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)
The practical challenges of working with the K9 prop have accompanied the robotic pooch in his return to Doctor Who. Producer Russell T Davies told SFX magazine, "Yes, just as we expected, multiple takes [were required] when he bumped into a door or veered off to the left. Lis Sladen did warn us, and she was right!" 2009 saw two different incarnations of K9 appear regularly in two Doctor Who spin-offs: Mark IV in the third series of BBC production The Sarah Jane Adventures, and a re-vamped Mark I in the Park Entertainment production K9.
On 3 April 2010, the TV series K9 began broadcasting on the Australian Television Network Ten as part of a Saturday morning line-up of children's shows. John Leeson is the voice of K9. The first episode called "Regeneration" featured the earlier Mark I version of K9. The "older" K9 materializes in London in the future and in the midst of an incident where an alien species is threatening human lives. K9 sacrifices himself in order to save the humans, but one component survives that enables his self-regeneration into the new unit. The main human cast members include Robert Moloney as Professor Gryffen, Keegan Joyce as Starkey (K9's new "master"), and Daniel Webber as Darius. The first 14 episodes of K9 season 1 were broadcast mid-morning on Channel 5 in December 2010 with the remaining episodes scheduled for January 2011. Trailers for the series appeared on Channel 5 from early December voiced by John Leeson. Originally, it had been planned to split the series in two halves between the Christmas 2010 and Easter 2011 school holiday schedules.
K9 Mark 2 was the result of the activation of the Mark I's onboard regeneration unit. He had only very limited memories of his past as the Mark I. He had many adventures with Alistair Gryffen, Jorjie Turner, Darius Pike and his new master Starkey. (TV: Regeneration, The Bounty Hunter) Orthrus was an attempt by Drake and the Department to replicate K9, but it was of vastly inferior design. (TV: Jaws of Orthrus)
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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.