In 1970, The Doctor changed. But not only that, a new terror stalked the high streets and shopping centres of Britain… Something that would make shopping a more frightening experience than it already was. Plastic mannequins with weapons concealed within poorly-manufactured hands… The Autons.
Autons are basically deadly shop window dummies brought to life by the Nestene Consciousness – one of the oldest beings in the universe, a disembodied alien life-form, which created the form of a large, be-tentacled cuttlefish after invading the earth using hollow plastic meteorites. The control of their plastic warriors was generally done through an advance form of short wave radio signal.
During the first invasion attempt, the Nestene Consciousness stuck to their simple initial 2 ranges: The Basic (Which lived in shop windows and wandered around killing indiscriminately) and the Deluxe (more advanced and realistic human replicas, living in waxwork museums which were used to take the place of leaders and other important figures). Both were armed with the now-familiar weaponry – guns concealed in the hands of the Autons, which could only be activated when the fingers dropped down.
Their first invasion attempt failed when UNIT attacked the plastics factory the Nestene Consciousness was hiding in, but as the soldiers discovered that the Autons were impervious to traditional bullets, it was left to Liz Shaw to save the planet by finding the off switch on the tank containing the consciousness.
But the Autons were genuinely scary, and returned to have another crack at humans a year later, this time with a more developed plastic power thanks to an alliance with the Master – who convinced them with some joke shop daffodils. Eventually (and uniquely maybe) the Doctor convinced the Master that the Nestenes would double cross him and they teamed up to send them back off into space.
The Ninth Doctor later discovered them in Henrick’s Department Store, London where he helped a certain shop assistant to escape before blowing the activated Autons up (along with the store). This much later invasion attempt showed the Nestene Consciousness as an angry blob of putty hiding under the London Eye, near Westminster Bridge. He defeated them with “Anti Plastic” (bit like De-Icer. Only for plastic and that).
Their eye for detail has clearly improved over the years, and when they returned at the moment the Eleventh Doctor discovered the Pandorica, they were capable of very accurate human reproductions – and had decided to make a whole new Roman Army for the occasion.
First appearance: Spearhead From Space (1970)
Most heartbreaking appearance: The Pandorica Opens (2010) [Poor Rory!]
Most “handy” appearance: Rose (2005)
Strengths: Resistant to conventional earth weapons, can activate any number of inanimate plastic objects
Weaknesses: Extreme heat, being switched off, over-simplified opposites.