Lords who give K9 his orders, and they are indeed a rum bunch (see right), though reminiscent of the Time Lord Council we were to encounter shortly in The Tides of Time.

The plot is a bit unfocussed: K9 finds a vast prison ship and an attractive young prisoner called Dea (see left); he frees her, and she explains that they are witnessing the last stages of a war between the Telians and Megallans; K9 and Dea then watch as the two sides' leaders mutually destroy each other. K9, having not actually done anything to resolve the crisis, then stays behind to help Dea care for the remaining victims, explaining to the Time Lords on his return that he was aiming to improve his "understanding of the humanoid race", though with negative results. It's an interesting counterpart to the previous book in that K9 appears to feel that his lack of emotions is a potential disability after all.

April Books 10) K9 and the Missing Planet

The last is the most political of the books: K9 is called in to assist the capitalist, colonialist leadership of the heavily polluted planet Tellus (or, as we call it, Earth) to track down a missing colony.
'It's not there,' snarled the president [see right]. 'It should be there and it's gone. The whole planet, gone. We own that planet, we've invested billions in it, and we need its raw materials to fuel our power plants and supply our factories. Tellac Inc wants it back. Apart from that they tell me it's playing havoc with navigation ... 0h, and there are a dozen families missing too. Miners, it says here. You better get it back!'
K9 gets caught in a timewarp and finds the missing planet and miners, who are constructing a new Eden with animals from all periods of geological history which they survey by balloon. Votri, the miners' leader, begs K9 to keep his secret; and K9 does so, in defiance of his orders, reporting back to Gallifrey only that the planet has "disappeared from the universe as we know it".

A couple of general observations. Martin is clearly keen on using real star systems - the first book features Rigellian spaceships, the second Vega, the third Zeta Cancri, and the fourth Earth. He's also keen on Greek letters - Zeta and Omega/Omegon, also the Doctor's Gallifreyan name of Theta Sigma, first used in The Armageddon Factor and referred to again several times here. I note that that each book has precisely one other named character (Omegon, Professor Romius, Dea, Votri) which is a bit of a weakness.

However, I do like the mini-character arc of K9 getting to grips with humanity over the last three books; it's an old sf trope, the robot who deals with these puzzling humans, but I had not really seen it done before for K9. For what they are, this a very pleasing set of books.

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