K9 Mark I, II, III, and IV addressed whoever was directing them as "Master" or "Mistress" depending upon gender, and used the formal "affirmative" and "negative" rather than "yes" and "no". They were programmed to be both loyal and logical, with a penchant for taking orders literally, almost to a fault. Their striped collars mirrored the Fourth Doctor's trademark scarf.
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)
He did not use contractions such as "you've" for "you have" and addressed others by titles such as "Master", "Mistress", "Doctor-Master" (to refer to the Doctor) or "Young Master" (Adric, Starkey and in one instance, Clyde). Though he did not seem to resent his subordinate status, he sided with the Doctor's companions over the Doctor and showed a dark side, regarding other artificial intelligences with contempt. (TV: The Invasion of Time, TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, TV: Robot Gladiators) He relished a brief chance to act as a figure of power. (PROSE: The Well-Mannered War)
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Either Inspector Thorne or Lomax found out about K9's regeneration unit and decided to acquire it. Thorne joined forces with Freddie Maxwell, owner of Crashclub involving old robots being made to fight. K9 went undercover as a gladiator and made friends with the robot clowns Chuckles and Boris. He was called to fight the Pain-Maker, who was laced with the explosive solarmite. When he was set to self-destruct, K9 detected this and fled the explosion. (TV: Robot Gladiators) To regain his memory and find out his connection to the STM, K9's archive was scrambled. Directives from the STM almost caused him to self-destruct and lose all his memory. However, with Gryffen and Starkey's help he overrode the directives. (TV: Mind Snap) He helped Gryffen find the STM's temporal stabiliser from the fallen angel crash site in Canada, where it was revealed to be Korven technology. (TV: Angel of the North) He stopped haywire CCPCs when The Last Precinct's plan backfired. (TV: The Last Precinct)
Almost as soon as he arrived, K9 Mark IV left Sarah Jane to stabilise a dangerous black hole in space which had been created in Switzerland. He could only speak with Sarah Jane occasionally via a cabinet with a space-time link when the orbit of the black hole intersected with Earth's and did not know when he would complete the job. (TV: Invasion of the Bane) However, he returned to Earth very briefly during emergencies. He did so on two later occasions in order to render vital assistance. The first time, he fought Mr Smith in pitched battle to give Sarah Jane time to upload the Armageddon Virus. (TV: The Lost Boy) The second time, he quickly uploaded TARDIS base codes to Mr Smith, assisting the Tenth Doctor in returning Earth to its correct location in space. (TV: Journey's End)
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In early 2007, K9 was reactivated by the Tenth Doctor; Sarah Jane was unable to go to any humans for repairs prior as the parts inside K9 could change history. K9's repairs were short lived. In battling Lucas Finch and his Krillitane invasion at the school the next day, Mark III blew up a vat of Krillitane oil, which was now lethal to the Krillitanes destroying himself and the Krillitanes in the process. (TV: School Reunion)
In 1985, a series of gamebooks featuring the Sixth Doctor were published by Severn House under the title Make your own adventure with Doctor Who in Britain and Find Your Fate — Doctor Who in the United States. These books were actually written by scriptwriters for the television series. Martin wrote Search for the Doctor which takes place in the mid-21st century and features K9 Mark IV being reunited with the Sixth Doctor long after Sarah's death.