K9 was a popular enough character to warrant an attempt to spin him off into his own series. In addition to K9 dolls, there were also talking K9 toys produced by Palitoy, the speech provided by a miniature record inside the body of the toy. John Leeson provided the voice for K9 in all its appearances, except for Season 17 (which included the unfinished Shada) when it was voiced by David Brierley. When Shada was remade by Big Finish Productions, Leeson provided its voice.
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.