K9 Mark III first appeared in "A Girl's Best Friend", the 1981 pilot for a series, K-9 and Company, which never materialized beyond the first episode. In this, the character is presented to the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen); together, the two embark on what a number of adventures. Only the first of these is depicted on-screen; several are shown in comic book and audio play adaptations, and others are alluded to by the television series. Mark III made a brief appearance alongside Sarah Jane in the Doctor Who 20th anniversary ninety-minute special The Five Doctors (1983), before appearing properly and for the final time in the revived series' episode "School Reunion" in 2006. By the time of that story, Mark III has fallen into disrepair and eventually sacrifices himself to stop a plot by the alien Krillitane and defeat their leader, Lucas Finch (Anthony Head). In the episode's conclusion, the Doctor presents Sarah Jane with a new K9 to encourage her to continue investigating alien activity; the Doctor "rebuilt" him after the Mark III's sacrifice, implying that he had the same mind and memories as his predecessor while still being a "brand new model".

On 3 April 2010, the TV series K9 began broadcasting on the Australian Television Network Ten as part of a Saturday morning line-up of children's shows. John Leeson is the voice of K9. The first episode called "Regeneration"[13] featured the earlier Mark I version of K9. The "older" K9 materializes in London in the future and in the midst of an incident where an alien species is threatening human lives. K9 sacrifices himself in order to save the humans, but one component survives that enables his self-regeneration into the new unit. The main human cast members include Robert Moloney as Professor Gryffen, Keegan Joyce as Starkey (K9's new "master"), and Daniel Webber as Darius. The first 14 episodes of K9 season 1 were broadcast mid-morning on Channel 5 in December 2010 with the remaining episodes scheduled for January 2011. Trailers for the series appeared on Channel 5 from early December voiced by John Leeson. Originally, it had been planned to split the series in two halves between the Christmas 2010 and Easter 2011 school holiday schedules.
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Before this, the Doctor obtained or constructed at least one backup model of K9. Immediately after leaving Mark I behind with Leela, he unpacked K9 Mark II. This version of K9 accompanied the Doctor and his new companion on their quest to locate the segments of the Key to Time, (TV: The Ribos Operation) but the swampy terrain of Delta III made it impossible for him to join them on the planet. At the conclusion of the quest, the Shadow turned K9 to his evil will, giving K9 a sinister personality. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

In 1990, an unspecified K9 unit appeared with Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace in an episode of the children's education programme Search Out Science entitled Search Out Space, which was included as an extra on the release of the Doctor Who story Survival by the BBC. Another unspecified K9 unit also appeared in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time. In the 1998 computer game Fallout 2, the Navarro base has a damaged robot dog known as K9, which uses similar speech mannerisms to the Infobox Doctor Who character. If repaired, the cyberdog is willing to join the character's party as a companion. In the 1999 television series Queer as Folk (written by future Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies), a K9 model is given to the character Vince as a birthday present. The prop used was an original, operated — as occasionally in Doctor Who — by visual effects assistant Mat Irvine. In the second series of I'm Alan Partridge (2002), the character of Alan Partridge recalls how his purchase of the rights to K9 contributed to his mental breakdown and driving to Dundee in his bare feet while gorging on Toblerone. In the South Park episode "Go God Go XII" (2006), Eric Cartman, being trapped in the year 2546, has acquired a robot dog called "K-10", a parody of K9. Due to timeline alterations, he is replaced by robot cat "Kit-9" and later robot bird, "Cocka-3". K9 appeared on a special Doctor Who-themed edition of The Weakest Link in 2007, but was voted out unanimously at the end of the first round, despite answering his question correctly. This was due to the fact every single player of the team answered correctly and banked the £5,000 target, and that the producers told the contestants to vote him off, just in case he broke down. Anne Robinson (whom K9 addressed as "Mistress") said "I'm so sorry" before declaring him the weakest link.[citation needed]
The Fourth Doctor and K9 Mark II spent an indeterminate period of time together. However, the Doctor appeared to be activating K9 Mark II, implying that no significant time had elapsed since leaving Gallifrey. (TV: The Ribos Operation) It is possible that the Doctor spent some time at Nest Cottage before activating him. (AUDIO: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Someday K9 saved the people at the Aurora from being killed by a Federation war cruiser. (PROSE: Peaceniks) When K9 wanted to help a space ship navigating back to New Earth he met Interstitials. These creatures were living in a state relating to the space or time between things. K9 helped them pass into another existence where it was better for them. (PROSE: Interstitials)
Before this, the Doctor obtained or constructed at least one backup model of K9. Immediately after leaving Mark I behind with Leela, he unpacked K9 Mark II. This version of K9 accompanied the Doctor and his new companion on their quest to locate the segments of the Key to Time, (TV: The Ribos Operation) but the swampy terrain of Delta III made it impossible for him to join them on the planet. At the conclusion of the quest, the Shadow turned K9 to his evil will, giving K9 a sinister personality. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)
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.
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