April 9th, 2011

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April Books 7-10) The Adventures of K9, by David Martin

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.

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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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Gallifrey Series Four

More spinoff literature, this time the latest installment in the series of audio plays about Romana II, Leela and K9 Mark II (Mark I came to an apparently sticky end, but somehow escaped to make his own Australian TV series). The third series in this line, which came out a whole five years ago, got a bit caught up in its own continuity and one felt almost a bit revived when our heroes fled from a devastated Gallifrey to make their way elsewhere in the universe. This fourth series has a very clever premise: each of the four stories explores an alternate Gallifrey where Time Lord history took a different path to the original timeline. Some time ago, Big Finish did a series of plays called Doctor Who: Unbound looking at alternative Doctors, and this is along those lines; it doesn't require much knowledge of the previous three series, other than that Romana has been President of the Time Lords, Leela has been struck blind, and their allies from their home world are the obscure Irving Braxiatel and former Citadel securocrat Narvin.

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All in all, I think the four audios are relatively approachable considering that they come after three series of a spinoff line of plays. Lalla Ward and Louise Jameson, of course, carry it, greatly helped by John Leeson and in the first two plays by Miles Richardson's Braxiatel. But I think any fan with a vague knowledge of the standard Whoniverse timeline of Gallifrey should be able to enjoy these. See also reviews by Andrew Hickey and jeanne_dark here and here.