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The Nestene Consciousness, also known as the Nestenes and as the Mother Consciousness to its Autons, (Brave New Town) was a disembodied life force, a hive mind existing as energy that could possess plastic.
The Nestene Consciousness was a being of pure psychic energy, although it generally maintained a physical, somewhat cephalopod-like appearance. (Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons, Synthespians™) The Nestenes’ molecular structure had a close affinity to plastic, polymers of high molecular weight, some partially amorphous. (Autonomy) The polymer chains of both thermosetting and thermoplastic resonated along their psychic wavelength. (Synthespians™)
Because of its nature, “humanly speaking” a Nestene manifestation served as the brain or nervous system, (Spearhead from Space) although it could also be defined as the heart, or appendix, or duodenum, or other terms. (Autonomy) This body would be made out of plastic, allowing it to manipulate its surroundings, (Spearhead from Space) though a Nestene’s original body was large enough to dwarf a radio telescope. (Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons) After the stresses of the Last Great Time War, the Consciousness manifested as a more liquid form with a humanoid face. (Rose)
Physical manifestation for the Consciousness was conceptual, being more than just a brain in flesh; it could exist in various forms, various places, and even various times. (Autonomy) Because of their molecular affinity, the Nestenes had the ability to possess plastic, animating it and making it quasi-organic. It existed within everything it controlled, with the more significant of these manifestations including the energy units which transported the Consciousness, the Auton robots used as soliders, and a Nestene creature that served as the central brain/nervous system of the Autons, created from the collected intelligence of the energy units.
While they were fragments of the Consciousness, Autons had degrees of individuality depending on the portions of intelligence given to them. Channing, a Swarm Leader, could directly control another Auton and was unaware of another’s destruction. (Spearhead from Space) The Nestenes could speak through their Autons (Terror of the Autons) which they directed via the astral plane, (Synthespians™) although to control larger numbers the Nestenes required a relay station or transmitter. (Rose) Over the course of its invasions it possessed shop-window dummies, the more advanced Autons (Spearhead from Space), inflatable chairs, dolls, telephone cords, plastic daffodils designed by the Master, (Terror of the Autons) and rubbish bins (Rose).
While the Consciousness was a group mind, it could transport sections of its mind through radio waves, (Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons) separating parts of the Nestene Mind for invasions so as not to risk the entire Consciousness. With this, if an invasion failed the rest of the Consciousness would know about it. (Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons)
Nestene matter may have been capable of performing Block Transfer Computations, as they required morphologically unstable living organic matter to do so. (Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark)
At the beginning of the universe, Shub-Niggurath came into N-Space from the previous universe, pregnant. She was able to deliver her child on Polymos, who infused into the entire planet and became the Nestene Consciousness. (Synthespians™) The Nestenes’ original appearance was that of a cephalapod, before transcending their bodies to become pure energy. (Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion) The Nestenes proceeded to send out swarms to other planets for colonisation.
