Amidst multiple regenerations, a flurry of returning friends and foes and many, many plot twists, Doctor Who's centenary special found the time to resolve one of the show's greatest mysteries.
The question of what happened to the Seventh Doctor's companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) has never been answered – and yet conversely has been resolved many, many times, and in different ways. Allow us to explain...
Joining the BBC sci-fi series in 1987, the character of Ace – real name Dorothy – was still at the Doctor's side when Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 – but when the show was revived for a TV movie in 1996, she was nowhere to be seen, with the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) travelling in the TARDIS alone.
With no on-screen explanation provided for Ace's fate, it lay to spin-off media – novels, comic strips and audio dramas – to explain away her departure from the TARDIS. Variously, she's been killed off, taken up residence on the Time Lords' home planet of Gallifrey and returned to Earth to start up a charitable foundation.
The only clue to Ace's whereabouts on television, though, came in a 2010 episode of Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, which suggested she was running a non-profit business called A Charitable Earth (A.C.E. – geddit?) to help underprivileged children.
The Power of the Doctor, though, finally has Sophie Aldred reprise the role of Ace on TV – and provides a concrete(-ish) explanation for why she and the Doctor parted ways and hadn't spoken for three decades.
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Though the episode is light on detail as to exactly what Ace has been up to since leaving the Doctor, her sharp business suit attire in the episode's early scenes could certainly imply that she's now a CEO – though it's not long before she's donning her familiar bomber jacket and taking a baseball bat to some Daleks like the Ace of old...
The special also hints at a falling out between the Doctor and Ace which ultimately saw them end their travels together – though the exact nature of the argument isn't detailed, it's easy to imagine the sort of thing that might've sparked tension between the pair, with Ace frequently calling the Doctor out for his secretive and manipulative ways during her 1980s TV era.
Infiltrating an underground Dalek mine to put a stop to the monsters' plans to disrupt the Earth's tectonic plates, Ace encounters a hologram of the Doctor – generated by the TARDIS to help the Time Lord's friends in an emergency situation.
As she converses with the hologram, Ace is surprised to see the interface switch from the Thirteenth to her more familiar Seventh Doctor, with Sylvester McCoy reprising his role for a touching on-screen reunion.
"I was only ever trying to teach you good habits, Ace," laments the Doctor. "Obviously I failed."
"You never failed me, Professor," she replied. "You made me the person I am today. I’m sorry we fell out. I’m sorry I judged you. I didn’t understand the burden you carried."
"All children leave home sooner or later," says the Doctor. "The joy is to watch them fly."
With the pair having reconciled, Ace asks the Doctor if they're now "good". "Oh, we’re more than good," he tells her. "We’re ace!"
Aldred, who returned to Doctor Who alongside fellow 1980s companion Janet Fielding (playing Tegan Jovanka), previously told Radio Times that she "burst into tears" when she got the call asking her to reprise her role.
"I wasn’t conscious of it, but it’s the call I’ve always been hoping for, you know?" she said. "There aren’t many jobs where you can say that you’ve been playing the same part for 33 years. Maybe in The Archers. It’s extraordinary."
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