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".
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. 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.
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)
After Mark I sacrificed himself to destroy the Jixen warriors, Starkey retrieved his regeneration unit, which quickly activated. In a blast of white light, K9 was thus reborn as a much more advanced model, though this K9 Mark Z could not access the memories of his previous self, which had been "scrambled". He stayed at the house of Alistair Gryffen, who ran tests on K9, but did not tell the Department. K9 tried to kill Starkey, as he was sprayed with Jixen genetic matter and so registered as a Jixen. Starkey convinced him that he was not an enemy and K9 gave him his dog whistle to summon him when needed. (TV: Regeneration) K9 and the team tracked down the surviving Jixen to Dauntless Prison and killed it. They also faced a Meron and freed the alien prisoners. (TV: Liberation) K9 travelled with Starkey when he was on the run from the Department and rescued Gryffen (who was kidnapped by a Korven). Gryffen later welcomed him and Starkey into his home. (TV: The Korven)
The Fourth Doctor found that K9 had contracted laryngitis and had lost his voice as a result of this. K9 was left in the TARDIS while the Doctor and Romana II battled the Daleks and Davros. (TV: Destiny of the Daleks) During a later adventure, he remained patiently in the TARDIS, which would imply that his voice had not yet returned. (TV: City of Death) After his voice returned, it sounded quite different and remained so for a while (TV: The Creature from the Pit) before the familiar voice returned. (TV: The Leisure Hive)
K9 Mark I's mechanisms included rotating ear-probes, telescopic "eye" probe, an extendable nose concealing a powerful laser weapon, flashing lights on the top and the "eye" panel, waggling tail antennae, and ticker-tape tongue. His head could move up and down. His shell was painted in metallic gold/grey. There was a monitor screen on his left flank, though K9 rarely used this during his travels with the Doctor. Around K9's neck was a tartan collar, (being the Family Tartan of the Clan Buchanonn) from which hung a silver disk. (TV: The Invisible Enemy) He was later modified to fly through the vacuum of space. (TV: Curse of Anubis)
Professor Frederick Marius, who invented the first K9 in the year 5000 while working on the asteroid K4067, described him as "my best friend and constant companion." Marius had a dog on Earth, but weight requirements did not allow him to bring his real dog into space, so he built K9. (TV: The Invisible Enemy) He built K9 by using the latest technology. Marius used his own medical computer, a state-of-the-art intraresponsive brain app, protective anti-radiation cladding, probes, a laser scapel, a vision and voice box and two scanning antennas. He put these parts together and created K9. (PROSE: One Man and His Dog) According to one account, the Professor copied the remnants of one of the versions of K9 created by the Doctor and given to Sarah Jane Smith. (PROSE: Tautology)
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