Writer, Pete McTighe has confirmed that his Doctor Who Series 12 episode, Praxeus, originally brought back the Autons.
When a story focuses on the dangers of plastic, it’s only natural that fans immediately think of the Autons — living plastic, stirred into being by the Nestene Consciousness –and McTighe has shed some light on initial plans for the Thirteenth Doctor story:
“Originally, that was going to be an Auton story; that will not surprise you to know. It didn’t become that, which is a shame, but I’m pleased – it was weirdly kind of prescient because it was about a pandemic two years before it happened, so that was kind of scary.
“What did happen with the Auton side of it? I think at that time, we were looking at the series as a whole and Chris [Chibnall, showrunner] was deciding whether there were too many old elements, so it went out the window quite early on.
“And I think the things we wanted to do with it, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve on the budget, which was also a problem I had… I think you need a bigger budget to do that.”
Indeed, Series 12 also brought back the Master, Gallifrey (albeit destroyed), Time Lords (sort of), the Judoon, and the Cybermen.
The Autons debuted in 1970’s Spearhead from Space, proving so popular that they returned for the following year’s Terror of the Autons (be weird if they weren’t in that!). We had to wait a long time until they officially returned again: they came back alongside Doctor Who in 2005’s Rose before making a cameo in Love & Monsters, then showing up in The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang. That was 2010, so we’ve not had an Auton story in well over a decade. And they’re much missed!
For what it’s worth, I think Praxeus held together well without the Autons, although it would’ve been fantastic seeing them again (they’re one of my favourite monsters in Who).