Almost as soon as he arrived, K9 Mark IV left Sarah Jane to stabilise a dangerous black hole in space which had been created in Switzerland. He could only speak with Sarah Jane occasionally via a cabinet with a space-time link when the orbit of the black hole intersected with Earth's and did not know when he would complete the job. (TV: Invasion of the Bane) However, he returned to Earth very briefly during emergencies. He did so on two later occasions in order to render vital assistance. The first time, he fought Mr Smith in pitched battle to give Sarah Jane time to upload the Armageddon Virus. (TV: The Lost Boy) The second time, he quickly uploaded TARDIS base codes to Mr Smith, assisting the Tenth Doctor in returning Earth to its correct location in space. (TV: Journey's End)
This K9 exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He was also more mobile than his predecessor, despite his problems with the swamps of Delta III, able to lift himself up on small support rods so that he could climb stairs (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, TV: The Power of Kroll, The Armageddon Factor) The Doctor often used a glib remark to disarm those who were surprised by K9's appearance, such as "They're all the rage in Trenton, New Jersey." (TV: The Stones of Blood)
K9 Mark 2 had some obvious commonalities with the Mark I that had preceded him. However, as he had almost completely lost his personal memories, he was forced to reacquaint himself with the world around him. Toward this end, he downloaded thousands of human movies onto his memdrive, which peppered his speech with 20th and 21st century English colloquialisms that his "brothers" did not typically employ. (TV: Alien Avatar) Despite his negative opinions of emotions, (TV: Mutant Copper) he asked questions about some, such as fear (TV: Fear Itself) and love (TV: Aeolian). He even showed some, laughing when he saved the day, feeling fear (TV: Fear Itself) and being angry. (TV: Regeneration)
Although John Leeson has been the primary voice actor for K9 since his introduction, two other actors have voiced the character. David Brierley voiced K9 during Season 17 after Leeson chose not to return to the series (Leeson subsequently signed up again for Season 18), and Roy Skelton, better known for his work voicing Daleks, voiced the character in Destiny of the Daleks when all was required of K9 was a croaking sound due to the character contracting a form of robot laryngitis.
The practical challenges of working with the K9 prop have accompanied the robotic pooch in his return to Doctor Who. Producer Russell T Davies told SFX magazine, "Yes, just as we expected, multiple takes [were required] when he bumped into a door or veered off to the left. Lis Sladen did warn us, and she was right!" 2009 saw two different incarnations of K9 appear regularly in two Doctor Who spin-offs: Mark IV in the third series of BBC production The Sarah Jane Adventures, and a re-vamped Mark I in the Park Entertainment production K9.
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)
Later he defeated Ahab, who tried to convince him he had murdered Zanthus Pia. He became part of the K9 Unit, being made the responsibility of Gryffen and under the control of Department inspector June Turner. (TV: The Bounty Hunter) He foiled Inspector Drake's plan to control the population using Cerulium (TV: Sirens of Ceres) and experienced fear. (TV: Fear Itself) He aided in the defeat of echoes of Gryffen's family, (TV: The Fall of the House of Gryffen) Orthrus, a duplicate of him created by Drake to frame him (TV: Jaws of Orthrus) and the Bodach. (TV: Dream-Eaters) He met Nehetka and Geb of the Anubians, a race his previous incarnation liberated. He was so obsessed with regaining his lost memories that he didn't notice Gryffen, Starkey and Jorjie's takeover by the Anubians. He soon found out when the Anubians attacked the Department. With Darius' help, he defeated them. (TV: Curse of Anubis)
K9 stayed with Leela on Gallifrey for many years. It was only after the disappearance of her Time Lord husband, Andred, that Leela and her K9 met Romana II and her K9. The two K9s did not get on well and competed. (AUDIO: Weapon of Choice) After Leela became Romana's bodyguard and after many important missions on her behalf, Leela's K9 was destroyed by an exploding bomb. Leela was heartbroken, but refused to have a duplicate unit built. (AUDIO: Imperiatrix)
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K9 Mark I's mechanisms included rotating ear-probes, telescopic "eye" probe, an extendable nose concealing a powerful laser weapon, flashing lights on the top and the "eye" panel, waggling tail antennae, and ticker-tape tongue. His head could move up and down. His shell was painted in metallic gold/grey. There was a monitor screen on his left flank, though K9 rarely used this during his travels with the Doctor. Around K9's neck was a tartan collar, (being the Family Tartan of the Clan Buchanonn) from which hung a silver disk. (TV: The Invisible Enemy) He was later modified to fly through the vacuum of space. (TV: Curse of Anubis)
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A short story, "Moving On", in Virgin Publishing's Decalog 3: Consequences anthology and the Big Finish Productions-produced Sarah Jane Smith audio play Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (both written by Peter Anghelides) indicate that K9 Mark III broke down and Sarah was unable to repair it as the replacement circuits would not be invented for several centuries.