Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

An Auton
An Auton
 Name: Autons, traditionally controlled by the Nestene Consciousness

 Format: Television show, Book and Audio

 Time of Origin: Originally inhabited the planet Polymos; it has also been stated that they possess ‘feeding planets’; initially attacked Earth in 1970, returning in 1971, 1989, 2005 and 2013, attacked a distant Earth colony eight thousand years in the future.

 Appearances: "Spearhead From Space", "Terror of the Autons", "Forty 2 - The Auton Infinity", "Synthespians TM", "Business Unusual", "Brave New Town", "Rose", "Autonomy", "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" and "A Little Help From My Friends"; made indirect appearances - in the form of a duo of twin assassins assassins augmented with Auton technology - in "The Scales of Injustice" and "Instruments of Darkness".

 Doctors: Third Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Eighth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and Thirteenth Doctor.

 Companions: The Brigadier, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Tegan Jovanka, Turlough, Kamelion, Peri Brown, Mel Bush, Lucie Miller, Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith Martha Jones, Amy Pond, Graham O'Brien, Yasmin Kahn and Ryan Sinclair; Evelyn Smythe and Jeremy Fitzoliver encountered assassins augmented with Auton technology and Rory Williams has the memories of an Auton duplicate of himself who lived for over two thousand years.

 History: Strictly speaking, the Autons themselves are not The Doctor’s enemy, serving merely as agents of their true master the Nestene Consciousness, a being that has supposedly existed since the Dark Times at the beginning of the universe, inhabiting the planet Polymos and allegedly the offspring of Shub-Niggurath, one of the Great Old Ones (Beings from the universe prior to this one). However, since the Consciousness itself rarely takes direct action, with its Auton agents being its mean weapons, it is easier to think of the Autons as being The Doctor’s actual enemies rather than the Autons. The Autons themselves are dummies of living plastic, empowered by the Consciousness to possess at least some degree of independent thought and motion, with some Autons demonstrating such a high level of sophistication that they can be easily mistaken for human beings. All humanoid Autons possess inbuilt weaponry in the form of guns mounted in their hands, although more modern Autons have been able to alter their plastic structures to form basic physical weapons such as hammers to use in a fight, and the Consciousness has regularly displayed the ability to manipulate other forms of plastic to use against its enemies.

Video (DVD) - Spearhead From Space
Spearhead From Space
 The Autons’ first appearance in the show was particularly significant as it marked the beginning of the Third Doctor’s era, as well as his employment by UNIT as scientific advisor and his exile to Earth following his capture by the Time Lords. Seeking The Doctor’s aid to investigate recent meteor showers - after The Doctor’s new regeneration had stabilised and The Brigadier had been convinced of his true identity - The Brigadier and The Doctor discovered a unique plastic compound present at the meteor crash sites, subsequently tracking that plastic to a nearby factory. Developing an electroshock device that could paralyse the Autons as the Nestene invasion began in earnest, The Doctor and his new assistant Liz Shaw infiltrated the factory to confront the Consciousness itself - now manifested in the form of a massive octopus-like creature - Liz using the device to neutralize the Consciousness while The Doctor struggled with it, the destruction of the Consciousness’s physical form causing the Autons to shut down.

  While investigating the presence of a new Silurian colony ("The Scales of Injustice"), The Doctor and UNIT also discovered the existence of Department C-19, a renegade government branch run by Townsend, a former employee of International Electromatics ("The Invasion") who had acquired a cybernetic body and now sought to use alien technology salvaged by UNIT department C-19 to rule the world. Although he attempted to capture a live Silurian with the aid of assassins Ciara and Cellian - known as the ‘Irish Twins’ and augmented with Auton technology - his plans were defeated when The Doctor was able to make peaceful contact with the Silurians, his subsequent attempt to capture The Doctor being thwarted when Captain Mike Yates infiltrated his organisation and posed as a guard to save The Doctor. Despite his defeat here, Townsend and the Irish Twins managed to escape, albeit with most of their alien technology left behind.

