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".
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)
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)
A short story, "Moving On", in Virgin Publishing's Decalog 3: Consequences anthology and the Big Finish Productions-produced Sarah Jane Smith audio play Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (both written by Peter Anghelides) indicate that K9 Mark III broke down and Sarah was unable to repair it as the replacement circuits would not be invented for several centuries.
This K9 exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He was also more mobile than his predecessor, despite his problems with the swamps of Delta III, able to lift himself up on small support rods so that he could climb stairs (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, TV: The Power of Kroll, The Armageddon Factor) The Doctor often used a glib remark to disarm those who were surprised by K9's appearance, such as "They're all the rage in Trenton, New Jersey." (TV: The Stones of Blood)
On 24 October 2015, Bob Baker and Paul Tams announced the film K9: TimeQuake which is destined for cinemas in 2017 and is to feature the robot dog facing off against classic Doctor Who villain Omega in deep space. However, this did not happen leaving it unknown when the movie will be released.. In 2018 it was confirmed TimeQuake was confirmed to still be in pre-production, with plans for a prequel TV show to establish K9 for modern audiences before the movie.
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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)
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K9 Mark IV was a recreation and enhancement of the Mark III created by the Tenth Doctor as a second present for Sarah Jane. (TV: School Reunion) This model continued in service to his mistress, Luke Smith, Clyde Langer, and Rani Chandra and was known by Maria Jackson and Kelsey Hooper. He was left fixing a black hole in Sweden for many years, but after returning to Earth, was used sparingly, until he went to university with Luke Smith. (TV: The Nightmare Man)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Interference: Book Two by Lawrence Miles indicates that the Doctor built a Mark IV model sometime prior to the events of that book, but what happened to this unit is not stated. In the novel The Gallifrey Chronicles by Lance Parkin, K9 Mark II makes another appearance, having been trapped within the TARDIS since the events of The Ancestor Cell. At the end of The Gallifrey Chronicles the Doctor sends K9 on a secret mission to Espero, presumably to seek out his former companion, the living TARDIS known as Compassion.