Doctor Who #936: Black Hunger

"K9, I'd like to see you produce a perfectly hygienic environment with three teenagers and a dog running around."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.19 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Garbage-eating microbes get out of control and threaten Earth, leading to the Drake leaving the series.

REVIEW: Drake is gone! This calls for dancing in the streets! As this is the first K9 episode to feature a person's death, I hoped the same permanent fate awaited the show's mustache-twirling villain, but alas, he only "moves on" after his upteenth breach of orders. In a way, it's a waste, because we never found out what the whole deal with his metal hand was, but it's still a relief. It's not just that he was badly written and played as a one-dimensional baddie who smirked and sneered through evil for evil's sake, Drake was also undermined by his inept casting. Connor Van Vuuren's baby face is completely at odds with the character as written! He seems about as young as Darius, but walks around with a cane trying to act sinister. Every confrontation with June feels like it should end with her sending him to his room. Thorne, who had this role in the pilot anyway, is a much better fit. From his IMDB page, Van Vuuren looks to have recycled himself into stunt work and making short films, which is probably for the best.

Getting my wish doesn't make it a great episode though. The nanites-will-eat-the-world trope is initiated by a sitcom situation that requires Gryffen Manor to be an absolute mess, which has never been shown to be a problem before. Cleaning up is Darius' job, but of course, he's too lazy to do it, so he steals the "imploder" instead, a machine that shoots out rubbish-eating yeast that somehow knows what to eat and... folds your clothes? Don't ask how the sanitation guys were given Drake's "Project Black Hunger" variant, which crossed the yeast with Plutonian microbes (please, do keep refraining from asking questions), or how "more efficient" sanitation will one day help Drake control our hearts and minds exactly. There's virtue in the episode setting up a impossible and deadly situation, but its solutions are really lame. Device about to auto-destruct? Jorjie slaps at it and deactivates it. Microbes will eat the Earth in a week if they get out into the Thames? K9 just turns around and "swallows" them. Now they're inside him until he can drop them off on some planet one day. Uhm.

I could also mention two fart jokes and the ridiculous way the CCPCs are confused by the kids acting like dogs (oh geez), but perhaps I should end on a more positive note. I want to say James Bogle's direction is actually better than most. There are some interesting shots, especially in the various showdowns between June and Drake, that you don't normally see on the show. I'd also commended his work on Jaws of Orthrus, so I'll be looking to his episodes to redeem the production somewhat.

WHO REFERENCE WATCH: K9 says he'll take the swarm to Atrios, which is the planet featured in The Armageddon Factor, a story written by K9 creators Bob Baker and Dave Martin (if there are not carbon-based life-forms there, it must be sometime in the planet's future, after the war). K9 once again advises reversing the polarity.

- The direction and last appearance of a despised character get this one to watchable level, but the plot is, no pun intended, the usual rubbish.



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