Video - Terror of the Autons
Terror of the Autons
 During their return to the show, the Autons again served as secondary figures to a more dominant plot, their second storyline featuring the televised debut of the man who would become The Doctor’s greatest enemy, the renegade Time Lord known as The Master. Having escaped the black hole to which he had been banished following his encounter with the Second Doctor ("The Dark Path"), The Master had tracked The Doctor to Earth, where he stole a Nestene sphere that had been kept in the National Space Museum and used it to draw the Nestene Consciousness back to Earth, subsequently establishing a base in a toy factory that he could use to create more Autons. As well as the traditional humanoid Autons, The Master also expanded his resources to include a wide range of other plastic items, ranging from a plastic chair that suffocated anyone who sat in it to plastic daffodils that fired a thin film over a person’s mouth and nose, causing them to suffocate while the film dissolved to leave no sign of the cause of death. Despite his alliance with the Autons at first, The Doctor was able to convince him at the last minute, as The Master was preparing to transmit a radio frequency that would enable the Consciousness to reach Earth, that the Nestenes wouldn’t honour any deals they made with him when they got there, convincing The Master to work with The Doctor to send the Consciousness away from Earth, although he was then able to make his escape.

Even after the failure of his first alliance, The Master made another attempt to work with the Autons when he was banished into the Death Zone by Rassilon ("The Five Doctors"), which led to him encountering a lone Auton that had been separated from the Consciousness. With this Auton having formed its own identity from being left alone, The Master was able to manipulate it after he acquired a primitive time machine known as a vortex driller from the Death Zone, the driller creating portals across the Vortex. Adopting the name ‘Prodigal’, the Auton decided to try and seek out the original Nestene Consciousness, believing that the Old One that became the modern Nestenes had originally dwelt in the Time Vortex before it became fractured across time and space. The Master claimed that he would help Prodigal find the first consciousness and use the driller to create time corridors he could use himself, but first he had to lure in The Doctor to ‘assist’ them as the vortex driller required a Gallifreyan mind to pilot it and The Master naturally wasn’t interested in doing it as the strain would drive the pilots mad. Disguising himself as The Brigadier, The Master was able to infiltrate a UNIT training exercise, Prodigal using masks to take control of UNIT soldiers and create a semi-public spectacle that would attract The Doctor’s attention. The plan was a success and The Master was able to capture The Doctor, Tegan Jovanka, Turlough and the true Brigadier, but his scheme encountered an unconventional flaw when an Auton duplicate of The Doctor created by The Master as a sick joke was possessed by an apparent past version of the Fifth Doctor from early in his life, this Doctor having already inhabited older versions of his current self during a return trip to Telos ("Forty - Secrets of Telos") and a confrontation with the Ice Warriors in the Viking era ("Forty - God of War").

Audio - Forty 2

Forty 2 - The Auton Infinity
(Tim Foley)

This ‘new’ Doctor in the Auton body was able to release the captive Brigadier, Tegan and Turlough (the blank body had been left in The Brigadier’s cell with the intent that The Brigadier would think the real Doctor was dead) and help them explore the vortex driller, which included rescuing the true Fifth Doctor, although Tegan was left behind during their escape. While Tegan encouraged Prodigal to embrace her individuality and oppose The Master, The Master tried to use The Doctor-possessed Auton as a substitute pilot for the driller, but his Auton body was unable to cope with the strain and the driller tore a hole in the vortex, sending it into orbit of Saturn in the thirty-sixth century and drawing in the original Nestene consciousness. As an entity of the previous universe, the consciousness had been driven mad by the strain of existing in the time vortex of this universe, and giving it access to the driller - already telepathically receptive given its origin as Gallifreyian technology - could increase its powers considerably, to the extent that it could develop the power of independent time travel. Although The Doctor’s TARDIS had been temporarily separated from its interior when The Master used it to create a time bridge from Earth to the vortex driller, the consciousness of the displaced Fifth Doctor was transferred into the displaced interior of The Doctor’s TARDIS after his Auton body collapsed. With the aid of Kamelion (The King's Demons"), who had still been inside the ship when it was displaced, the younger Doctor was able to contact his other self after the older Doctor used The Master’s TARDIS to track the vortex driller to Saturn. Using the displaced Doctor’s previous trips to Telos and Iceland, the two Doctors were able to essentially create a limited time scoop by mapping those three points to create a new rift, displacing the vortex driller and the original Nextene consciousness back into the Vortex (this caused the accident that sent the copy of the Fifth’s consciousness shifting through time in the first place, the ‘true’ Fifth Doctor observing the paradox that he was only solving this crisis through information he gained by it).

