K9 Mark III first appeared in "A Girl's Best Friend", the 1981 pilot for a series, K-9 and Company, which never materialized beyond the first episode. In this, the character is presented to the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen); together, the two embark on what a number of adventures. Only the first of these is depicted on-screen; several are shown in comic book and audio play adaptations, and others are alluded to by the television series. Mark III made a brief appearance alongside Sarah Jane in the Doctor Who 20th anniversary ninety-minute special The Five Doctors (1983), before appearing properly and for the final time in the revived series' episode "School Reunion" in 2006. By the time of that story, Mark III has fallen into disrepair and eventually sacrifices himself to stop a plot by the alien Krillitane and defeat their leader, Lucas Finch (Anthony Head). In the episode's conclusion, the Doctor presents Sarah Jane with a new K9 to encourage her to continue investigating alien activity; the Doctor "rebuilt" him after the Mark III's sacrifice, implying that he had the same mind and memories as his predecessor while still being a "brand new model".
After Mark I sacrificed himself to destroy the Jixen warriors, Starkey retrieved his regeneration unit, which quickly activated. In a blast of white light, K9 was thus reborn as a much more advanced model, though this K9 Mark Z could not access the memories of his previous self, which had been "scrambled". He stayed at the house of Alistair Gryffen, who ran tests on K9, but did not tell the Department. K9 tried to kill Starkey, as he was sprayed with Jixen genetic matter and so registered as a Jixen. Starkey convinced him that he was not an enemy and K9 gave him his dog whistle to summon him when needed. (TV: Regeneration) K9 and the team tracked down the surviving Jixen to Dauntless Prison and killed it. They also faced a Meron and freed the alien prisoners. (TV: Liberation) K9 travelled with Starkey when he was on the run from the Department and rescued Gryffen (who was kidnapped by a Korven). Gryffen later welcomed him and Starkey into his home. (TV: The Korven)
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When Romana eventually returned to her own universe, she brought K9 Mark II with her (presumably having repaired it) and eventually became Lady President of Gallifrey. K9 Mark II is first seen on Gallifrey in the Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow by Marc Platt, alongside K9 Mark I, which had remained with Leela. Both K9 Mark I and Mark II appear, voiced by Leeson, in the Big Finish Productions audio adventure Zagreus and the Gallifrey audio series. Leela's K9 (Mark I) was destroyed at the conclusion of the second Gallifrey series and only Mark II appears in the third series.
K9, occasionally written K-9, is the name of several fictional robotic canines (dogs, the name being a pun on the pronunciation of "canine") in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who, first appearing in 1977. K9 has also been a central character in three of the series television spin-offs: the one-off K-9 and Company (1981), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007–2011) and K-9 (2009–2010). Although not originally intended to be a recurring character in the series, K9 was kept in the show following his first appearance because he was expected to be popular with younger audiences. There have been at least four separate K9 units in the series, with the first two being companions of the Fourth Doctor. Voice actor John Leeson has provided the character's voice in most of his appearances, except during Season 17 of Doctor Who, in which David Brierley temporarily did so. The character was created by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, to whom rights to the character still belong; consequently, Baker's spin-off series K9, which is not BBC-produced, cannot directly reference events or characters from Doctor Who, though it attempts to be a part of that continuity.