Working Doctor Who props with Raspberry Pi

Doctor Who fans are enjoying a richly layered Series 9 so far this autumn, with plenty of nods to classic Who and a fabulously creepy two-parter that concluded on Saturday. I resisted the temptation to share Richard Hopkinsamazing K-9 build blog here when I found it a while ago, because I thought it’d be best appreciated alongside the superb screen presence of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor to remind us what a wonderful fictional universe this is (not everyone agrees with me about Capaldi, of course; note, though, that I’ll be moderating the comments scrupulously).

Richard Hopkins' version of K-9, a robotic dog in Doctor Who

Richard Hopkins’ K-9, pictured in August with side monitor and newly functioning camera and wagging tail. Photo by Richard Hopkins | CC BY-SA 4.0

While some projects might occupy a few entries on their author’s more general blog, it’s easy to appreciate that the scope of this project, which has been ongoing since May 2014, warrants a blog all to itself. A Raspberry Pi as the brains of the robot was part of the project from the very beginning. It controls K-9’s expressive, servo-driven ears and tail as well as the scooter motors that move him around, runs Node-RED to allow browser-based control and to display a power monitoring dashboard on the panel on his side, and lets him to respond to voice commands and hold a basic conversation. A Raspberry Pi camera module on a long cable sits behind his eye panel. Who wouldn’t want to share their home with a robot like this?

As fantastic as Richard’s build is, it’s not the only homemade, Raspberry Pi-powered K-9. William Reichardt’s wooden-bodied K-9 is tricked out with a thermal printer in its head; and if, like me, you don’t have the time or the technical chops for a project this complex, you can still house your Raspberry Pi in a fine LEGO K-9 case.

Meanwhile, if the current series of Doctor Who has seen the Doctor swap his sonic screwdriver for a pair of sonic sunglasses (they look great, but we’re hoping they’re not forever, yes?), fans seem committed to the classic tool. I found four different Raspberry Pi-powered sonic screwdrivers for everything from door locking to a TV-B-Gone, after which I stopped counting.

Alan O’Donohoe has made a Raspberry Pi-controlled Dalek that responds to Twitter, a Doctor Who story premise that I never want Stephen Moffat to consider.

Last of all, something we can’t leave out of any conversation about Doctor Who-related Raspberry Pi projects is Dave Akerman‘s TARDIS.

The TARDIS, as seen in Doctor Who, except slightly smaller on the inside

Slightly smaller on the inside

OK, so it’s hard to call this a fully working prop; it’s pretty small on the outside to begin with, and then the inside is, if anything, a little bit smaller. However, with the help of a high altitude balloon, it did fly to the edge of space, which counts for a lot with us. This might seem like the kind of thing for which you need long experience, and it’s true that a HAB flight demands some months of preparation. But having seen our first few successful launches following this summer’s Skycademy training for educators, we know that a stratospheric TARDIS is something that’s within the reach of primary schools.


Dex avatar

Ultra-Who-fan here, admiring and envious of all! K-9 has always been a favourite. Keep ’em coming!

Phil Atkin avatar

None of this relates to the blog post, it is entirely opinionated bo**ocks about Dr. Who. But I did watch the first episode in 1963, so do induge me, it will only take 20 seconds.

Capaldi is awesome.

But I hate the sonic sunglasses. As bogus a name as the VPL ‘eyephone’, I hope they are not long for this world.

That guitar is nice. It’s like a Mosritibanezcaster.

I will miss Clara a lot, she’s been great. But maybe a bit heartless, she got over her brutally murdered boyfriend a bit too fast methinks.

Maisie is LOVELY, as is her totally charming brother by the way. So next week should be a corker.

Next time I come on here I’ll try to stay a bit more on topic re Pi, edjumacation, etc. But really, it’s Doctor Who, it means a lot to me, I had to throw my 2p worth in.

All done.

Liz Upton avatar

Danny Pink was an AWFUL boyfriend. Go Team Clara.

(And you’re absolutely right about the sunglasses.)

Phil Atkin avatar

Re. Danny – I sometimes wonder if there is a whole plot arc they are about to unload on us to get rid of him altogether. He seemed not real, and indeed rubbish, the whole ‘Cyberdust’ / dead rising thing was preposterous, and it would be nice if they retconned the whole episode away, him included, whilst simultaneously bringing back – SWOON! – Osgood.

I can but hope.

Dathan avatar

Yes Osgood!!!!!! We need her back!!!!!

Kevin avatar

Malcom Tucker as Dr Who was a fantastic idea – but that is as far as it got. I’m not only enjoying Mark Gatiss penned episodes now – and he would be the perfect next Doctor too.

JACKO avatar


Lorna avatar

The Pi-powered props are wonderful, and I’m definitely with you on Mr Capaldi, Helen!

One of my very few claims to fame is that I went to school with Clara: I can say with confidence that a girl who has been through high school in Blackpool can take anything the universe has to throw at her.

theoB avatar

Did anyone else read this as
“Working doctor, who props with Raspberry Pi”
or was that just me.

JACKO avatar


JBeale avatar

That K-9 is quite a work of art! Impressive. I went to one scifi convention in Philadelphia some decades ago. I was surprised to see more than one “actual” size of sonic screwdriver. I was told they used larger props for long shots, so it would show up better onscreen.

Helen Lynn avatar

That is a very interesting piece of trivia! I’ll be trying to spot that now.

Dathan avatar

Love the real life K-9! Capaldi is growing on me. Just like Matt Smith and David Tennant did. I also hope that the Sonic sunglasses are gone soon. I didn’t like how Clara got over Danny so easily either. I do like that the “round things” have come back in full swing!

Raspberry Pi’s and Doctor Who! My 2 favorite things in the world! I’ve got to go to England some day! (I’m from Oklahoma, USA) Anyone wanna trade places for a few weeks? :-)

Hans avatar

Thats great …. does it have the laser gun ?

JACKO avatar


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