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K-9, or K9, is the name of several fictional robotic dogs in the long-running Britishmarker science fiction television series, Doctor Who, and its spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. There have been at least four separate K-9 units in the series, with the first two being companions of the Fourth Doctor. Voice actor John Leeson has provided the character's voice in most of his appearances, except during Season 17, when David Brierley temporarily provided the voice. K-9's most recent appearance was in the episode "The Gift", episode 12 of series 3 of the Sarah Jane Adventures. All four of the K9 models have the same catchphrase which is "Affirmative".

A new television series starring K-9, K-9, is currently in development and is planned to air in 2010. John Leeson will once again provide the character's voice.

Fictional character biography

Debuting in the 1977 serial The Invisible Enemy, the first K-9 was the creation of Professor Marius, a scientist working for the Bi-Al Foundation in the Centre for Alien Biomorphology on the asteroid K4067 near Titan in the year 5000 . A mobile computer, K-9 was constructed in the shape of a dog as a substitute for the one Marius had left back on Earth. Highly intelligent, with an extensive database and equipped with sophisticated sensors as well as a laser weapon built into his nose, K-9 was instrumental in helping the Fourth Doctor and Leela defeat a sentient virus. At the end of The Invisible Enemy, Marius asks the Doctor to take K-9 with him, seeing him go with the final lines "I only hope he's TARDIS trained."

All the K-9s referred to whoever owned them as "Master" or "Mistress" depending on their gender. The units were programmed to be both loyal and logical, with a penchant for taking orders literally, almost to a fault. The Fourth Doctor would often use a glib remark to disarm those who were surprised by K-9's appearance; in The Stones of Blood he said, "They're all the rage in Trenton, New Jerseymarker." The Tenth Doctor defended its less-than-streamlined design (" disco!") to Rose Tyler, remarking that it was cutting edge in the year 5000.


To date, four different versions of K-9 have appeared in the series:

K-9 Mark I

K-9 Mark I traveled with the Fourth Doctor and Leela from The Invisible Enemy until The Invasion of Time, when he decided to stay on Gallifrey with Leela, who had elected to remain behind on the Time Lord home world. This K-9 is the star of the 2009 K-9 television series, in which he undergoes a sort of "regeneration" process from which a new, more sophisticated and futuristic K-9 emerges.

K-9 Mark II

After he left K-9 Mark I with Leela, the Fourth Doctor produced a box labeled "K-9 Mark II" once he was back inside the TARDIS. K-9 Mark II was more mobile than his predecessor, and exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He was with the Fourth Doctor and Romana when they were shunted into the parallel universe of E-Space, and was severely damaged by time winds during the events of Warriors' Gate. The damage was such that K-9 could only function in E-Space, and when Romana decided to stay and forge her own path, the Doctor gave K-9 to her. Due to a bout of laryngitis — which the Fourth Doctor was baffled as to how the robotic dog could have contracted — the voice of K-9 Mark II changes around the time of Romana's regeneration, only to revert some time later (in reality, this was due to voice actor Leeson temporarily leaving the series at the start of the 1979–80 season and being replaced by Brierley; Leeson returned for the 1980–81 season).

K-9 Mark III

K-9 Mark III was a gift from the Doctor to Sarah Jane Smith, and first appeared with her in the pilot episode of the aborted spin-off series K-9 and Company as well as a brief cameo appearance in the 20th anniversary ninety-minute special The Five Doctors and the revived series' episode "School Reunion". In the original outline to K-9 and Company, it would have been eventually revealed that K-9 Mark III was actually sent by and under the control of the Master, but this element never made it to the screen and was abandoned in K-9's later appearances.

K-9 was packaged in a crate by the Doctor in 1978 and sent to Sarah Jane at her aunt Lavina Smith's home in South Croydonmarker where he waited for nearly three years in the attic before being shipped to Lavinia's new country mannor with the rest of the household furnishings. A few months later, in December 1981, Sarah Jane arrived for a long-delayed visit and opened the crate, activating K-9.

By 1983, he resided with Sarah Jane in London behind a fence marked "beware of dog". K-9 Mark III's final appearance was in the second series of the new Doctor Who with David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, alongside Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith in the episode "School Reunion". In that episode, K-9 appears more run-down and worn, echoing Sarah's inability to repair him in the spin-off stories (see below). Sarah Jane notes that she could not take him for repair and, one day, "he simply stopped". He prompts Mickey Smith to reevaluate his role with the Doctor and Rose Tyler, feeling himself being treated as "a metal dog". K-9 Mark III died heroically, sacrificing himself by using the last of his energy reserves to set off an explosion.

