Bob Baker, the prolific writer and co-creator of Doctor Who‘s K9, has died at the age of 82.
Bob Baker’s influence on the world of Doctor Who cannot be overestimated. He was instrumental in the creation of many of the show’s most famous characters and monsters, including the robot dog K9, the tentacled Axons, and the Time Lord Omega. Together with his writing partner Dave Martin, Baker introduced elements to Doctor Who that are still being used to this day.
That being said, he faced a number of challenges when he and Martin first pitched for the show in the 1970s. The then-script editor Terrance Dicks had to work hard to reign-in Baker and Martin’s ambitious ideas when they delivered the first draft of ‘Doctor Who and the Gift,’ which later became ‘The Claws of Axos.’ Dicks insisted that the pair’s scripts be simplified, stressing that the BBC “was not MGM” and couldn’t possibly mount a production that saw a giant skull-shaped spaceship landing in central London, followed by a hoard of merciless aliens destroying a roster of famous landmarks!
Despite this, Dicks saw great potential in Bob Baker and Dave Martin, particularly after they submitted a voluminous pitch document to the Doctor Who production office, which amounted to an entire script’s worth of paper. As such, he was very keen to use them.
And it’s a good job that he did. ‘The Claws of Axos’ went on to become one of the Third Doctor’s most famous and popular adventures, even getting name-checked in the 2007 episode ‘Last of the Time Lords.’ Moreover, the serial recently received an upscaled re-release in the Doctor Who Season Eight Blu-ray set.
Over the years, Bob Baker and Dave Martin contributed a number of other memorable stories to the Doctor Who canon, most notably ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ – which saw the return of the war-like Sontarans, created by Robert Holmes – and ‘The Hand of Fear,’ which saw the departure of one of the series’ most popular companions Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen.
1972’s ‘The Three Doctors’ also went on to become a classic, and in many ways it is a pivotal Doctor Who story. It was the first time that multiple Doctors had ever met each other in the same serial, and saw William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton reprising their roles as the First and Second Doctors. Moreover, ‘The Three Doctors’ introduced a new villain the form of Omega – a renegade Time Lord who, apparently, was instrumental in the formation of Time Lord society.
In the years that followed, Omega continued to play an important role in the Doctor Who canon, making a dramatic return in 1983’s ‘Arc of Infinity,’ and inspiring the weapon that the Daleks fought over in the classic Seventh Doctor story ‘Remembrance of the Daleks.’
But Bob Baker’s most significant contribution to Doctor Who lore is the character of K9, who was first introduced in the 1977 story ‘The Invisible Enemy,’ which he wrote with Dave Martin. K9 was originally meant to be a one-off character, but the producer Graham Williams was so taken with the dog that he decided to make him a permanent member of the TARDIS crew. Voiced by John Leeson (and, for one season, David Brierley) K9 remained a permanent fixture of the series until his departure in 1981.
Even then, the audience found it hard to forget about the Doctor’s robot friend, and K9 was quickly called upon to lead his own series. Titled K9 and Company, the show saw him reunited with the Doctor’s former companion Sarah Jane Smith, and the pair teamed up to save planet Earth from the forces of evil.
Alas, K9 and Company did not continue beyond an initial pilot, and Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s creation was, once again, banished into the wilderness of time and space.
Audiences would have to wait until 2006 to see Bob Baker’s creation on TV once again, this time in the Tenth Doctor episode ‘School Reunion.’ After this, K9 made multiple appearances in the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures (and again in the 2008 Doctor Who episode ‘Journey’s End’) but it was clear that Bob Baker had greater plans for his creation.
These became apparent in 2010 when K9 became the star of his own show in a spin-off simply titled K9. Co-created by Bob Baker and Paul Tams, the series was separate from the main Doctor Who canon, and was co-produced by a number of independent production companies for Disney XD. K9 saw a revamped version of the famous dog (along with his teenage sidekicks) protecting the London of the near-future from a range of alien threats, and Bob Baker himself went on to write two episodes for the series: ‘Mind Snap’ and ‘Angel of the North.’
Beyond this, Bob Baker had planned to have K9 star in his own movie alongside the renegade Time Lord Omega. Titled K9: TimeQuake, the film was originally announced in 2015 and slated for a 2017 release although, at the time of writing, it has yet to materialise. It was confirmed in 2018 that the movie was still in pre-production, although it is unclear what impact Bob Baker’s death will have on the project going forward.
Away from Doctor Who, Bob Baker enjoyed a long and varied writing career, penning scripts for popular shows such as Target and Bergerac. He also enjoyed a long collaboration with the Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park and co-wrote many of the pair’s films, including The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. He even secured an animated cameo in the latter, “appearing” as Baker Bob in the film’s opening scenes. In addition, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit went on to receive the British Academy Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.
Bob Baker has left a rich and varied writing legacy that will continue to win fans for many decades to come. His contributions to the world of TV and film will be greatly missed. Thanks for everything, Bob!
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