BooksOfTheMoon

Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End

By Sophie Aldred

Rating: 4 stars

Ace was probably my favourite companion of the Classic Who era (nothing to do with me being a growing boy on the first approach to adolescence, no siree). She was no-nonsense, and rather than screaming, made her own explosives and attacked Daleks with baseball bats. It was only later, on rewatches as an adult, that I saw how the writers had been carefully crafting her story arc. This is something we take for granted now, but in that period, companions mostly just stood around to let the Doctor spout exposition, look pretty, and scream on demand.

This novel, (co-)written by Ace actress Sophie Aldred, has us catch up with Ace, sorry, Dorothy, thirty years after her travels with the Doctor ended. She’s now a middle-aged lady, who throws herself into her work directing a disaster aid charity, when she gets wind of others who have been having the same sorts of nightmares that she does: of being irresistibly drawn towards a strange structure, menaced by something that she never quite manages to see. Then an alien spaceship appears in orbit around the moon, and Dorothy wangles her way up there, only to run into the Thirteenth Doctor, with Yaz, Graham and Ryan in tow.

I was really impressed with how much this felt like a Doctor Who story. The structure and pacing felt just right. Aldred is obviously comfortable with Ace, even after so many years and her voice feels right, a combination of that teenager from thirty years ago, tempered with age, and maybe wisdom. Not that that stops her from still making her own home-made explosives.

She gets the Doctor’s voice right too, both the Thirteenth, and the Seventh, who we encounter in flashbacks, when Ace still travelled with him. The current companions don’t get a huge amount to do, other than run around and sometimes get kidnapped (some things never change), but she does hone in on Yaz, and how she feels, finding this possibly older version of herself – someone who loved travelling with the Doctor as much as she, but gave it up. There’s something of the meeting between Rose and Sarah Jane around it, but neither of them are willing to talk about it properly.

There are centaur-like aliens, rat-people and more. The plot, involving kidnapping the young and disenfranchised, people that probably won’t be missed is mostly secondary to Ace getting catharsis for the way that she and the Doctor parted. There’s loads of Easter eggs too, mostly to Old Who, but I suspect you’d enjoy it just as much without getting them.

A fun story with a good heart that captures the essence of Doctor Who very well.

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