Book - Synthespians TM
Synthespians TM
(Craig Hinton)
The Sixth Doctor’s first encounter with the Autons was particularly interesting as it marked the first occasion where he didn’t face Autons on contemporary Earth, instead encountering them on Reef Station One, a space station of the New Earth Republic eight thousand years in Peri’s future. While investigating with the aid of washed-out actor Marcus ‘Marc’ Brooks, The Doctor discovered that the Synthespasians - plastic automata who began as TV extras and now did the menial jobs for the stations - were actually Autons. Having discovered that Consciousness was working with Walter J Matheson, the most powerful businessman in the Republic - who sought to trigger a war by sacrificing the Republic to the Consciousness and calling in the Galactic Union afterwards as he felt it would provide him with a new market - The Doctor was forced to repair Matheson’s equipment to save his friends. However, Matheson left The Doctor to be guarded by an Auton Replica of Marc, and since the Replica was so advanced - as it had been required to deceive The Doctor it had been far more human than normal - The Doctor was able to convince the Replica to help him to gain revenge on the people who had ruined the original Marc’s career, sending the Replica to sever the link between the Replica who Matheson had selected to host the Consciousness and its template, in the form of Dominique Delacroix, the producer of Marc’s old soap. As a result of the link being severed just as the Nestene Consciousness was transferred into the Replica, the Replica froze up, being left stuck in a permanent loop as it repeated old lines from the soap over and over.

Book - Business Unusual
Business Unusual
(Gary Russell)
 In keeping with the Auton tradition of playing the role of the monster in a plot that would have a significant impact on The Doctor’s long-term life, the Sixth Doctor’s next encounter with the Autons ("Business Unusual") occurred during The Doctor’s first meeting with his future companion Mel (The Doctor already knowing that Mel would travel with him due to his use of information from his own future while on trial by the Time Lords, leaving The Doctor reluctant to meet Mel as he saw her as a sign that he was taking steps towards becoming the Valeyard). Despite his attempts to avoid her, The Doctor was forced to recruit Mel’s assistance when her friend Trey Korte’s latent telepathic powers were activated due to his proximity to the TARDIS and he was subsequently abducted by the mysterious SeneNet company, run by Townsend, the former head of the Vault, still using the Irish Twins as his bodyguards. When Mel’s boss at Brighton Information Technologies was killed and subsequently replaced by an Auton after he refused to install specific programming into SeneNet’s new game systems, the Irish Twins abducted Trey, shortly before The Doctor learned that The Brigadier had gone missing when he was called out of retirement to investigate strange goings-on at SeneNet.

 Learning that Nestenes intended to use the new games consoles to transfer themselves onto Earth and then into the minds of everyone on the planet with the aid of Trey’s psychic abilities - although Townsend believed that he controlled the Nestene spheres and could use them in conjunction with Trey’s powers to send his mind into a new body as his current one began to break down - The Doctor was able to reprogram a mobile phone to generate a jamming signal that disrupted the Autons enough to cause them to accidentally damage a wall, releasing water from the pipes behind the wall and triggering a fire when they came in contact with electrical cables that destroyed Townsend and his machinery. The Irish Twins, meanwhile, fled from Townsend after Cellian was badly injured by one of the Nestene’s old experiments and Ciara realised she felt no concern about her brother, prompting her to reject her past as the two departed to seek atonement, eventually helping The Doctor stop a powerful psychic being called the Cylox from using his old companion Jeremy Fitzoliver - now the mysterious John Doe - to gather a group of human psychics together to destroy Earth in 1993 ("Instruments of Darkness").

