Friday 21 June 2024

N is for... Nestene Consciousness

The origins of the Nestene Consciousness are obscure. They claimed to have no physical existence on their home planet, manipulating plastics to create forms for themselves. They also fed on plastic and industrial pollutants, and so were attracted to the planet Earth in the 1970's.
A small shower of what appeared to be meteorites landed in a forest to the east of London. These were actually Nestene energy spheres. Each contained a fraction of the Consciousness' intelligence. A local plastics factory owner - George Hibbert - came under their mental influence and created an Auton which assumed the identity of a man named Channing. Autons like this were lifelike plastic replicas of people.
Channing and Hibbert then used the factory - Auto Plastics - to create an army of Autons following the arrival of a second, larger shower of energy spheres. 
Some Autons were replicas of key figures in government and the armed forces, whilst others were cruder versions which acted as guards or killers. All were armed with a concealed energy weapon in the wrist. A third type of Auton was designed to mimic shop window mannequins. Each Auton was animated with a fraction of the Consciousness.
A swarm leader sphere would be used to create a lifeform suitable for the Nestene on Earth - a creature resembling a huge octopus.
The invasion scheme was the activation of the shop window dummies to cause widespread death and destruction. The replicas would have infiltrated the authorities and undermined them from within, to prevent a co-ordinated defence. The Doctor had only just been exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, and joined forces with UNIT who had been alerted by the second "meteor" arrival in the same area.
He and UNIT's Dr Liz Shaw discovered that the Consciousness was susceptible to Ultra-High Frequency waves. These destroyed the fraction animating each Auton - and also destroyed the growing Nestene creature.

One Nestene sphere was left intact after the invasion was thwarted. The Doctor wished it to be kept under guard at UNIT HQ as he perceived it to be a living thing and still dangerous, and was therefore shocked to learn that the Brigadier had loaned it to a museum exhibition.
This coincided with the arrival on Earth of a rogue Time Lord who went by the title of the Master. He had made contact with the Nestene Consciousness in deep space and had agreed to help it in a second invasion attempt. He used his hypnotic powers to establish a base at a touring circus, and then to mentally dominate the weak-willed owner of a plastics factory - Rex Farrell. A smaller force of Autons was created, of the cruder variety, but the Master's intention was to use everyday plastic items to attack humanity. The Nestene Consciousness could inhabit anything composed of the substance - telephone cables, inflatable chairs, troll dolls and artificial flowers. The latter were distributed across Southern England by disguised Autons. When activated by a short-wave radio broadcast from a local radio-telescope, these were programmed to seek out the human face and spit out a small plastic film which would suffocate and kill.
A Nestene began to materialise above the radio-telescope, appearing only as a tentacled luminous shape, when the Doctor convinced his rival that the Consciousness would not differentiate between him and any other humanoid. They joined forces to eject it back into space, and the Autons collapsed into lifeless plastic.

The Nestene Consciousness attempted a third invasion in the year 2005, again making use of Autons disguised as shop window mannequin to spread maximum devastation. A replica was created of Rose Tyler's boyfriend Mickey Smith to trap the Doctor after he had been captured by a Nestene controlled wheelie-bin. The Nestene established a base under the Thames foreshore near the London Eye, which would be used as an activation signal transmitter. The Doctor tried to parley with the Nestene, which had taken on the form of a mass of molten plastic in a vat. It transpired that many of its colonised worlds had been destroyed in the Time War - causing it to turn to the Earth which was far more polluted and therefore more attractive to it.
The Doctor's attempts to make peace failed when it saw the TARDIS as a threat to it. He was armed with a vial of anti-plastic which fell into the vat - destroying the Nestene and its Autons.
Later, the Nestene Consciousness took part in the Pandorica Alliance, providing a force of Auton Roman soldiers. It also replicated Amy Pond's fiancé Rory Williams as part of the scheme to trap the Doctor. His humanity overcame the Nestene control and his personality reasserted itself, though he existed as an Auton replica for many centuries until the Doctor rebooted the universe.

Voiced by Nicholas Briggs (Rose). Appearances: Spearhead From Space (1970), Terror of the Autons (1971), Rose (2005).
  • The filming of the original Nestene prop in Spearhead From Space proved unsuccessful, and the climax had to be remounted during the making of the following story.
  • Likewise, the one which was to appear at the close of the sequel was deemed unusable and so a video effect was employed instead.
  • The Blu-ray version of the story on the Season 8 Collection offers a new CGI alternative, which resembles a more satisfying giant squid.
  • Only Autons were seen in The Pandorica Opens (2010). The Nestene itself was absent.
  • In the Target novelisations, the Nestene is described as part spider, part octopus and part crab.
  • The Bane Mother in the pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures was based on the Nestene which adorned the cover of the novelisation of Terror of the Autons. VFX firm The Mill had originally created this when they first pitched to get the contract to work on the revived series of Doctor Who.
  • Chris Achilleos copied the one of the cover of Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion from an old Prince Valiant comic.

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