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.
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 IV was a recreation and enhancement of the Mark III created by the Tenth Doctor as a second present for Sarah Jane. (TV: School Reunion) This model continued in service to his mistress, Luke Smith, Clyde Langer, and Rani Chandra and was known by Maria Jackson and Kelsey Hooper. He was left fixing a black hole in Sweden for many years, but after returning to Earth, was used sparingly, until he went to university with Luke Smith. (TV: The Nightmare Man)
K9 Mark I, II, III, and IV addressed whoever was directing them as "Master" or "Mistress" depending upon gender, and used the formal "affirmative" and "negative" rather than "yes" and "no". They were programmed to be both loyal and logical, with a penchant for taking orders literally, almost to a fault. Their striped collars mirrored the Fourth Doctor's trademark scarf.
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.
After debuting in the final scene of "School Reunion" (2006), K9 Mark IV returned in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures' premiere episode "Invasion of the Bane", where due to licensing issues with creator Bob Baker it is explained that K9 is sealing a black hole and can only communicate briefly and infrequently with Sarah Jane. The character makes an heroic appearance in the first series finale The Lost Boy, to do battle with rogue alien supercomputer Mr Smith (Alexander Armstrong), demonstrating new CGI teleportation and hovering features. K9 Mark IV's interfaces include at least one USB port. Subsequently, the character appears briefly in the Doctor Who series four series finale "Journey's End" (2008), wherein K9 and Mr Smith assist the Doctor in returning Earth to its proper position. K9 next appears in the comedic Red Nose Day 2009 Sarah Jane mini-episode "From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love". A deal with the creators of K9 having been struck, K9 Mark IV became a regular character in The Sarah Jane Adventures in third series story, The Mad Woman in the Attic (2009), until the series four premiere The Nightmare Man (2010), where he accompanies departing series regular, Sarah Jane's adoptive son Luke Smith (Tommy Knight), to university. He appears again in series four finale, Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith. Though he doesn't appear in the serial, it is mentioned in The Man Who Never Was (2011) that Luke invented a special dog whistle to summon him with.