He usually did not engage in computer-like literal thinking, though on one occasion he followed Romana's instructions to "forget it" to the letter and erased all knowledge of tennis from his memory banks. (TV: The Stones of Blood) In another he took Romana's exclamation "Blast it!" as a command, and fired his blaster. (TV: Shada, WC: Shada, AUDIO: Shada, PROSE: Shada). Despite this, he occasionally showed a sense of humour, jokingly answering the question "What do you eat?" with "Ball bearings" (AUDIO: The Beast of Kravenos).
Introduced into the plot in The Invasion of Time, K9 Mark II first actually appear on-screen in The Ribos Operation (1978). More mobile than his predecessor, Mark II exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He travels as a companion alongside the Doctor and Romana. Around the time of Romana's regeneration (the transition from actress Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward), the K9 character was explained as suffering from "laryngitis" to accommodate Leeson's departure from the series at the start of the 1979–80 season; for this time, he was portrayed by David Brierley, until Leeson's return for the 1980–81 season. When the Doctor and Romana travel to the parallel universe of E-Space, K9 is severely damaged, in Warriors' Gate (1981). The damage was such that K9 could only function in E-Space; when Romana decided to stay and forge her own path, the Doctor gave K9 to her. The character makes subsequent appearances in remakes of the unfinished serial Shada, alongside the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann); the 2003 Shada audio play and webcast depict K9 Mark II as having returned to Gallifrey with Romana, now Lady President of the Time Lords, where the Doctor visits them. It is not clear if either of these audio appearances are considered canonical in relation to the continuity of the TV series.
Professor Frederick Marius, who invented the first K9 in the year 5000 while working on the asteroid K4067, described him as "my best friend and constant companion." Marius had a dog on Earth, but weight requirements did not allow him to bring his real dog into space, so he built K9. (TV: The Invisible Enemy) He built K9 by using the latest technology. Marius used his own medical computer, a state-of-the-art intraresponsive brain app, protective anti-radiation cladding, probes, a laser scapel, a vision and voice box and two scanning antennas. He put these parts together and created K9. (PROSE: One Man and His Dog) According to one account, the Professor copied the remnants of one of the versions of K9 created by the Doctor and given to Sarah Jane Smith. (PROSE: Tautology)
Jealous, Possessive by Paul Magrs, the "Scorpio" story in Big Finish's anthology Short Trips: Zodiac features K9 Mark I and Mark II relaying their exploits to each other, and their veiled put-downs to each other reveal that each considers the other to be the "inferior" version. This attitude is also occasionally hinted at in the way the two units refer to each other in the Gallifrey audio series.
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Despite those drawbacks, K9 comes with a handful or so of predesigned filters and an option to customize. With more than 50 categories for organizing Web sites, and the keyword-free proprietary K9 rating system, the Web monitoring and blocking aspects of the software functioned well. K9 also has categories for blocking sites that have been detected as potential malware threats. Equally impressive, and a little bit scary, was the log that detailed not just blocked Web sites but also every Web site visited.
With his great intelligence, he had a tendency to bore people with facts and did not stop immediately when asked, as he did to Leela on Pluto. When being told that he would have to stay behind in the TARDIS, K9 often argued, giving the Doctor reasons why he should go such as "he would be a good dog." K9 always wanted to assist the Doctor. He had great intelligence and skill at chess, claiming to be able to beat the Doctor in six moves (although this may only have been because he was programmed with all chess games since 1886). (TV: The Sun Makers, The Androids of Tara) K9 had an aggression mode. (TV: State of Decay)
Damaged by the time winds, K9 Mark II could not cross back into N-Space with the Doctor. He decided to stay behind at the Gateway with Romana II to help her free the remaining Tharils from slavery. (TV: Warriors' Gate) Eventually, Romana II and the presumably repaired K9 returned to their own universe and K9 Mark II came to live on Gallifrey. (PROSE: Lungbarrow, WC: Shada, AUDIO: Zagreus)
In the spin-off media, K9 Mark II remained Romana's faithful companion for many years. In the early 2000s, John Leeson and Lalla Ward featured in a series of audio plays produced by BBV as K9 and "The Mistress", detailing these characters' adventures in a parallel universe. As neither Romana nor E-Space could be licensed, the aliases of the Mistress and the "pocket universe" were used instead.
The original K9 model was designed by visual effects designer Tony Harding. One early concept was to have a small actor in a large Doberman-shaped costume; however, Graham Williams vetoed this, saying that the robot should not look like a person in a costume. The eventual design was closely based on Harding's third concept sketch. (DCOM: The Invisible Enemy)
He helped Starkey fight the Oroborus, (TV: Oroborus) free the Medes (TV: Alien Avatar) and help one of the last Aeolians find her mate. (TV: Aeolian) He saved a Centuripede and her young from being killed by Drake (TV: The Last Oak Tree) and absorbed the Hunger swarm which threatened to devour Earth. (TV: Black Hunger) He and Starkey went through the STM to 1963, where they rescued Jorjie and saved Darius' great-grandfather William Pike from arrest and Darius from erasure from history. (TV: The Cambridge Spy) He enlisted the help of the Ukkan librarian Yssaringintinka to rescue Starkey, trapped on the planet Urlic. (TV: Lost Library of Ukko) He helped Birdie, a CCPC whith implanted human DNA, escape from the Department. (TV: Mutant Copper) He discovered the last of the Etydions (TV: The Custodians) and taught Taphony how to be a friend. (TV: Taphony and the Time Loop)
In 1985, a series of gamebooks featuring the Sixth Doctor were published by Severn House under the title Make your own adventure with Doctor Who in Britain and Find Your Fate — Doctor Who in the United States. These books were actually written by scriptwriters for the television series. Martin wrote Search for the Doctor which takes place in the mid-21st century and features K9 Mark IV being reunited with the Sixth Doctor long after Sarah's death.