Behind every sci-fi robot dog is a great creative mind. In the case of Dr Who’s K9, that mind is Bob Baker, a writer and science fiction aficionado who penned several Dr Who episodes before going on to write for four of the five Wallace and Gromit films. Now, at age 74, he’s taking fans on a journey back in time to where it all began.
Launching his new memoir K9 Stole my Trousers at the Cinema Museum Bob reflects back on his earliest career, which saw him leave school at fifteen and complete an apprenticeship in monumental masonry. “I was always a writer; I just used to do it with a hammer and chisel,” Bob laughs. During these first five years Bob played in a band and surrounded himself with the creative people who eventually lured him into the world of film and television. “I didn’t imagine being a screen-writer; I’d been to a lowly secondary school but I always loved film-making and eventually went to college and did a course in film and animation,” he remembers. Building a studio in his basement he began creating very early animation films similar to Monty Python’s style, all the while supporting his art by restoring houses and selling them.
After meeting Dave Martin, the man who would become his decade-long writing partner, the duo set up an office and began writing material, which they pitched to BBC. Their big break came about a year later when they were offered a writing job on Doctor Who. “I loved it. Dave didn’t particularly but I followed every Sci-Fi film ever made and had watched Doctor Who since it started,” Bob tells.
The iconic canine K9 was dreamt up during a script-writing day when Bob and Dave had come down to the BBC London studio from their writing headquarters in a converted barn in Bristol. “We were writing the character of Professor Marius and decided he definitely needed a dog that followed him around and that he would build a computer in the shape of a dog,” Bob explains. “We had no idea they would take him on as a permanent member of the cast”.
In the aftermath of Dr Who and then a “disastrous” film made in what was formerly Czechoslovakia, a “down and depressed” Bob was approached by Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park who asked him to co-write the film’s script. “I thought it was so interesting with these detailed sets; I left all the Claymation to Nick but watching them film was amazing.”
The 74-year-old is still going strong, just back from filming a Sci-Fi flick in Vienna and currently in discussions about developing a K9 series in Australia. “I’m always traveling and it’s always Science Fiction that I do; I just wait for the phone to ring.”
Bob Baker will be at the Cinema Museum, 2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road), SE11 4TH, on October 19 at 7:30pm. Admission: £8.50 / £6.50 concessions. Phone: 020 7840 2200. http://www.cinemamuseum.org.uk