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 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)
When the Tenth Doctor created K9 Mark IV to replace K9 Mark III, he added a shiny metallic blue paint job and other improvements, including an omniflexible hyperlink facility. (TV: School Reunion) Later, though, K9 reverted to his old dark green colour. (TV: Invasion of the Bane) In battling Mr Smith (and following the battle) K9 displayed a teleport facility and a laser weapon similar to the previous K9s'. (TV: The Lost Boy)
Although John Leeson has been the primary voice actor for K9 since his introduction, two other actors have voiced the character. David Brierley voiced K9 during Season 17 after Leeson chose not to return to the series (Leeson subsequently signed up again for Season 18), and Roy Skelton, better known for his work voicing Daleks, voiced the character in Destiny of the Daleks when all was required of K9 was a croaking sound due to the character contracting a form of robot laryngitis.
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)
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)
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K9 Mark 2 was the result of the activation of the Mark I's onboard regeneration unit. He had only very limited memories of his past as the Mark I. He had many adventures with Alistair Gryffen, Jorjie Turner, Darius Pike and his new master Starkey. (TV: Regeneration, The Bounty Hunter) Orthrus was an attempt by Drake and the Department to replicate K9, but it was of vastly inferior design. (TV: Jaws of Orthrus)
Consequences that may occur from this is that the dog ends up not being able to work well with the police in a certain situation, which can have extremely serious effects. In this case, the police must state the problem to the personal dog trainer, so that the K9 trainer can teach the dog and the K9 handler how to fix any mistakes that could have been made by the handler.
Someday K9 saved the people at the Aurora from being killed by a Federation war cruiser. (PROSE: Peaceniks) When K9 wanted to help a space ship navigating back to New Earth he met Interstitials. These creatures were living in a state relating to the space or time between things. K9 helped them pass into another existence where it was better for them. (PROSE: Interstitials)
K9 had a personality very consistent across the models with some contact with the Doctor. He was polite and formal, with pedantry bordering on condescension. Though he often displayed feelings such as sorrow (TV: The Invasion of Time) and self-regard (TV: School Reunion), he often stated that he had not been programmed to have emotions. (TV: Invasion of the Bane)