DOCTOR WHO - AT CHILDHOOD’S END /AUTHOR: SOPHIE ALDRED / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 6TH
Played with a tomboyish enthusiasm by TV newcomer Sophie Aldred in the last years of the ‘classic’ Doctor Who series, Ace has come to be regarded as something of a template for the more grounded, real-world companions that populated the series when it returned in 2005. The leap from street-savvy, snarky Ace to the independently spirited Rose Tyler isn’t a huge one.
Doctor Who aficionados love nothing more than to indulge themselves in a bit of fan service and, as the TV series itself starts to embrace and reinvent its past in ways it never has before, what better time for the old series and the new series to cross paths once again? In modern day London Dorothy McShane (aka Ace), now a middle-aged woman running the philanthropic foundation A Charitable Earth (as established by Russell T Davies in his 2011 Death of the Doctor serial for spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures) is troubled by strange, disorientating dreams where she is lost in a weird alien landscape. A huge space vehicle has appeared near the moon, strange creatures are lurking around the streets of London, and kids and homeless people are disappearing. Dorothy teams up with an ex-boyfriend to travel to the spaceship where she discovers that her old friend the Doctor has already arrived with her team in tow to investigate the mystery. But of course, The Doctor has changed several times since she and Ace travelled together and there are some raw wounds still open and a few old scores to settle even as the group find themselves caught up in the ongoing battle between the equine Astringr and the mysterious Wraiths.
At Childhood’s End is a huge nostalgia jolt for older fans; as ever in a piece of licensed fiction, the book is heavy with arcane continuity references (Ace and her friend Will set off on their space mission from the Research Centre location from 1975’s Tom Baker serial The Android Invasion) and although Sophie Aldred’s name is on the cover, closer inspection reveals that the book is also the work of regular BBC Books writers Mike Tucker and Steve Cole. Consequently, it’s hard to find a proper authorial voice and the book tends to read like a piece of standard licenced Doctor Who fiction with an old character thrown into the mix and the story quickly becomes a fast-paced space race with the Doctor and her various friends trapped in various locations and prone to spouting sci-fi technobabble or obscure multimedia continuity references. Ace has grown up and the Doctor has changed beyond recognition but there’s some fun to be had here as they come together against a new common enemy and try to make amends for past misdemeanours and misunderstandings.