Doctor Who: 10 Things You Didn't Know About The Autons

Wait? Boris Johnson is actually a shop window dummy?

Autons Rose

Smashing out of shop windows and onto our screens, the Autons are some of Doctor Who's oldest, most memorable, and most frightening enemies.

First appearing back in 1970's Spearhead from Space, these living plastic baddies have struck fear into fans everywhere with their creep-factor, blank expressions, and ability to make everyday objects absolutely terrifying. A great example of classic Doctor Who villainy, these iconic foes were even brought into the revival series to give nightmares to new audiences.

Under the control of the Nestene Consciousness - a hive mind a love of conquest and the ability to control plastic - the Autons have antagonised the Doctor over the years on-screen, in Big Finish audio productions, comic books, and spin-off novels. With a whole host of iconic appearances, the Autons have provided the necessary frights to send fans cowering behind the sofa.

Often mistaken for waxworks, animatronics, Roman Centurions, or students playing pranks, the Autons have been around long enough that they've gained a mysterious reputation. Where are they from? What do they have planned? Is the UK Prime Minister actually a plastic duplicate?

Comprised here are ten intriguing and bizarre facts about these shop window dummies of death, from strange Whoniverse moments to fascinating behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Grab your Ultra High-Frequency transmitter and your vial of anti-plastic, and read on to discover 10 Things You Didn't Know About The Autons.

10. The Autons' Many 'Firsts'

Autons Rose
BBC Studios

First appearing to menace the Third Doctor in 1970's Spearhead from Space, the Autons hold high honours for breaking numerous 'first-time' records in Doctor Who.

Serving as the first villains of the 1970s and the Third Doctor's tenure, they were also the first Who-baddies to be shown in colour. Upon Spearhead's release, the BBC decided to switch from black and white to colour - displaying these foes, and Jon Pertwee's velvet smoking jacket and cape, in all their technicolour glory.

When Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005, showrunner and writer Russell T Davies opted to use the Autons as the first enemies of in the modern series. Featured as the antagonists in the first episode Rose, they were also the first baddies to face the new Ninth Doctor on-screen. Davies believed the classic monsters would be an excellent way of introducing new fans and bringing back the original followers of the show.

The Nestene Consciousness would also be the first to mention the Time War - with its home planet being destroyed in the atrocities. This revolution, and the mystery around it, would set up major story arcs for the revival series.

Interestingly, Rose's Auton sequences would also herald another first for the series - breaking glass. When Spearhead's Auton mannequins were originally to smash out of their shop windows, the BBC realised that they couldn't afford to break any glass. The production team instead cut to reactions and the sound effect of smashed glass before revealing the Autons who had 'come to life'.

With an increased budget and a new production team, Rose's climactic sequence didn't feature this same problem.

In this post: 
Doctor Who
Posted On: 

Eden Luke McIntyre is a Scottish writer, editor and script consultant, with an MA in TV Fiction Writing. He writes content for TV, radio, stage, and online, and was appointed as a BBC Writers Room Scottish Voice in early 2020. Eden can usually be found rambling about Doctor Who, The Beatles, and obscure things that no one cares about.