Mutant Copper was the eighteenth episode of Series 1 of K9. In it, K9 explored emotion further.
The CCPCs hunt a rogue officer who has developed a personality and consciousness. K9, Starkey and Jorjie take the rogue to Gryffen's mansion and hide him from the Department, only to face the mutant copper causing mayhem.
A crowd of people including Jorjie and a friend watch a broadcast. The CCPCs show their new, greater powers for health and safety. They may now enter homes without permission, search without warrant and make the world safe for anyone who isn't guilty. Jorjie's friend asks about freedom.
As the CCPC broadcast repeats, Starkey, with K9 behind the crowd, uses a device to interfere with it, mimicking the CCPC. Two CCPCs on patrol move towards him. After the CCPCs leave, Jorjie introduces Starkey to her fellow agitator for freedom, Marcus. Starkey tells him he might know him as "Stark Reality"; Marcus says he only knows what "JJ" has told him. They move on but are soon met by a CCPC with a damaged face and a different voice. As the CCPC admires the birds, four more arrive. The gang run away, followed by the other CCPC, who tells them to follow him. They hid behind bins until the CCPCs leave. K9 scans their CCPC's neural functions and finds his connection to Department Central Control has been turned off. He also finds traces of human DNA in his system. As he looks through the bushes, Marcus says he's a type of "mutant". K9 believes the CCPCs are pursuing him, not the team. Starkey wants to get rid of him. Jorjie asks him what will they do with him. He says he will be liquidated.
Jorjie compares him to a lost puppy. K9 insists that robots aren't part of the animal kingdom. He is not a dog and the CCPC is not a puppy. Jorjie decides to take him to the Gryffen House. When Starkey asks how they are to get him there, Jorjie suggests Mariah and contacts Darius. They go to Mariah and Jorjie introduces Darius to Marcus. At the Gryffen House, Gryffen takes a look at the CCPC's neural circuitry and finds implanted human DNA. K9 wonders why they would ruin a perfectly good robot. Gryffen tells him some wouldn't consider it 'ruining' as the human element adds other dimensions: emotions, instinct, and intuition. Jorjie says they have to help him, but Gryffen says he's certainly not human and he's no longer strictly a robot. Because he loves birds, Jorjie decides to call him Birdie. Starkey warns that interfering with a CCPC unit is a maximum crime and even having him here could land everyone in detention facilities. Gryffen tells everyone to rest. They will make their decision in the morning.
That night in Starkey's bedroom, K9 says humanity is "a mass of uncontrolled motivations and other brain aberrations", and "the so-called modern human skull houses a Stone Age mind". Human intelligence is not perfect, yet humans act as if it is the highest level of evolution and the worst thing that could happen to Birdie is to be turned back into a cyborg. Starkey tells him there's nothing wrong with being a cyborg if that's what you are, but Birdie isn't one or the other and doesn't fit in anywhere, even though he's dangerous to have around. Starkey can't help feeling sorry for him. Darius is going to brush his teeth when he spots Birdie behind him. He asks to borrow a toothbrush, but Darius tells him he doesn't have any teeth. Birdie asks to borrow teeth. Darius tells him to take being human one step at a time, even if he's excited; start by going to sleep.
In the morning, Gryffen finds Birdie has taught himself to make toast. K9 tells him "electrocuting bread is not rocket science". Gryffen says his human initiative to learn is developing. June arrives. Starkey hides Birdie. June accuses them of interfering with the CCPC. Starkey tells her they didn't do anything and Gryffen says he was like that when they found him. There's only one place a Department cyborg's neural circuitry could be experimented on in this way: the Department laboratories. June insists she would have known. All experiments on Cyborgs are strictly regulated. Starkey suggests Thorne might be behind it. Thorne says it's an interesting story but doesn't deny it as it's his policy to neither deny nor confirm. June is suspicious. Thorne has CCPCs scouring London for the rogue cyborg. He tells her the public could be in danger and it's his duty to find it. She warns him that if he has been experimenting with the CCPC, the people will know he is responsible. When she leaves, Thorne orders all CCPC units to override all existing command protocols and gives them a new priority: locate Birdie.
