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Ace, real name Dorothy, is a fictional character played by Sophie Aldred in the long-running Britishmarker science fiction television series Doctor Who. A 20th-century Earth teenager from the Londonmarker suburb of Perivalemarker, she is a companion of the Seventh Doctor and a regular in the programme from 1987 to 1989.

Character history

Christened "Dorothy", Ace first appears in the 1987 serial Dragonfire, where she is working as a waitress in the frozen food retail complex of Iceworld on the planet Svartos. She had been a troubled teen on Earth, having been expelled from school for blowing up the art room as a "creative statement". Gifted in chemistry (despite failing it for her O-level), she was in her room experimenting with the extraction of nitroglycerin from gelignite when a time storm created by Fenric swept her up and transported her to Iceworld, and far in her future. There, she meets the Doctor and his companion Mel. When Mel leaves the Doctor at the conclusion of the serial, he offers to take Ace with him in the TARDIS, and she happily accepts.

Ace has suffered traumatic events in her childhood, including a bad relationship with her mother Audrey and the racist firebombing of her friend Manisha's flat when she was 13. Following the latter event, needing to lash out, she burnt down a local abandoned Victorian house named Gabriel Chase after sensing an evil aura there and was put on probation. Consequently, Ace covers up her own fears and insecurities with a streetwise, tough exterior. Her weapon of choice, disapproved of by the Doctor (who nonetheless finds it useful on occasion), is a powerful explosive she called "Nitro-9", which she mixes up in canisters and carries around in her backpack.

Affectionately giving the Doctor the nickname of "Professor", she is convinced that the Doctor needs her to watch his back, and protects him with a fierce loyalty. In turn, the Doctor seems to take a special interest in Ace's education, taking her across the universe and often prompting her to figure out explanations for herself rather than giving her all the answers. However, the Seventh Doctor's increasing tendency to manipulate events and people (including her), even with what appears to be the best of intentions, results in several difficult moments in their relationship.

Under the Doctor's tutelage, Ace fights the Daleks in 1963 (Remembrance of the Daleks) and the Cybermen in 1988 (Silver Nemesis), encounters the all-powerful Gods of Ragnarok in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, the sadistic torturer called the Kandy Man in The Happiness Patrol, and many other dangers. She also faces the ghosts of her own past in Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric, coming to terms with them and, ironically, creating them in the latter case thanks to the paradoxes of time travel. Over time, she begins to mature into a confident young woman, and her brash exterior ceases to be a front.

What the Doctor is aware of, but Ace is not, is that her arrival on Iceworld was no accident but part of a larger scheme conceived by Fenric, an evil that had existed since the beginning of the universe, a plan that stretches across the centuries. Ace is a "Wolf of Fenric", one of many descendants of a Viking tainted with Fenric's genetic instructions to help free it from its ancient prison, and a pawn in the complex game between it and the Doctor. After Fenric is defeated, Ace continues to journey with the Doctor.

Originally in The Curse of Fenric writer Ian Briggs planned to reveal in Part One that Ace was no longer a virgin, however Producer John Nathan-Turner forced Briggs to cut this. Instead, at one point in the story, Ace offers to distract a guard so that the Doctor can free a prisoner. When the Doctor asks how she plans to divert the guard's attention she replies that she is "not a little girl anymore." She proceeds to lead the guard away from his post by intriguing him with a combination of slightly suggestive innuendo towards the guard and cryptic musings about the Doctor's machinations. The scene suggests that she is aware of both her developing sexuality and the Doctor's manipulative tendencies.

The circumstances of Ace's parting of ways with the Doctor are not known, as the series went on hiatus in 1989 with the end of the very next serial, Survival, in which Ace is returned by the Doctor to Perivale but ultimately chooses to leave again with him. A painting seen in the extended version of the serial Silver Nemesis suggests that at some point in her personal future Ace will end up in 18th or 19th Century Francemarker. This idea is further explored in the novelisation of The Curse of Fenric and the Virgin New Adventures. The novelisation contains an epilogue not included in the televised serial, in which the Doctor visits an older Ace in 1887 Paris.

If the series had continued, the production team's intent was to have Ace eventually enter the Prydonian Academy on the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey and train to be a Time Lord. The story Ice Time by Marc Platt, in which this would happen, was never made. When the Seventh Doctor is next seen in the 1996 Doctor Who television movie, he is travelling alone, with no reference to what had happened to him or Ace in the interim.

Other appearances

Ace after rejoining The Doctor in Deceit.
Ace and the Seventh Doctor appeared twice more on television after Doctor Who was cancelled. The first was in 1990, in a special episode of the BBC2 educational programme Search Out Science. In this episode, the Doctor acts as a quiz show host, asking questions about astronomy; Ace, K-9 and "Cedric, from the planet Glurk" are the contestants. The last appearance of Ace on British television was in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time. Neither of these appearances is generally considered canonical.

