Long, long ago, when the Whoniverse was less than half its present size, Jayne Entee made possibly the only half-right decision of her entire time in charge when she brought back Sarah Jane Smith. K9 & Company, A Girl’s Best Friend was Doctor Who’s first spin-off show and its importance lies not in the show itself but the legacy it left behind, as the template for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which pretty much got everything right that this gets wrong.
AGBF was broadcast on December 28th 1981, between State of Decay and Warrior’s Gate and nearly two years before the Twentieth Five Doctors fanfest. It’s the usual humdrum tale of witchcraft and devil worship that wouldn’t have been that out of place in a Tom’n’Lis season but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before in stories like Image of The Fendahl and The Stones of Blood, only this time with the tin dog in it and Hecate instead of the Cailleach.
Despite it’s major structural failings, you can see the roots of TSJA in there, only there are no aliens and no defending of the Earth. Brendan is played by a better child actor than Adric but he’s still annoying enough for you to hope against hope that Sarah won’t get there in time to rescue him from the Devil-worshippers. He’s also the proto-Luke, but that doesn’t stop his “honking” at K9/canine being one of the things that got cut.
AGBF is a curious mix of Juliet Bravo, which had just finished its second series when this went out, a Christmas ghost story and a big dollop of nostalgia that doesn’t quite work. If Hecate had turned out to be an alien then that would have been more like it, but instead we get SJS doing her first bit of investigative journalist-ing since The Time Warrior & The Dinosaur Invasion, only this time with a tin dog and an annoying smartarse as sidekicks.
However it did pave the way for The Sarah Jane Adventures as it proved that Sladen was well capable of handling the lead role in a series of her own, which is why we never got The Jo Jones Adventures instead. The status of Lis Sladen as the Doctor Who Girl, testament to her skill as an actor, is why she was the only Classic Series companion who had to make a return in the New Series.
As far as cuts are concerned, we manage to knock off the usual ten minutes to tighten things up and bring this fan edit in at just over forty minutes. And since this is the first real Sarah Jane Adventure we use the SJA title sequence instead of the terrible one used in the original, as well as a recap of the end of The Hand of Fear as a pre-credits to give the Doctor’s gift some context.