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.
The initial idea for realising K9 was to use a small actor inside a robotic Dobermann costume, but that was rejected in favour of a radio-controlled prop, designed by Tony Harding and made by the BBC Visual Effects Department. The Radio Control Model Centre in Harlington Middx owned by Derek Wales was commissioned to build the electronics into the first original basic shell and consequently the centre operated the dog on set for the BBC. The robot suffered from numerous technical problems during its time in the series, often malfunctioning because the radio controls interfered with the cameras and vice versa. On location, K9 also proved unable to traverse uneven terrain, and shots had to be conceived with this in mind. Workarounds included using a concealed piece of twine to pull the character along (this string can be clearly seen in a shot of K9 on Brighton Beach), or laying wooden planks on which it could roll.
The Fourth Doctor found that K9 had contracted laryngitis and had lost his voice as a result of this. K9 was left in the TARDIS while the Doctor and Romana II battled the Daleks and Davros. (TV: Destiny of the Daleks) During a later adventure, he remained patiently in the TARDIS, which would imply that his voice had not yet returned. (TV: City of Death) After his voice returned, it sounded quite different and remained so for a while (TV: The Creature from the Pit) before the familiar voice returned. (TV: The Leisure Hive)
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A third model, K9 Mark III was evidently constructed by the Fourth Doctor; indeed, the Eighth Doctor did not dispute the presumption that he had built this K9. (PROSE: Interference - Book Tqo) Mark III travelled with the Fourth Doctor and Adric for a time. (PROSE: Inter-Galactic Cat) Eventually, however, he was shipped in 1978 to Sarah Jane Smith at the home she had shared with her Aunt Lavinia in South Croydon during her companionship of the Third and Fourth Doctors. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Since parting ways with the Doctor (TV: The Hand of Fear) however, Sarah Jane had already gone away and was travelling extensively. The following year, Lavinia purchased a manor house and market garden in Moreton Harwood, Gloucester, and took the still crated K9 with her. On 18 December 1981, Sarah Jane and her foster brother Brendan Richards arrived at Lavinia's home for Christmas, but Lavinia had left early for her lecture series in the United States. Sarah Jane opened the crate and received her new companion. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend)
Either Inspector Thorne or Lomax found out about K9's regeneration unit and decided to acquire it. Thorne joined forces with Freddie Maxwell, owner of Crashclub involving old robots being made to fight. K9 went undercover as a gladiator and made friends with the robot clowns Chuckles and Boris. He was called to fight the Pain-Maker, who was laced with the explosive solarmite. When he was set to self-destruct, K9 detected this and fled the explosion. (TV: Robot Gladiators) To regain his memory and find out his connection to the STM, K9's archive was scrambled. Directives from the STM almost caused him to self-destruct and lose all his memory. However, with Gryffen and Starkey's help he overrode the directives. (TV: Mind Snap) He helped Gryffen find the STM's temporal stabiliser from the fallen angel crash site in Canada, where it was revealed to be Korven technology. (TV: Angel of the North) He stopped haywire CCPCs when The Last Precinct's plan backfired. (TV: The Last Precinct)
After this he was tricked by Thorne to give him his regeneration unit for a lost memory chip. This turned him into a bomb to make him self-destruct on encountering Jixey. Starkey helped him disarm himself. (TV: Hound of the Korven) K9 Mark 2's brief life was almost cut tragically short when after the fall of the Korven invasion force, Thorne sent the Trojan to kill K9, who defeated it by burning out his power core and exhausting all his energy. As his regeneration unit was in the Trojan, K9 seemingly died at the mansion after his companions bade him farewell. However his regeneration unit homed in at the last minute and resurrected him, giving the frisky pup a new lease on life. The regeneration unit restored his old dog collar so he could celebrate the joyful occasion to the full as he flew off to more adventures, bristling with life. (TV: The Eclipse of the Korven)
In 1996, Sarah used K9 to hack into records and find Sam Jones' home address and later to translate Lost Boy's speech. (PROSE: Interference - Book One) K9 was briefly possessed by a malevolent entity, but was freed when Sarah accidentally electrocuted him. (PROSE: The Sow in Rut) K9 began slowly breaking down and eventually ended up deactivated in a cardboard box in Sarah's attic. (PROSE: Moving On) Hilda Winters had K9 dismantled and analysed. (AUDIO: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre)
When the Tenth Doctor created K9 Mark IV to replace K9 Mark III, he added a shiny metallic blue paint job and other improvements, including an omniflexible hyperlink facility. (TV: School Reunion) Later, though, K9 reverted to his old dark green colour. (TV: Invasion of the Bane) In battling Mr Smith (and following the battle) K9 displayed a teleport facility and a laser weapon similar to the previous K9s'. (TV: The Lost Boy)
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.