Ace was also featured in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip sporadically, one of the few television companions to appear in it.

The character is extensively developed in the New Adventures, a BBC-licensed series of novels from Virgin Books continuing on from Survival. Ace becomes more and more frustrated with the Doctor's manipulations; he forcibly seperates her from a potential relationship with Robin Yeadon in Nightshade and scarificing her lover Jan to defeat the alien Hoothi in Love and War by Paul Cornell, which proved to be the last straw and she left the TARDIS. She joins Spacefleet and fights the Daleks for three years, later rejoining the Doctor and his new companion Bernice Summerfield in Deceit by Peter Darvill-Evans, older and more hardened. This development in the character was the result of a deliberate decision by Darvill-Evans as the editor of the line at Virgin to change Ace and her role in the ongoing narrative. It is first revealed in Blood Heat by John Mortimore that Manisha had died in the firebombing of her flat.

Ace's relationship with the Doctor remains strained for some time, boiling over in Blood Heat when the Doctor destroys an unstable parrellel Earth (where Manesha is still alive) and under the influence of an alien creature she stabs him through one of his hearts in The Left-Handed Hummingbird. In No Future (also by Cornell) the Meddling Monk tries to manipulator into betraying the Doctor, which she seemingly does, again stabbing him and leaving him alone on an ice planet. But in actuallity, she stabbed him with a pantomime knife from the TARDIS wardrobe and she is playing her own game (partly to teach him what it feels like to be manipulated). When the Monk and his chained chronovore offer her a chance to return Jan to life, she refuses and rejoins the TARDIS crew, her issues with the Doctor resolved. In Set Piece by Kate Orman, Ace becomes stranded in Ancient Egypt and comes to realise that she can survive without the Doctor and at the books end leaves the Doctor again to become Time's Vigilante, using a short-range time hopper mounted on a motorcycle to patrol a particular segment of time; in effect doing what the Doctor does, but on a smaller scale. She shows up in later books, notably Head Games, Happy Endings, and Lungbarrow.

Other spin-off media give contradictory versions of Ace's eventual fate. The comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine has Ace being killed off just prior to the events of the 1996 television movie (Ground Zero, DWM #238-#242). In the webcast audio play Death Comes to Time, Ace inherits the mantle of the Time Lords when they become extinct. These contradictory fates were all in stories licensed by or, in the last case, made by a part of the BBC (BBCi), and there is fan debate as to which, if any, should be considered canonical. Ace's fate has yet to be referred to in the new Doctor Who television series of 2005, making her one of the few companions whose departure from the TARDIS has yet to be chronicled on television.

Ace's first name is Dorothy. Production notes suggest that it was intended that her last name would be Gale, an allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, given the fact that she was transported to Iceworld via a time storm. The novels (and, following their lead, Big Finish audio plays), however, have given Ace the last name of McShane. A sequence of BBC Books' Past Doctor Adventures set after Survival and written by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry used the "Dorothy Gale" name, as the authors were unaware of the name used in the New Adventures. This was eventually resolved to some exent when the novel Relative Dementias by Mark Michalowski gave her full name as Dorothy Gale McShane, a version later taken up by the audios.

Sophie Aldred has voiced Ace for several audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions, alongside Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and, in some stories, Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield or Philip Olivier as Hex. In one of these stories, The Rapture, Ace discovers that she has a brother named Liam, of whom she had no previous knowledge. As the more experienced traveller, Ace has developed a slightly flirtatious mentor-teacher relationship with Hex. How the audio plays tie in with the other media is not clear, and the continuity of the various lines may not match up with each other.

In 1996, Virgin's Doctor Who Books imprint published a hardback by Sophie Aldred and Mike Tucker entitled Ace!: The Inside Story of the End of an Era (ISBN 1-85227-574-X). This book gives details of each serial featuring the character Ace, complete with many photographs and concept art. It also contains a list of other spin-offs in which the character of Ace appears and some of the conventions which Sophie Aldred attended, along with some information about the planned Season 27, including Ace's departure.

In 1998, BBV produced a number of audio adventures starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as "The Professor" and "Ace". The plays were not licensed by the BBC, but the duo were clearly intended to be the same characters, to the extent that the BBC intervened, causing BBV to change the character names to "The Dominie" and "Alice".

The Reeltime Pictures video Mindgame features Sophie Aldred as "the Human", imprisoned with a Sontaran and a Draconian. From dialogue, it is possible this character is Ace during the years she spent as a mercenary in the New Adventures.

List of appearances

Television

Season 24
Season 25
Season 26
30th anniversary special


Audio dramas

Big Finish Productions


BBCi webcast


Novels

Virgin New Adventures


Past Doctor Adventures


Telos Doctor Who novellas


Short stories



External links




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