Published on June 14th, 2014 | by Jonathan Appleton
John Hawley Built A Robot K-9
There’s something about Doctor Who that brings out the creative instinct in people. For some it may inspire them to write stories, create websites or produce their own short films. Big Finish was set up and has been run successfully for years by people who love the show. There’s a strong case to be made that the series would never have been revived at all if it hadn’t been for gifted folk who used their love of the show to keep the flame alive during the long years of BBC indifference.
So let’s hear it for those wonderful people who do brilliant things, for no particular reason other than that they want to do something that brings their enjoyment of the programme alive. That’s certainly the case for John Hawley, who has constructed the Doctor’s faithful robot companion for, in his own words, ‘a lark’.
John, clearly a rather brilliant technical whizz, has built a fully operational K-9 which has its own sensors and GPS system, and runs on a Linux control program operated by an Xbox remote. Amusingly, the metal mutt has 3 inch tank treads and can go ‘over any terrain’. Oh, how the production team of the late 1970s would weep to read that as they recall those long interruptions while Matt Irvine and the boys did their utmost to get that damned dog going after he’d packed up yet again. See it in action at Slashdot.com.
K-9 may not have been to everyone’s liking when he featured in the show but, the Daleks aside, he’s probably the most oft-reproduced character in Doctor Who’s history, and in a remarkable range of formats. There’s been radio controlled K-9′s, toy K-9′s, usb-hub K-9′s … And many others like John have shown impressive creativity and dedication by building their own version. Kasterborous reported in March on William Reichardt’s stunning creation, powered by a Raspberry Pi.
In truth, John hasn’t gone to quite the same lengths as William in his quest to build an accurate replica, and there’s no danger that his version could be mistaken for the real thing as it happily trundles around conventions, keeping fans entertained as they queue for their autographs. But there’s nothing wrong with that, I reckon. In many ways it’s to be admired when, rather than opt to make a slavishly accurate replica, someone like John opts to stamp his own personality on their creations.
There’s a lovely shot in Doctor Who Magazine 473′s tribute to Christopher Barry of his kids playing back in the 1960′s. One’s invisible beneath their shop-bought Dalek costume. But another, as the caption tells us, has been forced to improvise and has opted for a cardboard box with holes torn out for his arms and face. He may not look much like a Dalek, but you can bet that in that moment he didn’t care a jot about that as he set about exterminating his enemies in the back garden. Creativity and imagination, y’see. Doctor Who’s history is littered with it.