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The Autons were robots that resembled plastic shop-window mannequins, animated by the Nestene Consciousness as foot-soldiers. Though they were not the only creations of the Nestenes, they were the most easily identifiable and were utilized during every Earth invasion.
APPEARANCE AND ABILITIES
Every Auton was a fragment of the Consciousness, since it existed in everything it controlled, with Autons actually containing a sliver of Nestene intelligence (Brave New Town, Autonomy) to animate them, albeit still controlled by a central Nestene brain. Larger fragments were given to replicas to allow copying of brain patterns and memories, and in some cases like the Swarm Leader Channing a large portion of the Consciousness could be given to an Auton so that it could almost be individual, having something akin to feelings and being able to directly control other Autons. (Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion) Although usually directed by the Consciousness, if its manifestation was damaged or disoriented, Autons units could become rogue and act independent. This could also occur with Autons left over from invasions that were randomly activated. (Brave New Town, Autonomy)
The typical Auton did not look particularly lifelike. It resembled a mannequin, was robotic in its movements and mute, although the Nestenes might speak through an Auton leader, generating a robotic voice. (Terror of the Autons) Autons were primarily noted for the concealed wrist-gun within their hands, which could kill or vaporise their targets using psychic projections. (Synthespians™) These were powerful enough to temporarily disable a weakened Dalek. (The Big Bang). Some could also shoot a traquilizing gas from their hands. (Plastic Millenium)
Despite their solid appearance, some Autons were metamorphic and could change the shape of their features and limbs. (Rose) They were also excellent trackers, able to find other creatures by their brain-wave patterns, (Synthespians™) and collected the energy units of a swarm after it landed.
Autons were extremely long-“lived,” with one unit existing for almost two thousand years with no visible signs of wear, even with the link to the Consciousness broken. While bullets had almost no effect on them, (Spearhead from Space) they could be affected by radio signals (The Big Bang) and disrupted by sub-etheric beams, which traveled through the telepathy dimension and interfered with the Nestene/Auton communication on the astral plane. (Synthespians™) They were vulnerable to intense heat, as this caused them to melt, and they would also be deactivated if the controlling Nestene manifestation on a planet was destroyed. (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons)
In addition to the basic Auton, more agile and manoeuvrable models were made as duplicates of humans. The Swarm Leader was able to create the body of a planet’s native life-form from scratch. The first Auton created, Channing’s human appearance allowed him to infiltrate Auto Plastics and organise the Nestene invasion. (Spearhead from Space)
More sophisticated Autons could be created to copy and impersonate specific individuals. The originals needed to be kept alive to maintain the copy, although these were sometimes imperfect, looking and acting human except for a slight yellowing sheen or glint to the skin and a flat-sounding voice. When destroyed, the duplicates reverted to the appearance of a basic Auton, sometimes leaking Nestene blood. (Spearhead from Space) Occasionally if copy wasn’t necessary and an Auton simply needed to appear human, it could wear a plastic mask. (Terror of the Autons)
Even more accurate Autons could be made, identical in appearance and actions to the originals. These units were implanted with false memories and actually believed themselves to be the real subjects they duplicated, being indistinguishable. The Auton copy of Rory Williams was even able to remember being erased from existence in the time field. (The Pandorica Opens)
A number of famous figures were duplicated and displayed at Madame Tussauds, including General Scobie whose duplicate was intended to take his place and command the British Army. (Spearhead from Space) Mickey Smith was copied to gather information on the Ninth Doctor. (Rose)
Roman Auton duplicates taken from a memory print of Amy Pond mimicked humans perfectly and were used as sleeper agents until the Nestenes later asserted their influence, although the Rory Auton partially resisted this control. (The Pandorica Opens)
When the Nestene Consciousness joined the Alliance, they produced Autons disguised as Roman soldiers in 102. These, believing themselves to be genuine Roman soldiers, tricked the Eleventh Doctor, who realised too late what they were. They imprisoned him in the Pandorica. One of these Autons, fashioned after the late and time-erased Rory Williams using the memories of Amy Pond, did not want to fire on her and tried to resist the call to arms. However he was unable to prevent himself shooting her fatally. Afterwards, the Auton helped the Doctor resurrect Amy with the Pandorica and save the universe.
After the Doctor reset the universe and time, the Alliance Autons were erased from existence. The real Rory Williams, though, recalled the life of his Auton copy. (The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang)
The late 20th century development of plastics by humans created opportunities for invasions of Earth. One invasion was coordinated by a Swarm Leader known as Channing. Channing took over Auto Plastics and arranged for standard Autons to be mass produced and placed in shops across Britain. Channing also obtained a contract from Madame Tussaud’s to make plastic “waxworks” of key government and military leaders. The attack was coordinated first thing in the morning. The Autons broke out of shops to attack key strategic positions whilst the facsimiles helped soften resistance.
Some months later, the Nestene made an alliance with renegade Time Lord the Master. Although the Nestene used standard Autons for this operation, the assault relied on deadly plastic daffodils. It was again foiled by the Third Doctor and UNIT. (Terror of the Autons)
In 1989, the Nestene took control of Winston Blunt. He formed the Galaxy Plastics Inc and then killed himself. In his place, an Auton named Mr Dolman controlled the company. When an industrial spy, Max Fischer, disrupted operations, Dolman attacked and later killed him. An Auton copy of Max was later created. (Business as Usual)
Circa the 1990s an Auton replica known as Alisha Hammerson set up the Hammerson Plastic PLC company. On New Year’s Eve, 1999, she planned to replace several key figures in the plastic industry with Auton replicas so the Earth could be dominated and absorbed. The Seventh Doctor and Mel gate-crashed the party and broke the Nestene link, which deactivated her. (Plastic Millenium)
After the Nestene’s protein planets were destroyed in a war the Doctor fought in, it arrived in early 21st century London to use standard Autons to conquer the planet. When the Ninth Doctor came to investigate, it sent Autons to try to stop him. When Rose Tyler got in the way, it also sent an Auton duplicate of her boyfriend, Mickey Smith, to try to find out more. The Doctor removed the Auton Mickey’s head to track down and confront the Nestene Consciousness. When the Nestene thought it was in danger, it activated the Autons to go on a rampage. When the Nestene was killed with anti-plastic, the Autons were deactivated. (Rose)
In 2013, Autons placed in Hyperville by Miss Devonshire and the Nestene helped with the attempted takeover of Earth. Among the normal Autons, there were several varieties, such as Autons which could stretch their heads about a metre, an incredibly strong Auton, known as B-4, which could strangle victims and Auton replicas. All the Autons were destroyed by the Doctor and Kate. (Autonomy)
POST 21ST CENTURY
When Es’Cartrss tried to take over the Tenth Doctor’s mind via the TARDIS’ Matrix, he used his memories of the Autons to attack him. (The Forgotten)
River Song once dated an Auton with a removable/replaceable head. (The Big Bang)
BEHIND THE SCENES
Although Autons have appeared several times in the 21st century incarnation of Doctor Who, since 2005 the word “Auton” has only been used in the credits in Rose, and never within a story; instead they are called “Nestenes” or “Nestene duplicates”.