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)
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 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)
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.
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)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Interference: Book Two by Lawrence Miles indicates that the Doctor built a Mark IV model sometime prior to the events of that book, but what happened to this unit is not stated. In the novel The Gallifrey Chronicles by Lance Parkin, K9 Mark II makes another appearance, having been trapped within the TARDIS since the events of The Ancestor Cell. At the end of The Gallifrey Chronicles the Doctor sends K9 on a secret mission to Espero, presumably to seek out his former companion, the living TARDIS known as Compassion.
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On 24 April 2006, The Independent, the Daily Star and The Times confirmed, following previous rumours, that K9 would be featured in a 26-part children's series, K9, to be written by Bob Baker. The article in The Times also featured a picture of the redesigned K9 for the animated series. The series will be a blend of live-action and a CGI K9.
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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)
In the spin-off media, K9 Mark II remained Romana's faithful companion for many years. In the early 2000s, John Leeson and Lalla Ward featured in a series of audio plays produced by BBV as K9 and "The Mistress", detailing these characters' adventures in a parallel universe. As neither Romana nor E-Space could be licensed, the aliases of the Mistress and the "pocket universe" were used instead.