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The original K9 model was designed by visual effects designer Tony Harding. One early concept was to have a small actor in a large Doberman-shaped costume; however, Graham Williams vetoed this, saying that the robot should not look like a person in a costume. The eventual design was closely based on Harding's third concept sketch. (DCOM: The Invisible Enemy)
K9 stayed with Leela on Gallifrey for many years. It was only after the disappearance of her Time Lord husband, Andred, that Leela and her K9 met Romana II and her K9. The two K9s did not get on well and competed. (AUDIO: Weapon of Choice) After Leela became Romana's bodyguard and after many important missions on her behalf, Leela's K9 was destroyed by an exploding bomb. Leela was heartbroken, but refused to have a duplicate unit built. (AUDIO: Imperiatrix)
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During Romana's Presidency of Gallifrey, Leela became her bodyguard, and the two K9 units were forced to work together, not always amicably. After Matthias had replaced Romana as President, he nominated her to undertake a mission to find a cure for the Free Time virus, to be followed by exile. K9 opted to remain in the employ of Matthias, fighting the infection on Gallifrey. However, Braxiatel and K9 had planned another operation. Realising that the only cure to the virus was to end the regeneration capabilities of the Time Lords, Braxiatel used a Time Scoop to collect the Time Lord bio-data archive (along with K9). Romana was asked to decide whether to administer the cure or let Gallifrey die and rebuild it from scratch with the bio-data archive. (AUDIO: Gallifrey)
K9 Mark III was a gift from the Doctor to Sarah Jane Smith (TV: A Girl's Best Friend). This K9 was broken for many years, until he was repaired by the Tenth Doctor. This K9 also had a "maximum defence mode", as well as offensive capabilities, such as a nose-mounted laser gun. He sacrificed himself to save Deffry Vale High School from Krillitanes. (TV: School Reunion)
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.
He usually did not engage in computer-like literal thinking, though on one occasion he followed Romana's instructions to "forget it" to the letter and erased all knowledge of tennis from his memory banks. (TV: The Stones of Blood) In another he took Romana's exclamation "Blast it!" as a command, and fired his blaster. (TV: Shada, WC: Shada, AUDIO: Shada, PROSE: Shada). Despite this, he occasionally showed a sense of humour, jokingly answering the question "What do you eat?" with "Ball bearings" (AUDIO: The Beast of Kravenos).
The Virgin New Adventures seventh Doctor novel Lungbarrow (written by former Doctor TV series writer Marc Platt) featured K9s Marks I and II meeting for the first time on Gallifrey during the events surrounding the disappearance of the Doctor's entire family house and his living relatives, which also featured many previous established Gallifreyan based characters. The two collaborated towards rescuing the Doctor, then current companion Chris Cwej and the Doctor's lost family. This novel also served as the direct lead-in story to the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie.