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)
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.
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)
K9 was not originally intended to be a companion, but producer Graham Williams liked the concept so much that the decision was made to retain him as a regular character, in order to appeal to the younger members of the audience. The original name for the character was "FIDO" — apparently from "Phenomenal [sic] Indication Data Observation" unit — but it was eventually named K9.
On 24 October 2015, Bob Baker and Paul Tams announced the film K9: TimeQuake which is destined for cinemas in 2017 and is to feature the robot dog facing off against classic Doctor Who villain Omega in deep space. However, this did not happen leaving it unknown when the movie will be released.. In 2018 it was confirmed TimeQuake was confirmed to still be in pre-production, with plans for a prequel TV show to establish K9 for modern audiences before the movie.
During an encounter with the sentient painting, the Mona Lisa at the International Gallery, a simulation of K9 Mk IV was created when Mona Lisa was tricked into animating a drawing of K9 made by Clyde inside a cloud of mystic drawing-animation energy. He subsequently defeated The Abomination, another evil painting-come-to-life, before disappearing as the Mona Lisa herself reverted to being an immobile painting. (TV: Mona Lisa's Revenge)
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)
K9's innards were redesigned twice more over the course of the series, firstly in collaboration with a company called Slough Radio Control. It allowed one of its employees, Nigel Brackley, to be seconded to the series semi-permanently to supervise the prop. Brackley, who has since gone on to a career in the movie industry, controlled K9 for many of its studio appearances. Eventually, there came a point where the dog's inherent liabilities were outweighing his assets, and the internal mechanisms were completely rebuilt by designer Charlie Lumm. The wheels were enlarged and given independent drives for power and better manoeuvrability, and the radio controls were switched from AM to FM signals to resist interference. However, by the time the improved model made his debut in State of Decay, the first story recorded for Season 18, the decision had already been made to write the character out of the series in the adventure Warriors' Gate.
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)