Today marks the 73rd birthday of John Leeson, an actor who has been a part of Doctor Who for almost 40 years, spanning both the classic and modern eras of the show. And yet, despite being a recurring figure, you may not recognise his face… but should you recognise his voice? Affirmative!
That’s right, Leeson is the man behind the rebel Time Lord’s faithful robot sidekick, K-9. First introduced in 1977’s The Invisible Enemy to aid The Fourth Doctor and Leela, K-9 made such an impact with younger members of the audience that he was kept on as a regular companion. Although there were some frustrations surrounding the limitations of the character – Tom Baker famously stating his dislike for the tin dog – he managed to remain an enduring figure in Doctor Who history, originally bowing out of the main series in the 1981 serial Warrior’s Gate when The Doctor gave him to a departing Romana. It wouldn’t be long until K-9 returned though, this time in 1981 spin-off pilot K-9 and Company alongside another iconic Fourth Doctor companion, Sarah Jane Smith.
Two years later, K-9 made a comeback to the main series in 1983’s The Five Doctors, although only in a short cameo appearance. It would not be until 2006 that K-9 would make a full triumphant return, reuniting with The Doctor (now looking a lot more like David Tennant) and Sarah Jane Smith in the third episode of Series 2, School Reunion. Since then, K-9 has reappeared in the Series 4 finale Journey’s End and several episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with his last appearance being in Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith. Outside of the official Whoniverse, K-9 has also starred in his own 2009-2010 spin-off series, and excluding a brief stint in Season 17 of the classic Doctor Who series, Leeson has been there all the way to provide K-9’s distinctive and iconic voice.
More recently, Lesson’s vocal talents can be heard in Lego Dimensions’ Doctor Who content when using the K-9 mini-figure gadget, and there is every possibility he will reprise his famous role in next year’s spin-off movie K-9: TimeQuake, which pits the robot dog against the ruthless Omega in deep space. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!
Whatever the future holds for K-9 and for John Leeson, let us today applaud their fantastic contribution to the world of Doctor Who, both inside and outside of the main series. Log in to your inner mainframe, locate birthday celebration files, and boot up party mode… program: achievable, master!