Bob Baker is the co-creator of two of Britain’s most famous fictional canines: the quick-witted engineering genius Gromit, and Doctor Who’s former robotic companion K-9. The latter takes centre stage in the Australian-made TV series K-9, which is out now on DVD. “He’s a dear friend of mine,” Baker tells Matt McAllister.
When you co-created K-9, did you ever imagine he’d still be going 30 years later?
Absolutely not! I remember thinking this would just be for the one story, The Invisible Enemy – and then the BBC rang up and said they’d like to keep him on. So I thought this might go on for a few years. But this is unbelievable! I’m delighted obviously, as K-9 is a dear friend of mine!
Is K-9 the show you wish 1981’s ill-fated K-9 and Company pilot had been?
Well, I was never involved in K-9 and Company – the BBC did that without asking us. It’s not what we would have done. I thought it was dreadful. One of the reasons we wanted to do this was to create what we would have preferred for it to have been.
How do you think filming in Australia influenced the show?
Difficult to say really. We could have used Brisbane as it is, but the Australians wanted to make it look like England. So we ended up with locations that didn’t look particularly Australian or English! But the backgrounds don’t matter that much – it’s about the stories. I think, like Doctor Who and that kind of series, there’s a lot of rushing around, so you don’t really stop to look at the location.
We filmed it in Australia because we raised the money in Australia, that’s the truth of the matter – and of course, if you raise the money there they want to have a lot to say about the programme. One must bow down to that, which is fair enough. The BBC turned it down twice, maybe three times. So we had to go around looking for finance – and the dear old Aussies came up with it!
Do you find K-9’s dialogue easy to write?
Yes, I think so. The thing is we’ve taken him up a notch so he speaks like any other character rather than that robotic thing all the time. He’s actually a proper character now – he’s the lead after all! He’s got to be able to express himself. Now that he’s regenerated, he’s obviously got a better vocabulary.
Saying that, do you ever miss the old-style K-9?
I love the old style K-9 but he lives in his own world. He’s his own separate entity. This one is newly regenerated, like a new Doctor – you either accept it or don’t.
Did you ever get to keep an old-style K-9 prop?
No, I never had one!
What with K-9 and Gromit, there seems to be a dog theme running through your work. Do you have a dog in real life?
I don’t, but [K-9 co-creator] Dave [Martin] did. He had a Springer Spaniel, a highly strung dog! Unfortunately it got killed in a road accident. So I used to say that maybe Dave wanted to create an immortal dog when he suggested the idea of a robot dog in The Invisible Enemy.
But it just came about that we thought this guy [Professor Marius in The Invisible Enemy] might have had a dog on Earth, and so had a facsimile on his tunnelled-out asteroid.
Would you like to see K-9 return in new Who?
Yes. The point is he can exist in his own world, the same as our new K-9 can exist in his. I mean there’s the fact that he’s still in The Sarah Jane Adventures – though they’re cutting down on his appearances more and more!
What do you think of new Doctor Who and would you like to write an episode?
I loved David Tennant, I thought he was brilliant – I’ve still yet to let the new one bed in. I’d have loved to have written for Tennant – I did ask, but was given short shrift! [Laughs] But it’s extremely good, and it’s fantastic it’s still going.
You wrote episodes for different Doctors. Which was the easiest to write for?
My happiest one was definitely writing for Jon Pertwee with The Mutants, which I thought came off really well on all accounts – some people say that Doctor Who can be a bit cheesy, but I think on this one the monsters are good looking, they were properly built and looked the part. The story I think came out extremely well.
Moving on to your other canine creation, are you thinking about any more Wallace and Gromit adventures?
I’m always thinking about more Wallace and Gromit adventures! I had coffee with Nick [Park] the other day, and we were talking about it. Of course, there was the Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention that I did with Nick last year, and there may be another of those, we’ll have to wait and see.
Would you like to see another Wallace and Gromit movie?
It’d be great, I’d love to do another movie, but again it’s up to Nick and Aardman. It’s up to them and the way they set up the deal – it’s with Sony now I think. Maybe Sony would like to do another one, I don’t know!
One of the other shows you created with Dave Martin was the cult 70s kids’ show Sky. Would you like to see a reboot of that show?
I’m glad you remember Sky! I’d love to do it, I’ve spoken to a couple of TV companies about it, but they seemed a little bit backwards in coming forwards. I think it could be really good if we re-did it in some way, or if we just carried on with new characters. The concept, I think, stands up – I’ve seen it recently and it looks good after all these years.
I was amazed when I was in Australia – people would come up and say, “You wrote Sky. Fantastic!” I was like, “Oh my goodness, people still remember it!” [Laughs]
Are you involved with any other intriguing projects at the moment?
I’m involved with a science fiction cartoon movie – an Austrian co-production in Europe. It’s in the early stages at the moment, but it’s called Bionet and should be out in about three years, considering how long animation takes!
K-9: Series 1, Volume 1 and Volume 2 are out now on DVD (region 2).