I don’t like to throw around the term “Grail Piece” all that often, especially with something that was first released as early as seven or eight years ago, but today’s feature brings me mighty close to it. I’ve reviewed at least a few K9 figures on FFZ before, but they were mere trifles compared to this one. Originally released in 2007, I didn’t even know this toy existed until several years later when I was viewing a picture gallery of someone’s Doctor Who toy collection and saw the robotic dog standing majestically on a display shelf towering over the regular figures. I quickly inquired as to what it was and I was told it was Character Options’ Quarter-Scale version of the metal mutt based on his NuWho appearance in “School Reunion.” WHA-WHA-WHAAAAAT??? I’m pretty sure that was my reaction. I instantly became obsessed with tracking one down, but I quickly learned that there were few available on the secondary market and the ones that I did find were prohibitively expensive and would also require shipping from Great Britain. For a while I let the dream die, but in 2014 CO tweaked the toy and re-released it as a proper Classic Who version. and in doing so, made me very happy dude.
And there he is in his gloriously large window box. The package features the current style deco that CO has been using for the Classic Who releases. I honestly still can’t believe I’m the proud owner of this toy! To understand my pure joy, first you must understand my childhood adoration of The Fourth Doctor’s best friend, K9. The precocious dog first appeared in the episode “The Invisible Enemy” in 1977, the very same year that Star Wars was released. Of course, I probably didn’t first see the episode until four or five years later, sometime around the age of 12 or 13, but I do remember that K9 almost instantly replaced R2-D2 as my number one childhood robot crush. Ever since then I dreamed of owning a really good K9 toy. Fast forward almost 30 years later and I’ve got a few decent K9’s on my shelf, including a couple of the 5-inch Scale versions from CO and an Eighth-Scale figure from Biff Bang Pow! They’re perfectly fine figures, but I was yearning for something that would bring me closer to the neigh impossible dream of owning an actual full-sized electronic K9, and while he’s not full-sized, this bad boy certainly scratches that itch!
Sorry, I got a little side tracked there! Getting back to the box, it’s pretty standard stuff for this toy line only a lot bigger than what we’re used to seeing. K9 is secured inside with his access panel off and a “Try Me” button that lets you sample just a few of his voice clips. I will take this opportunity to squeee at the fact that John Leeson’s name actually appears on a toy box. SQUEEE! There, I did it. Leeson, of course, was the original voice talent behind K9, and although he was briefly replaced by the late David Brierly, Leeson eventually came back to the role and even reprises it several times for K9’s apperances in NuWho as well as K9’s own (terrible) Australian spin-off series. Leeson’s K9 voice is as iconic to me as anything in all of sci-fi-dom so it’s just nice to see him get credit.
Just look at the size of this box! I snapped a picture of it beside the 5-inch Scale K9 figure for comparison. I’ll also note here that getting K9 out of his box was a royal pain in the ass. He was screwed into four plastic retaining straps from the bottom and one of the screws was quick to strip. It probably took me a full 20 minutes to finally free him, but once I did everything was most satisfactory! Speaking of screws, it’s worth noting that while K9 includes the AA batteries to make his “Try Me” mode work, he does require a 9-volt for the remote control unit, so you’ll need to keep that screwdriver handy. Also worth noting, this US release features an FDC sticker on one of the compartments. It came off fairly easy, but I still need to clean some of the sticker gunk off of him. But before we get to the electronic features, let’s look at the toy itself.
With a few exceptions, the attention to detail and screen accuracy of K9 is quite well done. Some particular points of note include his antenna tail, the black bumpers around his base, the multicolored collar and accompanying dog tag, and the pull handle under his neck. He has his keypad positioned appropriately on his back, his name is on his right side panel, complete with sculpted faux screws and he has his computer monitor on his left side. The proportions here look great and while the coloring may be a little darker than what I’m used to seeing on screen, it could just be from the studio lights. On the downside, the left side of K9 exhibits gray circular plugs to cover the screws. It’s a little unsightly and obviously not screen accurate, but then I tell myself if Hasbro had done a toy like this, they probably would have just left the screws exposed, so I’m willing to live with it.
