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".
A third model, K9 Mark III was evidently constructed by the Fourth Doctor; indeed, the Eighth Doctor did not dispute the presumption that he had built this K9. (PROSE: Interference - Book Tqo) Mark III travelled with the Fourth Doctor and Adric for a time. (PROSE: Inter-Galactic Cat) Eventually, however, he was shipped in 1978 to Sarah Jane Smith at the home she had shared with her Aunt Lavinia in South Croydon during her companionship of the Third and Fourth Doctors. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Since parting ways with the Doctor (TV: The Hand of Fear) however, Sarah Jane had already gone away and was travelling extensively. The following year, Lavinia purchased a manor house and market garden in Moreton Harwood, Gloucester, and took the still crated K9 with her. On 18 December 1981, Sarah Jane and her foster brother Brendan Richards arrived at Lavinia's home for Christmas, but Lavinia had left early for her lecture series in the United States. Sarah Jane opened the crate and received her new companion. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend)
K9 Mark 2 had some obvious commonalities with the Mark I that had preceded him. However, as he had almost completely lost his personal memories, he was forced to reacquaint himself with the world around him. Toward this end, he downloaded thousands of human movies onto his memdrive, which peppered his speech with 20th and 21st century English colloquialisms that his "brothers" did not typically employ. (TV: Alien Avatar) Despite his negative opinions of emotions, (TV: Mutant Copper) he asked questions about some, such as fear (TV: Fear Itself) and love (TV: Aeolian). He even showed some, laughing when he saved the day, feeling fear (TV: Fear Itself) and being angry. (TV: Regeneration)
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)
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)

K9 helped Sarah Jane to defeat Moreton Harwood's murderous Hecate Cult. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Circa 1983, K9 Mark III and Sarah Jane lived in semi-detached house where their gate bore a "beware of dog" sign and Sarah Jane permitted him outside unconcealed. Sensing danger, he advised Sarah Jane to either not go out, or to take him with her. She declined, and K9 thus did not accompany her to Gallifrey. (TV: The Five Doctors) K9 accompanied Sarah to an archaeological dig in Egypt. (COMIC: City of Devils) In the early 1990s, K9 assisted Sarah in investigating a supposedly haunted house. (PROSE: Housewarming)

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)

K9 helped Sarah Jane to defeat Moreton Harwood's murderous Hecate Cult. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Circa 1983, K9 Mark III and Sarah Jane lived in semi-detached house where their gate bore a "beware of dog" sign and Sarah Jane permitted him outside unconcealed. Sensing danger, he advised Sarah Jane to either not go out, or to take him with her. She declined, and K9 thus did not accompany her to Gallifrey. (TV: The Five Doctors) K9 accompanied Sarah to an archaeological dig in Egypt. (COMIC: City of Devils) In the early 1990s, K9 assisted Sarah in investigating a supposedly haunted house. (PROSE: Housewarming)
K9 helped Sarah Jane to defeat Moreton Harwood's murderous Hecate Cult. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Circa 1983, K9 Mark III and Sarah Jane lived in semi-detached house where their gate bore a "beware of dog" sign and Sarah Jane permitted him outside unconcealed. Sensing danger, he advised Sarah Jane to either not go out, or to take him with her. She declined, and K9 thus did not accompany her to Gallifrey. (TV: The Five Doctors) K9 accompanied Sarah to an archaeological dig in Egypt. (COMIC: City of Devils) In the early 1990s, K9 assisted Sarah in investigating a supposedly haunted house. (PROSE: Housewarming)
Before this, the Doctor obtained or constructed at least one backup model of K9. Immediately after leaving Mark I behind with Leela, he unpacked K9 Mark II. This version of K9 accompanied the Doctor and his new companion on their quest to locate the segments of the Key to Time, (TV: The Ribos Operation) but the swampy terrain of Delta III made it impossible for him to join them on the planet. At the conclusion of the quest, the Shadow turned K9 to his evil will, giving K9 a sinister personality. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

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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.

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.
In the spin-off media, K9 Mark II remained Romana's faithful companion for many years. In the early 2000s, John Leeson and Lalla Ward featured in a series of audio plays produced by BBV as K9 and "The Mistress", detailing these characters' adventures in a parallel universe. As neither Romana nor E-Space could be licensed, the aliases of the Mistress and the "pocket universe" were used instead.
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