Doctor Who fandom went wild back in September when Sophie Aldred unexpectedly reprised her role of companion Ace, 30 years after she was a regular on the BBC sci-fi series.
A specially-shot trailer for Doctor Who: Season 26 – The Collection Blu-ray set saw Aldred play an older Ace – a teenager when she first appeared, the character was head of a philanthropic foundation called A Charitable Earth.
Ace’s fate was left in limbo when Doctor Who was originally cancelled in 1989, but the notion of A Charitable Earth (A.C.E. – geddit?) was first introduced by Russell T Davies in spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Sophie Aldred as Ace in Doctor WhoBBC
Speaking at a BFI screening to mark the release of the Blu-ray set, Aldred revealed that she initially had some trouble imagining her tough, no-nonsense character taking up the path that Davies had suggested.
“When I first heard about A Charitable Earth, I thought, ‘Huh? Ace working for a charity?’
“And then I thought, ‘No, hang on a minute…’ because of her experience and the fact that Ace has… she has got a real heart… she wants to do right, I could see her heading up a corporation called A Charitable Earth. I thought that was just right.”
Ace’s ultimate canonical fate is quite different to what had originally been intended for the character had Doctor Who continued into the ’90s – with the original intention being to write her out by having the teenager take up residency on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey.
“There probably would’ve been a handover to a new companion in the course of that [next] season,” explained Andrew Cartmel, who served as script editor on classic Doctor Who’s final three seasons.
“[Writers] Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch had got together and they’d cooked up this great exit plan for Ace where she goes to the Prydonian Academy… and becomes like a Time Lord.
“Ace was such a fab companion, we couldn’t just let her disappear.”
Aldred added: “I didn’t know [that plan] at the time, but what a great thing that would be!”