Audio - Brave New Town
Brave New Town
(Jonathan Clements)
 The Eighth Doctor had a particularly interesting encounter with the Autons during the events of "Brave New Town", made even more significant as, on this occasion, the Autons were not controlled by the Nestene Consciousness but were operating independently, having been created as part of a Russian military project based on salvaged Nestene technology by setting up the Auton-inhabited village of Thorington in Uzbekistan near a former training school for spies. Unfortunately, the experiment was technically ended on 1 September 1991 when Uzbekistan left the Soviet Union, cutting off power to the village and leaving the Autons with nothing to do but repeat their original instructions over and over. This status quo continued for seventeen years until the base that was formerly used to monitor the facility was re-discovered and most of its contents cleared out, including a Nestene sphere, allowing the sphere to transmit its signal once again after being shielded by the lead in the walls of the bunker. After arriving in the town while attempting to take a trip to the beach, The Doctor and current companion Lucie Miller eventually realised what was happening after Lucie was captured by the village’s supervisors in the belief that she was a spy, The Doctor subsequently finding the Nestene sphere and deactivating it, leaving the now-independent Autons free to make their own lives.

Book - Rose
(Russell T Davies)
 In their latest appearance, the Autons again played a secondary in an episode that marked the dawn of a new era for the series, being the first monsters to be faced on-screen by the Ninth Doctor as Doctor Who returned to our screens on a full-time basis. Initially appearing when department store assistant Rose Tyler travelled into the basement looking for one of her colleagues, she was subsequently cornered by a mass of Autons, only just managing to escape after being rescued by the Ninth Doctor, who proceeded to destroy the department store - and the Autons inside it - before escaping himself. As Rose searched for further information about The Doctor, her boyfriend Mickey was abducted and replaced by an Auton copy, the Autons seeking further information about The Doctor after Rose’s contact with him. Fortunately, The Doctor was able to rescue Rose, subsequently using the copy to track the Nestene Consciousness to underneath the London Eye, which it was planning to use as a transmitter to active its Auton army. Revealing that the Consciousness sought to claim Earth as a new home after its original food planets were destroyed in ‘the war’ - later revealed to be the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks that had rendered both species all but extinct - The Doctor attempted to convince the Nestene Consciousness - now far larger than before, having apparently mutated as a result of exposure to the temporal stresses caused by the Time War - to leave Earth peacefully, but when the Consciousness rejected his offer, Rose was forced to use a phial of ‘anti-plastic’ The Doctor had brought with him to destroy the Consciousness, she, Mickey and The Doctor only just managing to escape in the TARDIS before the Consciousness was destroyed.

Book - Autonomy
(Daniel Blythe)
 The Doctor met the Autons once again in his tenth incarnation, when he arrived in the shopping centre Hyperville in the year 2013. When she was a young girl, Elizabeth Devonshire, one of Hypervile’s managers, had discovered a Nestene sphere after the failure of their original invasion, the sphere subsequently using her as an agent to gather power for the manifestation of the Nestene Consciousness that had been weakened by the Third Doctor during his first confrontation with it, using Hyperville as a ‘factory’ for Autons until The Doctor arrive. Realising that the Nestenes had created original Autons and sent them out to live their own identities - including footballer Paul Kendrick and pop star Shaneeqi - to create additional sleeper agents for their next invasion, The Doctor was able to convince these ‘autonomous’ Autons to rebel against their Nestene programming, buying him time to develop a new phial of anti-plastic while also reprogramming the mobile phones of his allies to generate a signal that could disrupt the Nestene Consciousness. As a result of this signal, the Consciousness on Earth was destroyed, leaving the Nestene spheres that it had been drawing to Earth to crash into the moon as they lost control of themselves.

