K9, retroactively "K9 Mark I" (Leeson), initially appeared in The Invisible Enemy (1977) as the creation of Professor Marius (Frederick Jaeger) in the year 5000. K9 subsequently travelled with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) as a companion of the Doctor in his adventures in time and space until The Invasion of Time (1978). In this serial, K9 decides to remain on the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey with Leela. Immediately afterwards, Doctor Who would introduce a second incarnation of K9, played by the same prop; the last scene of The Invasion of Time shows the Doctor unpacking a box labeled "K9 Mk II".
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The Virgin New Adventures seventh Doctor novel Lungbarrow (written by former Doctor TV series writer Marc Platt) featured K9s Marks I and II meeting for the first time on Gallifrey during the events surrounding the disappearance of the Doctor's entire family house and his living relatives, which also featured many previous established Gallifreyan based characters. The two collaborated towards rescuing the Doctor, then current companion Chris Cwej and the Doctor's lost family. This novel also served as the direct lead-in story to the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie.
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The practical challenges of working with the K9 prop have accompanied the robotic pooch in his return to Doctor Who. Producer Russell T Davies told SFX magazine, "Yes, just as we expected, multiple takes [were required] when he bumped into a door or veered off to the left. Lis Sladen did warn us, and she was right!" 2009 saw two different incarnations of K9 appear regularly in two Doctor Who spin-offs: Mark IV in the third series of BBC production The Sarah Jane Adventures, and a re-vamped Mark I in the Park Entertainment production K9.
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)
With his great intelligence, he had a tendency to bore people with facts and did not stop immediately when asked, as he did to Leela on Pluto. When being told that he would have to stay behind in the TARDIS, K9 often argued, giving the Doctor reasons why he should go such as "he would be a good dog." K9 always wanted to assist the Doctor. He had great intelligence and skill at chess, claiming to be able to beat the Doctor in six moves (although this may only have been because he was programmed with all chess games since 1886). (TV: The Sun Makers, The Androids of Tara) K9 had an aggression mode. (TV: State of Decay)
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.
After debuting in the final scene of "School Reunion" (2006), K9 Mark IV returned in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures' premiere episode "Invasion of the Bane", where due to licensing issues with creator Bob Baker it is explained that K9 is sealing a black hole and can only communicate briefly and infrequently with Sarah Jane. The character makes an heroic appearance in the first series finale The Lost Boy, to do battle with rogue alien supercomputer Mr Smith (Alexander Armstrong), demonstrating new CGI teleportation and hovering features. K9 Mark IV's interfaces include at least one USB port. Subsequently, the character appears briefly in the Doctor Who series four series finale "Journey's End" (2008), wherein K9 and Mr Smith assist the Doctor in returning Earth to its proper position. K9 next appears in the comedic Red Nose Day 2009 Sarah Jane mini-episode "From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love". A deal with the creators of K9 having been struck, K9 Mark IV became a regular character in The Sarah Jane Adventures in third series story, The Mad Woman in the Attic (2009), until the series four premiere The Nightmare Man (2010), where he accompanies departing series regular, Sarah Jane's adoptive son Luke Smith (Tommy Knight), to university. He appears again in series four finale, Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith. Though he doesn't appear in the serial, it is mentioned in The Man Who Never Was (2011) that Luke invented a special dog whistle to summon him with.