The Monsters of Dr. Who… Autons

It’s Dr. Who day!

For all of us who know that the fabulous BBC show is more than science fiction. Horror lurks in the timey-wimey stuff. And today, scary comes in the form of everyday things.

The Autons first appeared in the episode “Spearhead from Space” in 1970, meeting the Third Doctor played by Jon Pertwee. Classified as robots, they serve the Nestene Consciouness, an alien entity bent on conquering the Earth. The Autons are anything plastic, given life by Nestene energy.

Imagine walking down a street when the mannequins in a store window suddenly move, when they reveal a hidden weapon in their hands and try to vaporize you. Mannequins with no faces… objects that shouldn’t move. The screaming. The running. The dying. The chaos.

From 1970 Dr. Who episode Spearhead from Space

From 1970 Dr. Who episode ‘Spearhead from Space’

The Third Doctor meets the Autons again in 1971 in the episode “Terror of the Autons”. The Doctor’s nemesis The Master (he’ll get his own blog post… or two) has stolen Nestene energy and intends to conquer Earth and destroy The Doctor – as a bonus.

This time they’re not just faceless mannequins.

Auton form in 1971 Dr. Who episode Terror of the Autons

Auton form in 1971 Dr. Who episode ‘Terror of the Autons’

These- well I suppose they are trying for funny- creepy smiling guys hand out daffodils, plastic daffodils.

From episode Terror of the Autons

From 1971 Dr. Who episode Terror of the ‘Autons’

These killer fake flowers shoot liquid plastic, which covers noses and mouths, suffocating people. After the victims are dead, the plastic dissolves, leaving a strange death… and an innocent-looking flower.

Third Doctor and Jo investigating the killer flower... WATCH OUT!

Third Doctor and Jo investigating the killer flower… WATCH OUT!

Walking mannequins are creepy. Killer flowers are frightening.

The Autons are becoming more and more like people…

Auton from episode Terror of the Autons

Auton from 1971 Dr. Who episode ‘Terror of the Autons’

But this episode scarred poor child-me forever with the introduction of this ugly plastic doll.

From episode Terror of the Autons

From ‘Terror of the Autons’

Which suddenly came to life and killed people. Dolls shouldn’t move. The terrible pitter-patter of molded plastic feet on the floor, their small stature making them difficult to see… *shudder*

The Autons re-appeared in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, in the episode “Rose”. Remember this?

Ninth Doctor in Dr. Who episode Rose

Ninth Doctor in 2005 Dr. Who episode ‘Rose’

Because Rose works in a shop… a shop with mannequins…

Rose in the basement of the shop in episode 'Rose'

Rose in the basement of the shop in episode ‘Rose’

From 2005 Dr. Who episode 'Rose'

From 2005 Dr. Who episode ‘Rose’

The Nestene Conciousness has returned. This time not only is it using faceless plastic people, but it copies real people, like Rose’s best mate. Now the threat can look like anyone, can be anywhere.

Fear strikes best when the danger isn’t defined. Terror darkens our minds when the attack comes from a place of safety, such as dolls or store mannequins. The Autons make us stare at the things that can’t possibly hurt us and wonder, our hearts fluttering. Plastic, an invention that makes life easier, right? Think twice about those cute dolls in your kids’ rooms and those unassuming figures at the mall… those plastic flowers on the mantel… heck, aren’t Christmas trees made of plastic these days?



*Dr. Who on Wikipedia.org

*Dr. Who Character Encyclopedia by Jason Loborik, Annabel Gibson, and Moray Laing; DK Publishing 2013, pg. 18

*pics from the episodes “Spearhead from Space”, “Terror of the Autons”, and “Rose” from Google Images

  • Brian
    July 17, 2015

    Awesome post, Kathy! Rose is my favorite Dr. Who character ever, and that first episode with her is wonderful. Remind me to tell you about the time I hung out with Sylvester McCoy at a sci-fi convention. Amazing guy.

    • Kathy Palm
      July 17, 2015

      *gasp* Sylvester McCoy! NO WAY!!!!! *dies of jealousy*

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