K9’s head features a few other minor points of contention when it comes to accuracy. The antenna dishes used for the ears are solid plates, where they should be mesh, but I can certainly understand why that change had to be made. Secondly, K9’s blaster is positioned slightly lower than it should be. I believe the show prop had the blaster coming directly out of his nose. I’m guessing the change was made to make the mechanics easier to work with. Lastly, there’s no “mouth” slot for K9’s tape printer. It may sound like I’m nitpicking a lot, but honestly none of this concerns me or dampens my love for this toy. It’s just fun and worthwhile to point out the differences.
K9’s removable panel lets you see his inner workings, although it’s really just a sculpted wall of components. It’s also clearly not been changed from the previous NuWho release and varies quite a bit from when we saw inside K9 in the days of Classic Who, which was usually just a mess of circuit boards, wire, and ticker tape. Anyway, taking off the side panel leads us into the electronics. When you first get him out of the package, you have to turn him from “Try Me” mode to the On position and doing so causes K9 to light up and go through his boot up routine. In addition to the lights inside the access hatch, the keypad on his back lights up and the red panel on his face lights up too. I’m going to break tradition, bust out my shitty phone camera, and get all video up in your faces…
Aw, yeah. That’s some good Leeson! The quality of the voice is absolutely fantastic. Once you’ve played around with the “Try Me” function and booted him up, it’s time to get serious and get out the remote control.
It seems to be more or less the same remote that came with the 2007 release only it no longer has a huge antenna coming off of it. You get two control sticks to drive K9. Pushing both forward moves him forward, pulling both back moves him back, and combinations make him turn. He controls really well and I’m amused by the fact that the super loud electric motors in the toy sound about as obnoxious as the prop did in the show. The buttons activate different voice clips on K9 and some of them will say different things when pressed multiple times. I’ll bust out a video clip again as I run through his voice clips, but I don’t have enough surface on my studio desk to really drive him anywhere.
I like how the ears move when he says scanning now and I should point out that they also move whenever he’s in motion. It’s a shame they couldn’t get his eye to extend, but I guess that would have required a lot more engineering. You also have to be careful, because if you activate each button going up or down the controller you will unlock a secret little sequence where K9 goes absolutely berserk, rolls all over the place and babbles about detecting Time Lords and recognizing you as his Master. It’s a cool little easter egg.
Last, but not least, you have the blaster…
Like I mentioned before, the blaster is positioned lower than it should be, but I’m impressed at how far out it deploys and the sounds of it extending, firing and retracting are all spot on from the Classic show. Oddly enough, K9 will not move when his blaster is extended.
Well, I’ve prattled on about my new robot pup long enough and all that’s left to say is he was expensive, but not unreasonably so. At $100, he’s a bit more than what I paid for either my 12-inch RC Dalek or Davros, but he does a bit more than those toys do. Is a hundred bucks a reasonable price for what you get here? Hell if I know. You see, even though now I have a huge display case overflowing with Doctor Who toys, I still remember that feeling as a kid when there was nothing at all. Without the Internet I didn’t even know those shitty Dapol figures existed. The best thing I had as a kid was an unpainted pewter K9 miniature intended for use with the Roll Playing Game and I thought that little piece of junk was pure gold. And so I still kind of have that mentality which could totally spawn conversations like this…
“How much would you pay for a Quarter-Scale Electronic K9 figure that’s remote controlled and talks.
Me: “A BILLION DOLLARS!!”
“It’s only $100”
Yeah. So, when a measily three of them dropped onto the website over at Who North America, I jumped on it faster than you can say “Jelly Baby.” Considering how much the original 2007 toy went for on the secondary market, I’ve got no complaints. Indeed, I’m actually glad I never broke down and spent it, because I’m much happier with this Classic Who version. He’s not a perfect replica, but then he’s not meant to be. He is, however, a really solid and impressive toy, and I have a feeling that K9 will be residing on my desk for a long while before I finally find a place for him on my Doctor Who display shelves. That is, when he’s not chasing around the cat!