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
The Eleventh Doctor faced the Autons when they joined forces with his other enemies in a vast Alliance to trap him in the Pandorica - a legendary prison that had been spoken of in myth, created specifically to hold The Doctor - after they became convinced that he would be responsible for a temporal explosion that triggered the creation of cracks in the universe after the TARDIS exploded, unaware that the explosion had already taken place when his future companion River Song was piloting the ship. The Autons played a particularly prominent role in the Alliance, getting close to The Doctor by creating near-perfect duplicates of Roman soldiers based on a memory imprint from The Doctor’s companion Amy Pond, one Auton even being a perfect duplicate of Amy’s deceased fiancé Rory Williams ("The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood"), who was so like the original that he actually tried to overcome his Auton programming to stop himself from attacking Amy, although he still shot her. After confirming that the Rory-duplicate was essentially the ‘true’ Rory in terms of his memories and personality, The Doctor was able to restore Amy to life by sealing her in the Pandorica in his place, the last dregs of her life proving enough for the Pandorica to revive her when it came in contact with her past self (As the ultimate prison, it was impossible to even escape the Pandorica by dying, the prison keeping Amy ‘alive’ on some level until it was able to use her past self’s DNA as a base code to restore her to life), leaving her with a psychic ‘message’ to explain the situation. While The Doctor travelled forward in time with River Song’s vortex manipulator, the Rory duplicate stayed behind to guard the Pandorica to ensure Amy’s safety, becoming the legendary ‘Centurion’ who guarded the Pandorica over the centuries to warn against opening it ahead of time, culminating in him acting as a security guard in the present while the Pandorica resided in the Natural History Museum in London. With The Doctor having taken the Pandorica into the TARDIS explosion, using the TARDIS itself as a power source to transmit the remaining atoms of the true universe stored within the Pandorica across all of time and space in a second explosion that restored the history of the universe, the Alliance was erased and history restored, resulting in Rory existing once again as a human, although he appeared to retain the memories of the life of his Auton counterpart.

The Autons played an important role in the plans of renegade ex-companion Adam Mitchell ("Dalek" and "The Long Game") when he attempted to get revenge on The Doctor for 'abandoning' him ("Prisoners of Time"). Allied with The Master, Adam not only used Autons as staff for an asylum where they attempted to trap the Sixth Doctor, but Adam also kept a small army of Autons available in his base to serve as a security force, releasing them when the Eleventh Doctor summoned his other ten selves to assist him the War Doctor ("The Day of The Doctor") was absent, but this can be attributed to him only existing in the time-locked Time War, the lack of recorded evidence of his existence outside of the War, and/or the fact that he had no companions in this body for Adam to abduct). Despite the large number of Autons arrayed against them, The Doctors quickly gained the upper hand when Frobisher - who had escaped captivity by posing as Peri - released his fellow companions from captivity, the combined forces of all eleven Doctors and their assorted companions proving to be more than enough to hold off the Autons long enough to convince Adam to turn against The Master.

Comic - Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor
A Little Help From My Friends
The Eleventh Doctor faced the Autons once again during his self-imposed exile to Trenzalore, when The Doctor discovered that Trenzalore was the location of a crack in reality that would allow the Time Lords to return to this universe, leaving him trapped on Trenzalore as various races wanted the planet destroyed to prevent the return of the Time Lords - and thus potentially start the Time War all over again - but couldn't force The Doctor to leave in case he spoke his name and released them ("The Time of The Doctor"). Travelling down to Trenzalore using parachutes, a small group of five Autons were dispatched to kill The Doctor, each one modelled after the Eleventh Doctor to increase the psychological impact of their presence. Despite this, The Doctor was able to defeat them by luring the Autons onto the Lifeboat - a large boat on wheels used to transport goods and services around the country - and detonating a basic explosive, the explosion damaging most of the Autons before the boat itself crashed into a frozen lake and sank, the surviving Auton being kicked back into the lake by The Doctor when it tried to attack him after walking across the bottom of the near-frozen lake ("Strangers in the Outland").

Interestingly enough, The Doctor's next encounter with the Autons technically occurred twice, when the Thirteenth Doctor's TARDIS was drawn to London in 1969 to investigate a temporal paradox ("A Little Help From My Friends") at the same time as the Tenth Doctor was trapped there ("Blink"). Realising that the Weeping Angels were also in London, the two Doctors were able to track the Nestene Consciousness to the same underground chamber it had used during the Ninth Doctor's confrontation with it. The Consciousness was subsequently banished when a Weeping Angel attacked it, disabling the Autons active in London, while the two Doctors used the Thirteenth's TARDIS to trap the Angels in the heart of a sun (although displacing the Consciousness briefly created an alternate timeline where the Skithra and the Sea Devils conquered Earth before the two Doctors could set history back on track ("Alternate Current")).
Auton Pod
Auton Pod
Auton Hand Weapon
Auton Hand Weapon
Deadly Auton Doll
Deadly Auton Doll
Autons Coming Alive
Autons Coming Alive
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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