Ace (Doctor Who)
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|Doctor Who character|
|Home era||20th century (born c. 1970, leaves Earth c. 1987)|
|Last appearance||Survival (regular)
Dimensions in Time (charity special)
|Portrayed by||Sophie Aldred|
Dorothy Gale McShane, better known by her nickname Ace, is a fictional character played by Sophie Aldred in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. A 20th-century Earth teenager from the London suburb of Perivale, she is a companion of the Seventh Doctor and a regular in the series from 1987 to 1989.
Ace appeared in 9 stories (31 episodes), and was the Doctor's final companion in the original run of the classic series.
Ace is a 16-year-old human who 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-levels), she was in her room experimenting with the extraction of nitroglycerin from gelignite when a time storm swept her up and transported her to Iceworld, many years into the 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 had suffered traumatic events in her childhood, including a bad relationship with her mother Audrey (the daughter of merchant seaman Frank William Dudman and his wife Kathleen, who served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II) and the racism-motivated Molotov cocktail 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 the presence of the villain Light there and was put on probation. Consequently, Ace covered up her own fears and insecurities with a streetwise, tough exterior. Her weapon of choice, disapproved of by the Doctor (who nonetheless found it useful on occasion), was a powerful explosive she called "Nitro-9", which she mixed up in canisters and carried 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 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 so it can evolve humans into the Vampiric Haemovores, and a pawn in the complex game between it and the Doctor. After Fenric is defeated in 1943, 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." 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 developed sexuality and the Doctor's manipulative tendencies. Briggs, who had created the character of Ace, had stated in Ace's character outline for Dragonfire that she had lost her virginity to Sabalom Glitz on Iceworld. While the extent of their physical relations was not stated explicitly on-screen, Ace's interactions with Glitz in Dragonfire were clearly and overtly those of a disgruntled former paramour. Additionally, long before Jenny Flint or even Jack Harkness, Ace was written and performed as being receptive to interspecies lesbianism, but the heavy make-up in Survival obscured the intent.
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 France. 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 made as to what had happened to Ace.
However, in the The Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, Sarah Jane reveals to her companions that she has done research on some of the Doctor's companions. She mentions "that Dorothy something — she runs that charity, 'A Charitable Earth' ("ACE"). She's raised billions." In the same episode, the Eleventh Doctor reveals that his Tenth incarnation looked in on each of his former companions as he prepared for regeneration at the end of "The End of Time".
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.
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 separates her from a potential relationship with Robin Yeadon in Nightshade and sacrifices her lover Jan to defeat the alien Hoothi in Love and War by Paul Cornell, which proves to be the last straw. She leaves the TARDIS, 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 Jim 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 parallel Earth (where Manisha 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 manipulate her into betraying the Doctor, which she seemingly does, again stabbing him and leaving him alone on an ice planet. In actuality 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, but that she also increasingly sees the world as he does. At the book's end she 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. 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), 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 extent 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
- Ace states in Ghost Light that she burned down Gabriel Chase in 1983 at the age of 13 years
- Ace states in Dragonfire that an explosion sends her to Svartos after she failed her O levels; she states in the same serial that she is 17 years old; in Survival, apparently set in 1989, she visits her home suburb of Perivale after what is described as a two-year absence.
- "Doctor Who: Ace visitor in Norwich". BBC. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- "The Den of Geek interview: Sophie Aldred". The Den of Geek. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- Revealed in The Curse of Fenric.
- ""A Brief History of Time (Travel)" - The Curse of Fenric".
- 2011's "A Good Man Goes to War" featured the début of recurring Doctor Who character Jenny Flint and her lesbian relationship with her Silurian employer, Madame Vastra, 22 years after 1989's Survival.
- Jack Harkness and his bisexuality were first seen in 2005's "The Empty Child", 16 years after Survival. He routinely makes references to non-human sexual encounters he has had.
- "[They] should have just had cheetah eyes and a very faint pigmentation round of cheetah spots, and big canine teeth. And in fact, I think the actors that were cast, from what I was told, were doing all this wonderful expressive facial work, and then these 'Puss In Boots' things were dropped on them – and so then you can't see what they're doing under there. Particularly Karra and Ace, there were whole amazing scenes between them and for me, that was supposed to be my lesbian subtext – and you can't see it!" - Survival writer Rona Munro, Darlington, David; Munro, Rona (25 November 2007). "You're Killing My Lesbian Subtext…!". Deejsaint. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- "27-Up". Doctor Who Magazine (255).
- David J. Howe, Mark Stammers Doctor Who: Companions 1995 Virgin Publishing ISBN 1-85227-582-0
- Haining, Peter Doctor Who: 25 Glorious Years (1988) ISBN 1-85227-021-7