The pilot episode of new Doctor Who (2005) showed sentient plastic (ordinary plastic controlled by Nestene Consciousness). But this wasn’t my first encounter with it.

Indian TV series Shaktimaan showed sentient creature made up of plastic in late 90’s: Jump to 11:00

Which sci-fi work first showed sentient plastic?

  • What do you mean by sentient? In science fiction the word sentient is sometimes used correctly to mean sentient, but it is also often used incorrectly to mean intelligent. Which meaning do you have in mind?
    – user14111
    Apr 4, 2022 at 7:53
  • 5
    Also, what do you mean by plastic? Plastic Man for example debuted in 1941 and is a living being whose body shares many properties with plastics. Would he qualify as sentient plastic? Apr 4, 2022 at 8:20
  • Presumably you mean the class of synthetic polymers, rather than anything that is malleable?
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 4, 2022 at 20:51
  • @BjornEriksson I am not talking about the adjective Plastic..
    – user931
    Apr 5, 2022 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


The Nestene Consciousness and its plastic minions made its first appearance in the 1970 Doctor Who story "Spearhead from Space" and appeared again in the 1971 story "Terror of the Autons", significantly earlier than both the 2005 episode and the series you mention from the 1990s

A quick Google search has not located anything earlier, but that does not mean there is nothing else out there.

  • Well, I was going to mention Rudy Rucker's Wetware but this is decades earlier.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 4, 2022 at 12:45
  • 2
    Indeed, although the Nestenes/Autons only appeared in two Third Doctor stories, they were pretty culturally significant. It was not coincidental that they were used as the first alien enemies in the new Doctor Who series.
    – Buzz
    Apr 5, 2022 at 2:28

Vault of the Beast written by A.E. van Vogt in 1938 and published in 1940, features a creature with "consciousness" and whose Wikipedia page describes it as a "living plastic robot".

In the first few pages of the story, however, I'm not seeing the author describe the creature as made of plastic. It seems a bit more blobby and amorphous than plastic.

  • 13
    That sounds like "plastic" the adjective, rather than "plastic" the material.
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 4, 2022 at 20:49

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