K-9 Mark IV

K-9 Mark IV was a parting gift to Sarah Jane Smith from the Doctor, appearing briefly at the end of "School Reunion". He stated that the Doctor "rebuilt" him after the Mark III's sacrifice, implying that he had the same mind as the Mark III, but also confirmed he was a "brand new model", hence having a new model number. Though merchandise refers to this model as the "Mark III," close-ups of K-9's safe in the Sarah Jane Adventures lists it as the Mark IV. According to the official website for The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Doctor stored several presents for Sarah inside K-9, including a "sonic lipstick" and her watch that scans for alien life; in Enemy of the Bane, she reveals having received more than one sonic lipstick.

His systems were improved over those of his predecessor, including "omniflexible hyperlink facilities" and the ability to teleport. Additionally, whereas Sarah Jane had to lift K-9 Mark III into and out of her car, K-9 Mark IV has a hover mode which enables him to exit cars and negotiate the stairs in the Smiths' 3-storey house.

In "Invasion of the Bane", the pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9 Mark IV is shown sealing off an artificially created black hole, having been at work on the project since shortly after he was given to Sarah Jane. The real-world purpose of this was to remove K-9 from subsequent episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, because of the concurrent development of K-9 about the regenerated K-9 Mark I.

K-9 returns from the black hole momentarilly in the series 1 finale, The Lost Boy, to assist Sarah Jane against a rogue Mr Smith. He is again summoned briefly in the Doctor Who series four series final "Journey's End", linking up with Mr Smith to input the TARDIS' base codes, which would allow the Doctor to return Earth to its proper position. K-9 also appears in "From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love", a sketch for Comic Relief featuring the cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures and comedian Ronnie Corbett.

Despite the launch of K-9 Mark I's concurrent series, K-9 Mark IV returns to the Smith household in the series 3 story The Mad Woman in the Attic, when the black hole is utilised as a powersource for a spaceship, freeing K-9 from the job. When the Trickster causes Sarah Jane to become engaged to a would-be dead solicitor, Sarah Jane fears scaring the man away, deactivates Mr Smith, and gives K-9 Mark IV to Clyde Langer. Apart from this temporary transfer, he has been with the Smith family since. Mr Smith finds K-9 annoying and, rather than inform Sarah Jane when Clyde surreptitiously borrows him to cheat on a school test, thanks the boy for taking him.

Conceptual history

K-9 was the brainchild of writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Its purpose was to have a character that could narrate while the miniaturised clones of the Doctor and Leela were inside the Doctor's body during the events of The Invisible Enemy. Martin's own dog had also been recently run over by a car, and K-9 was a car-proof tribute to it.

K-9 was not originally intended to be a companion, but producer Graham Williams liked the concept so much that the decision was made to retain him as a regular character. The original name for the character was "FIDO" — apparently from "Phenomenal Indication Data Observation" unit — but it was eventually named K-9 .

The initial idea for realising K-9 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 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, K-9 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 K-9 on Brighton Beach), or laying wooden planks on which it could roll.

K-9 Mark III as he appeared in the 2006 series, showing wear and tear.
K-9's innards were redesigned twice more over the course of the series, firstly in collaboration with a company called Slough Radio Control. It allowed one of its employees, Nigel Brackley, to be seconded to the series semi-permanently to supervise the prop. Brackley, who has since gone on to a career in the movie industry, controlled K-9 for many of its studio appearances. Eventually, there came a point where the dog's inherent liabilities were outweighing his assets, and the internal mechanisms were completely rebuilt by designer Charlie Lumm. The wheels were enlarged and given independent drives for power and better manoeuvrability, and the radio controls were switched from the AM to the FM band to resist interference. However, by the time the improved model made his debut in State of Decay, the first story recorded for Season 18, the decision had already been made to write the character out of the series in the adventure Warriors' Gate.

K-9 was a popular enough character to warrant an attempt to spin him off into his own series, as mentioned above. In addition to K-9 dolls, there were also talking K-9 toys produced by Palitoy, the speech provided by a miniature record inside the body of the toy. John Leeson provided the voice for K-9 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.

