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Is K9 returning to Doctor Who?

A new clue points towards the return of Time Lord’s best friend – though there may be a simpler solution.

Published: Sunday, 26th June 2022 at 9:54 am

At the moment, if you’re an iconic Doctor Who favourite who’s NOT returning to the show soon, you’re probably in the minority. This autumn Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred are set to reprise their roles as Tegan and Ace for Who’s centenary special alongside returning Master Sacha Dhawan, David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back for the 60th next year, and even Beep the Meep is apparently making a comeback.

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Now, a new clue suggests that the biggest return yet could be in the cards. Could we be in for…drum roll…a new dawn of K9?

Yes, the Doctor’s legendary “tin dog” could be next in line for a comeback, at least based on new details recently revealed in Doctor Who Magazine. Strap in, because this is a little bit complicated.

The latest magazine included a feature on Doctor Who podcast drama Redacted, which included several well-known Doctor Who stars including Jemma Redgrave, Ingrid Oliver, Anjli Mohindra and Jodie Whittaker herself among others reprising their roles from the BBC sci-fi series (and adding to the tally of returning actors).

A few weeks ago, Doctor Who: Redacted creator Juno Dawson hinted to RadioTimes.com that she’d been asked to hold back some characters planned to be involved in the story, with the implication that the main TV series had plans for them. And now she’s revealed that one of those characters was Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, who had to be cut due to showrunner Russell T Davies’ plans for the character in 2023.

“Initially, Donna was supposed to be in episode seven,” Dawson explained. “But we were told ‘absolutely not’, for obvious reasons now.”

But alongside Donna on the banned list? K9, whose role in the story was replaced with a new alien character called Floater. “I’m so glad we couldn’t use K9 in the end, because I adore Floater!” Dawson said.

It’s easy to draw a conclusion here that K9 was held back from Redacted for the same reason as Donna – that the BBC had imminent plans for him. And a comeback for K9 could make a lot of sense anyway.

For one thing, you could imagine K9 slotting into this autumn’s centenary special, alongside Fielding and Aldred and any other surprise returning companions, paying tribute to the long life of the BBC and Doctor Who in general. In fact, Aldred’s character could be a clue in of itself – in an online video made during lockdown, Davies suggested that Ace had taken in K9 following the sad death of former owner Sarah-Jane Smith (in tribute to the late great actor who played Sarah-Jane, Elisabeth Sladen).

Alternatively, it could be that K9 is set to make an appearance alongside David Tennant’s returning Doctor, having appeared with him in the revived Doctor Who before. Assuming, of course, that we’re not reading too much into Dawson’s innocent comment.

Doctor Who: Redacted writer Juno Dawson with stars Jodie Whittaker and Charlie Craggs
Doctor Who: Redacted writer Juno Dawson with stars Jodie Whittaker and Charlie Craggs BBC

Because there could be another very good reason that she couldn’t include K9 in Doctor Who: Redacted. Famously, unlike some other monsters and characters the rights to K9 don’t fully belong to the BBC, with the heirs of original creators Bob Baker and Dave Martin (Baker sadly passed away just last year) holding rights to the character separately.

Over the years, this has meant that K9 has occasionally appeared in TV shows separate from Doctor Who – including a 2010 Australian sci-fi series – and apparently there’s even an upcoming movie planned. Confusingly, the BBC do own the rights to K9’s original design, just not the character himself – so Baker also had to make K9 look different for the 2010 TV series.

All of this is to say that putting K9 in your Doctor Who spin-off could be a bit of a headache, and it might just be that rights issues prevented Dawson from incorporating him into Redacted, rather than any planned storylines. Still, you never know - K9 has appeared in Doctor Who audio spin-offs before for Big Finish without too much bother, so you do have to wonder what's different this time.

Overall, we hold out hope – because it could still happen, no matter how unlikely. And if you ask us, ‘are we really going to build a flimsy house of cards that K9’s return is imminent, whether this or next autumn, based on a half-quoted comment about a podcast in a magazine interview?’

The answer has to be… ‘Affirmative!’

Doctor Who is streaming now on BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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