Marcus arrives at Gryffen's house to learn how Birdie is and say how he enjoyed yesterday with Jorjie. Gryffen alerts everyone that the CCPCs are hunting Birdie, and agrees he can't hide there. Darius says they should help him and asks for Gryffen's support. Gryffen doesn't agree but says that he can't be found here. K9 suggests that as Birdie's problems result from mixing human and cybernetic, they convert him to one or the other. If Gryffen says full conversion to human is impossible, they should make him fully cyborg. Gryffen says that they'll need a new control cortex and he has nothing like that. K9 suggests getting one from the Department laboratory; Birdie's identity chip will gain him entrance. Birdie confirms he knows the layout of the Department laboratory and can guide K9. Starkey says it's too great a risk and asks if he's worth it. K9 says Birdie isn't one thing or the other and doesn't fit in anywhere and even though he's dangerous to have around, he can't help "feeling sorry for him" as Starkey points out, although he does not feel. Gryffen prepares to remove Birdie's identity chip and attach it to K9.
Later K9 makes his way to Department HQ and through the rooms. Gryffen notes all the CCPCs in London hunting for Birdie works in their favour, as the building is deserted. Birdie guiding him, K9 finds himself at CCPC storage, where he sees several CCPCs. Starkey thinks its a trap but the CCPCs aren't moving. K9 scans them and finds they are decommissioned, scheduled to be liquidated. Gryffen determines they are failed experiments. K9 finds a control cortex and takes it. Thorne is contacted by a CCPC who says a CCPC's identity unit has been activated and is exiting Department HQ. Back at the house, K9 confirms he has destroyed the identity chip and the Department can't track them. Gryffen detaches Birdie's head but is interrupted by Thorne and his CCPCs, demanding entrance. Gryffen tells Darius and K9 to hide Birdie, who reattaches his head. A CCPC shows Thorne the equipment Gryffen used on Birdie. Thorne orders the CCPCs to arrest them and they put them in cuffs. Thorne orders them to find Birdie. Darius, K9 and Birdie hide in the garage, where Birdie suggests he turn himself in. K9 notes his human element is developing as he shows the human compulsion to sacrifice himself for others.
Darius decides to get Birdie out of the city. K9 says he has a plan and tells Darius to push the the car into the lane. Thorne intercepts Birdie's signal and orders all CCPCs to the garage. They arrive, only to find K9 with Birdie's voice. He tells them it's a diversion, Thorne realises they've escaped. Jorjie realises Marcus told Thorne Birdie was in the house, which was why he wanted Birdie to be kept here. Gryffen realises that's how she knew about Birdie. Jorjie asks him why and Marcus says because of a chance of a reward and a job at the Department. He tells her he plans to fight the system from the inside and it pays well. Jorjie tells him he's only interested in creds. He says he has to live on something and human beings aren't robots. She says he betrayed Birdie. He says he was going to split the reward money with her. She says she doesn't want it.
Thorne and his CCPCs arrive. He assures them Birdie, K9 and Darius won't get far. Gryffen tells him to remove the cuffs and asks what the charge is. Starkey says there's no evidence of Birdie. Thorne shows Gryffen the stolen cortex. Gryffen thanks him for the loaner. Thorne says K9 broke into Department HQ and stole property. Gryffen corrects him: he borrowed it and he didn't break in, he entered, using a stolen identity chip. Gryffen again asks him for evidence as Starkey says there's no law against borrowing cortexes. Thorne says he has a witness in Marcus. Jorjie says Marcus was having him on to make a fool of the Department as he always does. Marcus asks for his reward. Marcus tells him that Birdie was here. Thorne is outraged at this new name, while the others claim he made it up. Thorne demands Marcus tell him where he is. Marcus tells him he doesn't know. As Thorne leaves, Marcus asks Jorjie to tell him. Jorjie refuses and tells him to stop calling her "JJ".
Later, Jorjie is embarrassed she could be so wrong about someone. Gryffen tells them that human relationships, as beautiful as they are, can be difficult and he sometimes envies K9 as he doesn't have to deal with them. They are contacted by Darius. He shows them Birdie, who bids them goodbye. K9 asks how his human element feels. Birdie says it feels scary because he has to make decisions for himself but also beautiful for the same reason. K9 promises to Birdie he will be kept in his memory banks. Jorjie apologises to Darius for earlier; he doesn't have to be a protester to make a difference. The team all say goodbye, Birdie says goodbye to Darius as he leaves "free as a bird". Darius records him admiring the beauty of nature, especially the birds.
to be added
- This episode aired on the same day in the UK as the Doctor Who episode The Hungry Earth.
- If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
- Although K9 has shown emotions in previous episodes and in Doctor Who, here he has a negative attitude towards them reminiscent of the Cybermen.
Home video releases
This episode is featured in the following DVD sets:
- Series One complete box set, released in Australia on 29 September 2010.
- K9: Series 1: Volume 2, containing episodes 13–26, released in the UK on 31 January 2011.
- K9: Ultimate Collectors Edition, containing the full first series, scheduled for release in the UK on 11 June 2011.