The initial idea for realising K9 was to use a small actor inside a robotic Dobermann costume, but that was rejected in favour of a radio-controlled prop, designed by Tony Harding and made by the BBC Visual Effects Department. The Radio Control Model Centre in Harlington Middx owned by Derek Wales was commissioned to build the electronics into the first original basic shell and consequently the centre operated the dog on set for the BBC.[citation needed] The robot suffered from numerous technical problems during its time in the series, often malfunctioning because the radio controls interfered with the cameras and vice versa. On location, K9 also proved unable to traverse uneven terrain, and shots had to be conceived with this in mind. Workarounds included using a concealed piece of twine to pull the character along (this string can be clearly seen in a shot of K9 on Brighton Beach), or laying wooden planks on which it could roll.
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)
On 24 April 2006, The Independent, the Daily Star and The Times confirmed, following previous rumours, that K9 would be featured in a 26-part children's series, K9, to be written by Bob Baker.[9] The article in The Times also featured a picture of the redesigned K9 for the animated series.[10] The series will be a blend of live-action and a CGI K9.
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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.


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.

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.
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)
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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)
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.
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