The Consciousness, lead by the Nestene High Command, (Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons) had been invading planets for billions of years. they used these planets for sources of plastic and protein. At first they sent several plastic meteors to a planet. These asteroids could telepathically control specially created plastics, but were more effective when combined. The Nestene Consciousness would next control people to create Auton forces to help with further waves of invasions. Some of the planets which the Nestene Consciousness took over includes Cramodar and Plovak 6. (Synthespians™)
On some worlds, its takeover strategy was as follows: portions of the Consciousness would travel through space in hollow spheres known as energy units, making planetfall in formation but appearing like normal meteorites to indigenous lifeforms. When they became active, the spheres would pulse with light and ring with electronic beeps. The first spheres could place a local being under mental control. The Swarm Leader unit either created a facsimile of a native or an original native-form from scratch, (Synthespians™) and would proceed to construct other Autons and collect the other spheres. The Autons could replace key authority figures. Once the Consciousness within them recombined in an environment tank, the Consciousness would take on a form that it believed perfectly adapted for conquest of the planet on which it had landed. (Spearhead from Space)
In 102, the Nestene were among the factions who joined the Alliance. they came to Stonehenge and helped imprison the Eleventh Doctor in the Pandorica in order to save the universe. As well as the obvious spaceships, they also created a legion of Autons disguised as Roman soldiers. These Autons, believing themselves to be genuine Roman soldiers, tricked the Doctor, who realised too late what they were, and imprisoned him in the Pandorica. (The Pandorica Opens) When the plan failed, the Autons and the Nestene were turned to dust and removed from the universe along with the rest of creation, except for an Auton copy of Rory Williams, who rebelled against his nature and tried to help the Doctor. they were returned when the Doctor managed to “reset” the universe. (The Big Bang)
The Nestene’s first attempt to invade the Earth in the 20th century, using human-looking Autons to replace key government figures, was thwarted by UNIT with the help of the Third Doctor. The remains from this attempt were stored by UNIT. (Spearhead from Space)
In their next attempt, the Master obtained one of the Nestene meteors and took over a plastics company. Using the company to create fake daffodils, disguised Autons would hand out these flowers for free. Eventually, once millions had been distributed, the Nestene would activate them by remote radio signals, causing them to suffocate and kill millions of people. The Master also created dolls, inflatable chairs and telephone cords to kill difficult individuals. The Third Doctor was able to figure out this plan. He convinced the Master that the Nestenes were too dangerous to be reliable allies, and they reversed the radio beam the invasion force was coming in on, sending it back into space. (Terror of the Autons)
The Sixth Doctor helped UNIT to defeat another Nestene invasion. This did not appear to tax him overly, as he found time to take dance lessons during a lull in the crisis. (Teach Yourself Ballroom Dancing)
In 1989, the Nestene Consciousness tried to take over Earth using the computer company SenéNet. The Sixth Doctor, Mel and the Brigadier prevented the Consciousness from taking over the Earth. (Business Unusual) At the same time, it established a front operation called Galaxy Plastics Inc, and was still operational and undiscovered in August 1990. (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, in order that the Earth could be dominated and absorbed. The Seventh Doctor and Mel, gate-crashing the party, broke the Nestene link which de-activated her. (Plastic Millennium)
In the late 1990s, Doctor Sally Arnold whilst attempting to discover an energy unit’s function reactivated it using UNIT’s deep space satellite, it in turn communicated with the Nestene Consciousness and provided it power to activate several Autons from the Nestene’s first invasion attempt. The energy unit was forced to adapt to the new environment allowing the energy unit to move around the facility and locate the remnant of the Nestene body from its first Earth invasion attempt. It eventually escaped the UNIT warehouse and attempted to invade Earth again, this was thwarted by UNIT’s cybernetically enhanced agent Lockwood and his team. (Auton, Auton 2: Sentinel, Auton 3: Awakening)
In 2005, the Nestenes infiltrated Earth once more, using warp shunt technology. The Nestenes had lost their food planets in a war, so their intention was to overthrow and destroy the human race, as Earth was ideal for their consumption needs, being filled with smoke, oil and various pollutants. Rose Tyler eventually defeated them by knocking a vial of anti-plastic solution that one of the Autons had confiscated from the Ninth Doctor into the vat of molten plastic which housed the main bulk of the Consciousness, causing it to explode. (Rose)
In the 101st century, the Nestene Consciousness was attempting to completely leave Polymos after an invasion by the Time Lords. It chose the New Earth Republic and attempted to transport its entire body to Reef Station One with the help of Walter J. Matheson. It was stopped by the Sixth Doctor, who trapped it in the body of an advanced Auton. (Synthespians™)
BEHIND THE SCENES
When they were first introduced, they were referred to only as “the Nestenes” in Spearhead from Space. The actual name “Nestene Consciousness” seems to originate from the novelisation Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion.
According to non-narrative material in the Doctor Who Annual 2006 which this does not consider a valid source, the Time War caused the Nestene Consciousness to lose all of its protein planets, and it found itself mutating under temporal stress. This verifies a comment the Ninth Doctor makes in Rose, in which he states the Nestene lost all its protein planets during a “war”.