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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.
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K9 Mark III was a gift from the Doctor to Sarah Jane Smith (TV: A Girl's Best Friend). This K9 was broken for many years, until he was repaired by the Tenth Doctor. This K9 also had a "maximum defence mode", as well as offensive capabilities, such as a nose-mounted laser gun. He sacrificed himself to save Deffry Vale High School from Krillitanes. (TV: School Reunion)
Unlike 25 years earlier where she appeared unconcerned with K9 Mark III being seen, Sarah Jane restricted K9 Mark IV to her Ealing house except in emergencies or when she required his services, lest she have to explain him. Her son Luke covered by explaining to a puzzled Peter Dalton that K9 was a Japanese robot toy with pre-programmed phrases. (TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith) Nevertheless, she sent K9 to serve Luke when he went away to the University of Oxford. (TV: The Nightmare Man)
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.
While caught up in a Time war between the past and the future on the planet Aoris, K9 was forced to spend a thousand years hidden on the planet, setting himself up as 'the great Machina' so that he could found a cult that would aid the Doctor and Romana in bringing the war to an end, hiding behind a fake computer with a version of the TARDIS until he could return to the Doctor and Romana once the war ended (AUDIO: The Paradox Planet, Legacy of Death).
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)
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.
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)
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)
Although the first incarnation of K9 does not appear again in televised Doctor Who media, he is the star of the 2009 K9 television series, in which he undergoes a sort of "regeneration" process from which a new, more sophisticated and futuristic K9 emerges; in the first series of K9, the character is transported to London c. 2050 by Professor Gryffen (Robert Moloney). Though on regeneration the character loses his memory of his adventures with the Doctor, he assists Gryffen and several teenage companions against a dystopian regime of "The Department". The upgraded K9 has new specifications, sporting a sophisticated head-up display, the ability to fly, and more powerful laser weapons.