The practical challenges of working with the K-9 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 when he bumped into a door or veered off to the left. Lis Sladen did warn us, and she was right!" 2009 will see two different incarnations of K-9 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 K-9.

Other appearances

Popular culture

In 1990, an unspecified K-9 unit appeared with Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace in an episode of the children's education programme Search Out Science entitled Search Out Space, which was included as an extra on the release of the Doctor Who story Survival by the BBC. Another unspecified K-9 unit also appeared in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time.

A modern day K9 Doctor Who toy.

In the 1998 computer game Fallout 2, the Navarro base has a damaged robot dog known as K-9, which uses similar speech mannerisms to the Doctor Who character. If repaired, the cyberdog is willing to join the character's party as a companion.

In the 1999 television series Queer as Folk (written by future Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies), a K-9 model is given to the character Vince as a birthday present. The prop used was an original, operated — as occasionally in Doctor Who — by visual effects assistant Mat Irvine.

In the South Park episode "Go God Go XII", Eric Cartman, being trapped in the year 2546, has acquired a robot dog called "K-10", a parody of K-9. Due to timeline alterations, he is replaced by robot cat "Kit-9" and later robot bird, "Cocka-3".

Engineers at NASAmarker's Ames Research Centermarker have dubbed two intelligent mobile robots designed to explore the surface of Mars "K-9" and "Gromit". NASA's K-9 is named after both Doctor Who's K-9 and Marvin the Martian's pet dog.

In the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, the character of Alan Partridge recalls how his purchase of the rights to K-9 assisted in him mentally breaking down and driving to Dundeemarker in his bare feet while gorging on Toblerone.

K-9 appeared on a 2007 Doctor Who special edition of The Weakest Link, but was voted out unanimously at the end of the first round, despite answering all of his questions correctly. Anne Robinson (whom K-9 addressed as "Mistress") said "I'm so sorry" before declaring him the weakest link. This was reportedly set up by the programmes's producers to minimise any risk of the recording being disrupted by a breakdown in the K-9 prop.

Audio plays

In the spin-off media, K-9 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 K-9 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.

When Romana eventually returned to her own universe, she brought K-9 Mark II with her (presumably having repaired it) and eventually became Lady President of Gallifrey. K-9 Mark II is first seen on Gallifrey in the Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow by Marc Platt, alongside K-9 Mark I, which had remained with Leela. Both K-9 Mark I and Mark II appear, voiced by Leeson, in the Big Finish Productions audio adventure Zagreus and the Gallifrey audio series. Leela's K-9 (Mark I) was destroyed at the conclusion of the second Gallifrey series and only Mark II appears in the third series.


In 2003, a webcast adaptation of the never-completed Shada serial was produced for the BBC's Doctor Who website, rewritten as an Eighth Doctor adventure and featuring the post-E-Space versions of Romana II and K-9 Mk II.

Novels and short stories

K-9's co-creator Dave Martin wrote a series of four children's books entitled The Adventures of K9, published by Sparrow Books in 1980. K-9 is travelling on his own in these stories for reasons not explained.

In 1985, a series of gamebooks featuring the Sixth Doctor were published by Severn House under the title Make your own adventure with Doctor Who in Britain and Find Your Fate — Doctor Who in the United States. These books were actually written by scriptwriters for the television series. Martin wrote Search for the Doctor which takes place in the mid-21st century and features K-9 Mark III being reunited with the Sixth Doctor long after Sarah's death.

A short story, Moving On, in Virgin Publishing's Decalog 3: Consequences anthology and the Big Finish Productions-produced Sarah Jane Smith audio play Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (both written by Peter Anghelides) indicate that K-9 Mark III broke down and Sarah was unable to repair it as the replacement circuits would not be invented for several centuries.

Another short story, Tautology, by Glenn Langford (Doctor Who Magazine #194), suggests that K-9 Mark III's motherboard will be passed down through Sarah's descendants and eventually end up in the hands of Professor Marius, who will use it to build the first K-9, creating an ontological paradox.

Jealous, Possessive by Paul Magrs, the "Scorpio" story in Big Finish's anthology Short Trips: Zodiac features K-9 Mark I and Mark II relaying their exploits to each other, and their veiled put-downs to each other reveal that each considers the other to be the "inferior" version. This attitude is also occasionally hinted at in the way the two units refer to each other in the Gallifrey audio series.

