Thursday, March 12, 2020

At Childhood's End, by Sophie Aldred

This melding of Doctor Who old and new is great fun and surprisingly moving. With help from Mike Tucker and Steve Cole, it's written by Sophie Aldred, who played Ace in Doctor Who between 1987 and 1989, and it sees an older Ace reunited with the Doctor - the current, female incarnation.

It's structured in three parts, just like one of Ace's TV stories, and includes a character from 1989's Survival and a load of references and retcons to that era, but all feels engagingly, refreshingly new. I especially liked how well the author(s) capture the current Doctor and her companions, with some credible awkwardness between police officer Yaz and explosive experts Ace.

At one point, due to quantum wossnames, Ace glimpses all kinds of possible lives, allowing her to encompass the various Aces from books and comics and audio while at the same time over-writing all that with this authoritative version. It also dovetails nicely with the trailer Aldred starred in last year for the Blu-ray release of her final season in Doctor Who, legitimising it and following its lead emotionally.

I think there's a callback to the days of Doctor Who books aimed at an adult audience when we first meet this older Ace: she's woken from a nightmare and gets out of bed; we're told on page 11 that she's naked. It's an odd, incongruous detail for an adventure aimed at the whole family.

Otherwise, the horse-like and rat-like aliens and the various scrapes and solutions make this feel very much like the TV series of today. It rattles along breathlessly, full of jokes and surprises. I find myself wondering where exactly in this year's series it takes place: after the events of Fugitive of the Judoon, given than Yaz first learns of Cybermen in that story, but chats about them with Ace here on page 137. 

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