Ace (Doctor Who)

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Doctor Who character
Ace (Doctor Who).jpg
First appearanceDragonfire (1987)
Last appearance"The Power of the Doctor" (2022)
Portrayed bySophie Aldred
Non-canonical appearancesDimensions in Time (1993)
In-universe information
AffiliationSeventh Doctor
Thirteenth Doctor
FamilyAudrey Dudman (mother)
RelativesFrank Dudman (grandfather)
Kathleen Dudman (grandmother)
Home era20th and 21st centuries (born c. 1970,[1] leaves Earth c. 1987[2])

Ace is a fictional character played by Sophie Aldred in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who.[3] A 20th-century Earth teenager from the London suburb of Perivale, she is a companion of the Seventh Doctor and was a regular in the series from 1987 to 1989.[4] She is considered one of the Doctor's most popular companions.[5]

Ace appeared in nine stories (31 episodes), and was the final companion in the original run of the classic series.[6]

Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel said that the character was written to be a "fighter and not a screamer".[7] In the television series Ace reveals that her real given name is Dorothy. Her family name is never explicitly stated in the series but spin-off media refer to her as both Dorothy Gale and Dorothy McShane.

Character history[edit]

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.[8] 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 the subject at O-level), she was in her room experimenting with the extraction of nitroglycerin from gelignite when an explosion (later revealed to be a time-storm created by Fenric) swept her up and transported her to Iceworld, many years in the future.[6] 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 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)[9] and the racially motivated Molotov cocktail firebombing of her friend Manisha's flat when she was 13. Following the latter event, needing to lash out, she burned 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 weapons of choice included a baseball bat and a powerful explosive, disapproved of by the Doctor (who nonetheless found it useful on occasion), she called "Nitro-9", which she invented and mixed up in canisters she carried in her backpack.[8]

Affectionately giving the Doctor the nickname of "Professor",[8] Ace is convinced that he 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 Remembrance of the Daleks, the Cybermen in 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 starts 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 stretching across the centuries and conceived by Fenric,[6] an evil that had existed since the beginning of the universe. Ace is a "Wolf of Fenric", one of many descendants of a Norseman 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.[7] 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.

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 Silver Nemesis suggests that at some point in her personal future Ace will end up in 18th or 19th century France.[5] This idea is further explored in the novelisation of The Curse of Fenric and the Virgin New Adventures.[5] 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.[7] The story Ice Time by Marc Platt, in which this would happen, was never made.[10] 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.[8]

However, in 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."[8] 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".

A promotional video made to advertise the Blu-ray release of Doctor Who's twenty-sixth season shows Ace as the head of A Charitable Earth.[11]

She appeared in the series' 2022 special celebrating the BBC Centenary, alongside the returning former companion Tegan Jovanka.[12]

Other appearances[edit]

Ace in her Spacefleet uniform, after rejoining the Doctor in Deceit.

Ace and the Seventh Doctor appeared twice more on television after Doctor Who was cancelled. The first occasion 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.

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 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 reality 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 appears 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 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, and production notes suggest that it was intended that her last name would be Gale[citation needed], an allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, given the fact that she was transported to Iceworld via a time storm. In another contradiction, 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 Loving the Alien (novel) by Tucker and Perry saw the original Ace (Dorothy Gale) shot and killed, but replaced by an Ace from another universe whose real name is "Dorothy McShane". Loving the Alien also makes it clear that all the television episodes and Tucker/Perry novels occur before the New Adventures, thus reconciling the different ranges.

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 Schofield.[5] 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 information about the planned Season 27, including Ace's departure. In 1998, BBV produced a number of audio adventures starring McCoy and 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, the implication being that she is playing Ace, though for copyright reasons this could not be made explicit.

In 2018, Ace was confirmed to appear in Big Finish Production's audio drama based on Doctor Who spin-off Class, with Aldred reprising her role alongside the show's main cast.[13] The story released that August.

In 2020, BBC Books published At Childhood's End (ISBN 9781785944994), a novel by Aldred featuring Ace, decades after her travels with the Doctor and now running the "A Charitable Earth" charity. The novel also features the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions. Like the charity, the title of the novel forms the acronym "ACE".


The character of Ace has been cited as the first "modern" companion for the Doctor.[7][14] One of the reasons is that her character was written to be more realistic, three-dimensional and to grow as a person throughout her run on the show.[7]

List of appearances[edit]


Season 24
Season 25
Season 26
30th anniversary charity special
2022 specials

Audio dramas[edit]

Doctor Who: The Monthly Adventures
Doctor Who: The Lost Stories
Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor Adventures
Doctor Who: Novel Adaptations
Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield
  • Volume 1
    • Good Night, Sweet Ladies
    • Random Ghosts
    • The Lights of Skaro
  • Volume 2: The Triumph of Sutekh
    • The Pyramid of Sutekh
    • The Vaults of Osiris
    • The Eye of Horus
    • The Tears of Isis
Doctor Who: Special Releases
Doctor Who: Short Trips
  • Police and Shreeves
  • Critical Mass
  • Seven to One
  • The Riparian Ripper
  • The Shadow Trader
  • Crystal Ball
  • Dark Convoy
  • Washington Burns
  • The Shrine of Sorrows
  • Forever Fallen
  • Doctors and Dragons
  • Dead Woman Walking
  • Intervention Earth
  • Enemy Lines
  • Time War 1
    • Celestial Intervention
    • Soldier Obscura
Class: The Audio Adventures
  • In Remembrance
Torchwood: Monthly Range
  • The Red List
  • Death in Venice


Virgin New Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures
Telos Doctor Who novellas
Penguin Fiftieth Anniversary eBook novellas
BBC Books

Short stories[edit]


  • Ace Returns! I The Collection: Season 26 Announcement Trailer I Doctor Who


  1. ^ Ghost Light claims she was 13 in unseen events in 1983.
  2. ^ Ace states in Dragonfire that a time storm sends her to Svartos after she failed her O levels; she states in the same serial that she is 17 years old.
  3. ^ "Doctor Who: Ace visitor in Norwich". BBC. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  4. ^ "The Den of Geek interview: Sophie Aldred". The Den of Geek. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "What Ever Happened to...Ace?". Doctor Who TV. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Scott, Cavan; Wright, Mark (2013). Whoology: Doctor Who the Official Miscellany. BBC Books. pp. 146–147. ISBN 9781849906197.
  7. ^ a b c d e Younger, Andrew (5 January 2015). "Doctor Who: How Ace Set the Template for Modern Companions". Den of Geek. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e McEwan, Cameron K. (2014). The Who's Who of Doctor Who. New York: Race Point Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 9781937994709.
  9. ^ Revealed in The Curse of Fenric.
  10. ^ "27-Up". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 255.
  11. ^ Ace Returns! | The Collection: Season 26 Announcement Trailer | Doctor Who on YouTube. Accessed from 31 March 2022.
  12. ^ Collis, Clark (17 April 2022). "The trailer for Jodie Whittaker's final episode of 'Doctor Who' reveals returning cast members". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  13. ^ Warner, Sam (31 May 2018). "Doctor Who spin-off Class returning at Big Finish". Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  14. ^ McAlpine, Fraser (29 July 2011). "A Companion to the Doctor's Companions". Anglophenia. BBC America. Retrieved 28 April 2015.


External links[edit]