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.
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.
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.
Damaged by the time winds, K9 Mark II could not cross back into N-Space with the Doctor. He decided to stay behind at the Gateway with Romana II to help her free the remaining Tharils from slavery. (TV: Warriors' Gate) Eventually, Romana II and the presumably repaired K9 returned to their own universe and K9 Mark II came to live on Gallifrey. (PROSE: Lungbarrow, WC: Shada, AUDIO: Zagreus)
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)
Within the series' narrative, K9 is a robot dog acquired by Doctor Who's title character in the 1977 serial The Invisible Enemy. The first two incarnations of the character travelled alongside the Fourth Doctor (portrayed by Tom Baker) until 1981. In these stories, K9 proved useful for the powerful laser weapon concealed in his nose, his encyclopaedic knowledge and his vast computer intelligence. By 1981, each of the two models of K9 which travelled alongside the Doctor had been left with one of the Doctor's female companions. The character subsequently transitioned into spin-off territory. Producers hoped K9's popularity with children would launch the series K9 and Company, led by actress Elisabeth Sladen in the role of companion Sarah Jane Smith alongside a new K9. In 2006, K9 reappeared in the revived series of Doctor Who. Although the character's appearances in the 2007 spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures were hampered by the concurrent development of the K9 spin-off, the character began to appear full-time in both K9 and The Sarah Jane Adventures, depicting adventures of the original K9 Mark I and of Mark IV, respectively.