In 1990, an unspecified K9 unit appeared with Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace in an episode of the children's education programme Search Out Science entitled Search Out Space, which was included as an extra on the release of the Doctor Who story Survival by the BBC. Another unspecified K9 unit also appeared in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time. In the 1998 computer game Fallout 2, the Navarro base has a damaged robot dog known as K9, which uses similar speech mannerisms to the Infobox Doctor Who character. If repaired, the cyberdog is willing to join the character's party as a companion. In the 1999 television series Queer as Folk (written by future Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies), a K9 model is given to the character Vince as a birthday present. The prop used was an original, operated — as occasionally in Doctor Who — by visual effects assistant Mat Irvine. In the second series of I'm Alan Partridge (2002), the character of Alan Partridge recalls how his purchase of the rights to K9 contributed to his mental breakdown and driving to Dundee in his bare feet while gorging on Toblerone. In the South Park episode "Go God Go XII" (2006), Eric Cartman, being trapped in the year 2546, has acquired a robot dog called "K-10", a parody of K9. Due to timeline alterations, he is replaced by robot cat "Kit-9" and later robot bird, "Cocka-3". K9 appeared on a special Doctor Who-themed edition of The Weakest Link in 2007, but was voted out unanimously at the end of the first round, despite answering his question correctly. This was due to the fact every single player of the team answered correctly and banked the £5,000 target, and that the producers told the contestants to vote him off, just in case he broke down. Anne Robinson (whom K9 addressed as "Mistress") said "I'm so sorry" before declaring him the weakest link.
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K9 returned when Ship used the black hole as fuel. Though Sarah Jane, Luke, Rani and Clyde were happy to have K9 back, Mr Smith was not. (TV: The Mad Woman in the Attic) K9 spent a lot of his time in Sarah Jane's attic at 13 Bannerman Road, Ealing, but left to defeat Travast Polong. He attended Sarah Jane's abortive wedding to Peter Dalton, where he helped the Tenth Doctor, Luke, Rani and Clyde defeat the Trickster. (TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith) After helping defeat the Slitheen family, Clyde brought K9 to Park Vale Comprehensive School to help him with his test. He helped defeat the Rakweed before returning home. (TV: The Gift) K9 went to the University of Oxford with Luke, but restored Mr White's original programming through a mobile phone.(TV: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith)
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".
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.
During Romana's Presidency of Gallifrey, Leela became her bodyguard, and the two K9 units were forced to work together, not always amicably. After Matthias had replaced Romana as President, he nominated her to undertake a mission to find a cure for the Free Time virus, to be followed by exile. K9 opted to remain in the employ of Matthias, fighting the infection on Gallifrey. However, Braxiatel and K9 had planned another operation. Realising that the only cure to the virus was to end the regeneration capabilities of the Time Lords, Braxiatel used a Time Scoop to collect the Time Lord bio-data archive (along with K9). Romana was asked to decide whether to administer the cure or let Gallifrey die and rebuild it from scratch with the bio-data archive. (AUDIO: Gallifrey)
Whereas Sarah Jane lifted K9 Mark III into and out of her car, (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) K9 Mark IV had a "hover mode" allowing him to negotiate the stairs of the Smiths' three-story house and bi-level attic, and to enter and exit cars. (TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, The Gift) The Eleventh Doctor implied that Mark IV was not the first to have the ability to hover. (TV: The Power of Three)
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)
The original K9 model was designed by visual effects designer Tony Harding. One early concept was to have a small actor in a large Doberman-shaped costume; however, Graham Williams vetoed this, saying that the robot should not look like a person in a costume. The eventual design was closely based on Harding's third concept sketch. (DCOM: The Invisible Enemy)
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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)
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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)
K9 was a popular enough character to warrant an attempt to spin him off into his own series. In addition to K9 dolls, there were also talking K9 toys produced by Palitoy, the speech provided by a miniature record inside the body of the toy. John Leeson provided the voice for K9 in all its appearances, except for Season 17 (which included the unfinished Shada) when it was voiced by David Brierley. When Shada was remade by Big Finish Productions, Leeson provided its voice.