The long history of everyone’s favorite endless English science fiction story includes some of the most beloved stories, as well as many questionable decisions. “Doctor Who” is approaching its sixtieth anniversary, and no show can live that long, keeping all the pieces of knowledge intact.
Many “Doctor Who” fans did not appear in the series until a series of reboots in the early 2000s. The fan base changed radically when David Tennant brought his unique charm to the role, and not all fans returned to check out decades of the series’ history. The episodes of the beloved TV series of the 60s and 70s hide endless worlds of strange solutions.
Anyone who is superficially familiar with the Doctor Who format understands that the mysterious Time Lord always travels with one or two ordinary people. Its satellites vary greatly in all parameters. Some of them are the franchise’s favorite products, while others are forgotten as quickly as they appear. The Fourth Doctor, still the longest-lived iteration of the character, has collected a whole list of companions over seven seasons. In the role of Tom Baker, Doctor #4 is most remembered for his distinctive colorful scarf and obsession with candy. Baker is considered one of the most recognizable and beloved incarnations of the character even today, forty years after his stay in the series ended. On Baker’s long journey, he met a stubborn journalist, a powerful alien warrior, a precocious teenage genius, a representative of his own species and, of course, a robot dog named K9.
There have been at least four iterations of robot dogs working under the name K9. The first was introduced in the 1977 TV series The Invisible Enemy. The initial model was developed by a professor named Marius, who discovered that he would not be able to take his beloved dog into space. Distraught and alone, he decided to build a cybernetic replacement that could also serve as a computer. The plot of the adventure shows that the Doctor confronts a swarm of hostile viral creatures who seek to make the Time Lord their master. K9 plays an important role in stopping Roy’s brutal attack, so Marius gives him to the Doctor as a new companion. This version of the Mark I character didn’t last long. He was intended to be short-lived, but the studio wanted him around because of his popularity among children. He canonically left the team after only four series, but he was replaced by an identical model.
The K9 Mark II lasted a little longer, lasting about three years before it was handed over to Dr. Romana’s companion, the Lady of Time. Both versions of the character offered the ability to shoot a laser beam, which proved useful in a variety of situations. Mark II added some level of additional perception, which allowed him to warn the Doctor about any danger. The Mark II was also nobler and generally more useful than the original. He gets an injury that makes him unable to continue traveling with the Doctor, which leads to his peaceful retirement on the Doctor’s home planet Gallifrey. Some extraneous material outside the show depicts him alongside Romana as she takes over the planet.
The third iteration of K9 first appeared in 1981, in the first of two attempts to turn a robot dog into an individual property. The spin-off K-9 and Company did not receive a series order after its pilot, leaving the rest of the Mark III journey to comics and audio performances. The spin-off was supposed to concern K9’s travels with the former companion of the 4th Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith. The duo appeared together in a special edition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series, before the last appearance of Mark III in 2006. The first K9 unit also got a chance to become a by-product of fame with the 2009 K9 series. This show combined live action and computer graphics and lasted only 25 episodes longer than the first attempt. Interestingly, the series was not officially allowed to use the iconography of Doctor Who. This has made it difficult to work legally, so the show is forced to balance between referring to K9’s past and avoiding legal issues.
The fourth and final version of K9 first appeared in 2006, shortly after David Tennant became a character. He then joined the more successful Sarah Jane spin-off, appearing several times with a companion who often shared the spotlight with him. Behind the scenes, K9’s appearance in Doctor Who was always accompanied by problems. The creators of the original 1977 series claimed the rights to the character, which led to the failure of the 1981 spin-off. Numerous new looks at the character were dark attempts to circumvent the creator’s ownership. It was always difficult, but by the end of the 2000s, the creators and the studio made a deal, which led to a more consistent appearance.
K9 was a strange phase for a franchise that modern incarnations like to revisit from time to time. On the small screen, K9 was just a random ally that appeared on special occasions.