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.
Introduced into the plot in The Invasion of Time, K9 Mark II first actually appear on-screen in The Ribos Operation (1978). More mobile than his predecessor, Mark II exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He travels as a companion alongside the Doctor and Romana. Around the time of Romana's regeneration (the transition from actress Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward), the K9 character was explained as suffering from "laryngitis" to accommodate Leeson's departure from the series at the start of the 1979–80 season; for this time, he was portrayed by David Brierley, until Leeson's return for the 1980–81 season. When the Doctor and Romana travel to the parallel universe of E-Space, K9 is severely damaged, in Warriors' Gate (1981). The damage was such that K9 could only function in E-Space; when Romana decided to stay and forge her own path, the Doctor gave K9 to her. The character makes subsequent appearances in remakes of the unfinished serial Shada, alongside the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann); the 2003 Shada audio play and webcast depict K9 Mark II as having returned to Gallifrey with Romana, now Lady President of the Time Lords, where the Doctor visits them. It is not clear if either of these audio appearances are considered canonical in relation to the continuity of the TV series.
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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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)
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 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)
Later he defeated Ahab, who tried to convince him he had murdered Zanthus Pia. He became part of the K9 Unit, being made the responsibility of Gryffen and under the control of Department inspector June Turner. (TV: The Bounty Hunter) He foiled Inspector Drake's plan to control the population using Cerulium (TV: Sirens of Ceres) and experienced fear. (TV: Fear Itself) He aided in the defeat of echoes of Gryffen's family, (TV: The Fall of the House of Gryffen) Orthrus, a duplicate of him created by Drake to frame him (TV: Jaws of Orthrus) and the Bodach. (TV: Dream-Eaters) He met Nehetka and Geb of the Anubians, a race his previous incarnation liberated. He was so obsessed with regaining his lost memories that he didn't notice Gryffen, Starkey and Jorjie's takeover by the Anubians. He soon found out when the Anubians attacked the Department. With Darius' help, he defeated them. (TV: Curse of Anubis)
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.
After K9 Mark I regenerated into K9 Mark 2, his design was radically altered. His ear probes were replaced with larger silver aerials. A set of blue lights on his head flashed when he spoke. Most of his body was dark silver and a silver dog bone was located under his neck. He seemed to have the same capabilities as Mark I but was presumably more advanced. (TV: Regeneration)
Within the series' narrative, K9 is a robot dog acquired by Doctor Who's title character in the 1977 serial The Invisible Enemy. The first two incarnations of the character travelled alongside the Fourth Doctor (portrayed by Tom Baker) until 1981. In these stories, K9 proved useful for the powerful laser weapon concealed in his nose, his encyclopaedic knowledge and his vast computer intelligence. By 1981, each of the two models of K9 which travelled alongside the Doctor had been left with one of the Doctor's female companions. The character subsequently transitioned into spin-off territory. Producers hoped K9's popularity with children would launch the series K9 and Company, led by actress Elisabeth Sladen in the role of companion Sarah Jane Smith alongside a new K9. In 2006, K9 reappeared in the revived series of Doctor Who. Although the character's appearances in the 2007 spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures were hampered by the concurrent development of the K9 spin-off, the character began to appear full-time in both K9 and The Sarah Jane Adventures, depicting adventures of the original K9 Mark I and of Mark IV, respectively.
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