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, K-9 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 K-9 on a secret mission to Espero, presumably to seek out his former companion, the living TARDIS known as Compassion.

K-9 (TV show)

A proposed K-9 television series or special had been rumoured since the late 1990s, and images of a redesigned K9 were leaked. However, nothing came of this effort until 2006.

On April 24 2006 The Independent, the Daily Star and The Times confirmed, following previous rumours, that K-9 would be featured in a 26-part children's series, K-9, to be written by Bob Baker. The article in The Times also featured a picture of the redesigned K-9 for the animated series. The series will be a blend of live-action and a CGI K-9.

Each episode will be 30 minutes long, made by Jetix Europe and London-based distribution outfit Park Entertainment. According to a report in Broadcast magazine, the BBC opted out of involvement in order to focus on their own Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, meaning that BBC-owned characters are unlikely to appear in the series. A broadcast date for the series has not been officially announced, but a 2009 debut is planned.

Other mentions

K-9 is mentioned by the 5th Doctor in Castrovalva and Kinda. A vision of K-9 is seen along with every other companion aside from Leela on the scanner screen in Resurrection of the Daleks. K-9 is also seen calling out to the Doctor just before his regeneration in Logopolis.

List of appearances


Season 15
Season 16
Season 17
Season 18
K-9 and Company
20th anniversary special
30th anniversary special
Series 2
Series 4
The Sarah Jane Adventures

Audio dramas

  • K-9: The Choice
  • K-9: The Search

Big Finish Productions


Sparrow Books
  • K9 and the Time Trap by David Martin
  • K9 and the Beasts of Vega by David Martin
  • K9 and the Zeta Rescue by David Martin
  • K9 and the Missing Planet by David Martin

Severn House
  • Search for the Doctor by David Martin

Virgin Missing Adventures

Virgin New Adventures

Past Doctor Adventures

Eighth Doctor Adventures

Short stories


  • "Terror on Xaboi" by Paul Crompton (Doctor Who Annual 1980)
  • "The Weapon" by Paul Crompton (Doctor Who Annual 1980)
  • "Every Dog Has His Day" by Mel Powell (Doctor Who Annual 1981)
  • "Plague World" by Mel Powell (Doctor Who Annual 1982)
  • "K9's Finest Hour" by Steve Moore and Paul Neary (Doctor Who Weekly 12)
  • "Timeslip" by Dez Skinn and Paul Neary (Doctor Who Weekly 17–18)
  • "The Star Beast" by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Weekly 19–26)
  • "The Dogs of Doom" by John Wagner, Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Weekly 27–34)
  • "The Time Witch" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Weekly 35–38)
  • "Dragon's Claw" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Weekly 39–43, Doctor Who Monthly 44–45)
  • "The Collector" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Monthly 46)
  • "Dreamers of Death" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Monthly 47–48)
  • "The Touchdown on Deneb 7" by David Lloyd and Paul Neary (Doctor Who Monthly 48)
  • "The Life Bringer" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Monthly 49–50)
  • "War of the Words" by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons (Doctor Who Monthly 51)
  • "City of Devils" by Vincent Danks and Gary Russell (1992 Sarah-Jane Holiday Special)
  • "The Seventh Segment" by Gareth Roberts and Paul Peart (Doctor Who Magazine Summer Special 1995)


  1. [1], Geek Blips
  2. K-9 News, Outpost Gallifrey.
  3. Statement by K-9 to Sarah Jane Smith upon activation in "A Girl's Best Friend".
  4. Statement by Lavinia Smith in "A Girl's Best Friend"
  5. Lavinia is regarded as a newcomer in "A Girl's Best Friend".
  6. K-9's momentary appearance in "The Five Doctors" is an exterior scene where his and Sarah Jane's surroundings (including the sign) are shown.
  7. Mickey's grumblings in "School Reunion".
  8. K-9 and Company pilot episode, "A Girl's Best Friend".
  9. K-9 announces, "Activating stair-negotiation hover mode," in part 1 of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. Having opened the car door from within, announces, "Activating hover mode," in part 1 of The Gift.
  10. Statement by Sarah Jane to the children in "Invasion of the Bane".
  11. "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith"
  12. Part 1 of "The Gift".
  13. Leaked image

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