Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who
At Childhood's End

(2021) Sophie Aldred, BBC Books,
£8.99 / Can$19.99 / US$11.99, pbk, 291pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94501-4


For me, watching Doctor Who in the late eighties was less about Silvester Mcoy's seventh Doctor and more about his companion, Ace.

Ace, played by Sophie Aldred, was the companion with an in-depth character that the series had been waiting for.  It probably helped that she was a strong female character, only a few years older than I was, when I had no idea how rare that representation was.  She was a streetwise, take no nonsense teenage who had been in trouble before, but with a caring heart.

The behind-the-scenes intentions, licensed books, stage plays and Doctor Who magazine comic strip all tell, or hint at, different futures for Ace.  This novel, At Childhood's End by Sophie Aldred continues with the idea put forward in The Sarah Jane Adventures television series that she runs a charity called A Charitable Earth or A.C.E.

Aldred, perhaps unsurprisingly, writes about the character with a great deal of affection.  Ace, or Dorothy as she now prefers to be called, has grown up, but not entirely lost the spikiness that so characterised her as a teenager.  She still takes no nonsense and has the slow burning anger that underlies every social justice movement.

The seventh Doctor did not, perhaps, always treat Ace kindly, he manipulated her for his own ends.  Perhaps the thirteenth Doctor has also grown up and better understands the consequences of her actions.  This novel brings them back together in a bittersweet reunion.

The storylines tie much of the known past of Ace together in a new adventure, but you do not need to be a Doctor Who aficionado to follow it.  The details are explained as the story unfolds, but not in a way that slows down the pace of the tale.

Of course, the thirteenth Doctor is accompanied by Graham, Yaz and Ryan, so there is plenty of content and familiarity for those who have only met the Doctor in their later incarnations.

The tale (re)introduces us to Dorothy McShane, CEO of the global charity A Charitable Earth who is haunted by nightmares of dark creatures chasing her in her old London neighbourhood.  She has to return to where her story started and meet old friends who she left behind. At the same time that the runaways are disappearing an alien object is found circling the moon.  Dorothy needs to figure out how they are all connected and she is not the only one looking…

This novel is excellent reading for fans of Doctor Who of any age, but essential reading for those of us who remember the Doctor and Ace from the eighties.

Karen Fishwick

See also Arthur's take on At Childhood’s End.

See also Ian's take on At Childhood’s End.


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