On Saturday 29th October 2016 Sophie Aldred, who played the Seventh Doctor’s companion ‘Ace’ from 1987-1989, attended ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ and spoke to BlogtorWho.
Aldred talked to us about her character, about her development from child to women and about her relationship with the Doctor Sylvester McCoy.
Bedwyr Gullidge: So we are here at Film & Comic Con Cardiff, when you took on the role did you think that you would still be discussing Ace and signing prints all these years later?
Sophie Aldred: If somebody had told me in 1987 that I’d be sitting here in 2016 in Cardiff signing autographs, I would’ve just laughed probably. It’s amazing and it’s just brilliant that, due to the fans in large part, the show is thriving. We’ve just started to see the new spinoff ‘Class’ and all these wonderful things that have come out of Doctor Who. And now of course the show is being made largely by the fans of the show. It’s great, I love it.
BG: Your character Ace had, what we would call now, a story arc?
SA: Yes, it’s funny isn’t it that in those days an arc was something that Noah went in. We didn’t know about story arcs in those days. It really was the first time I guess that a companion had had a proper backstory that was explored and developed.
BG: That story arc saw her then develop from that naive teenager to a mature woman?
SA: Yes I think she really did develop during the series. When you first see her in ‘Dragonfire’ she’s meant to be 16 and she’s this slightly ADHD teenager who’s chucking milkshakes on people and chucking explosives around and shouting “wicked”. By ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, it’s funny looking at it again, you can see that she is pretty vulnerable as well and she falls in love with this guy at the drop of the hat and then he lets her down. There are some sensitive moments and I think the great thing about Ace was that she was a very well-rounded character. So she wasn’t just this stereotype of ‘tough girl’, she also had a softer side and she also was very flawed and vulnerable. Then you see her in stories like ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ where she actually does acknowledge that she’s scared; she doesn’t like clowns. You see her going through stuff. Then of course there’s ‘The Curse of Fenric’ where her back story really comes to the fore. She realises that she’s being manipulated by The Doctor and of course that was something that had never been seen before and which I think the writers picked up on for the new series.
So there’s a lot of Ace that was complex and I think that’s what the enduring appeal is about Ace. She’s not a simplistic character and that people really identified with her and continue to do so. One of the lovely things about doing these Comic Cons is that people come up to me and they say what a difference that Ace has made to them in their lives. So for example, I’ve had people telling me how when they were young they were bullied in school and then they saw the character of Ace and they were able to get some strength from that and to deal with being bullied and to fight their own corner. I just think, “wow, what an amazing thing.” I thought I was playing a part in a TV series but actually the difference that Ace has made to other people, and to myself as well, is pretty extraordinary really.
BG: Sadly you didn’t come back for another series as the show was put ‘on hiatus’ but how would you have liked to have seen her character develop in what was supposed to be your final season?
SA: Yes, I was going to have half of another season and then go out. I think there were some ideas which were barely formed to do that so Ben Aaronovitch, Marc Platt and Andrew Cartmel got their heads together and thought of a few things. One of which was that was Ace was going to go off to Gallifrey and she was going to train to be a Time Lord. And actually that’s now been explored with Big Finish in the Gallifrey series where Ace is a secret agent for the Time Lords and I love that, it’s great. Then there’s another theory that Russell T Davies at the end of one of The Sarah Jane Adventures says that Dorothy is working for ‘A Charitable Earth’. That’s a cool idea as well that she’d be going off being some kind of Greenpeace activist, I think, in space, righting wrongs and continuing The Doctor’s work. I can see her in a Millennium Falcon-type battered old spaceship going around with a couple of mates probably, strange aliens that she’s picked up along the way.
BG: There’s a TV series in that!
SA: Yeah I think so, that would be good wouldn’t it? It’d be great.
BG: To finish up we should talk about Sylvester. You had a great relationship which came across onscreen and you must see each other regularly at conventions?
SA: Yeah that’s the great thing about doing these as well is that we bump into each other a lot, all over the world. In fact, I nearly bumped into him in Germany a few weekends ago. I was at this lovely convention called ‘Timelash’ and apparently, he was just up the road in Berlin.
BG: So what was it like to work with him?
SA: Sylvester was amazing to work with because I’d never done any TV before, so he was really helpful in introducing me to the world of TV. He allowed my character to develop and me to develop as well as an actress. I think without him being so generous, he could’ve easily not allowed Ace to develop in the way she did and that was brilliant for me. Now when I see him he is one of my best mates, we still get on just as well as we used to. He says it’s because I’m the only person who laughs at his jokes. So long may that continue.