Doctor Who: How Ace helped to shape the Seventh Doctor’s era

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Doctor Who

The Seventh Doctor’s era began with a bit of a rough start. But the introduction of a new companion gave both Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and the writing team the direction they needed.
Image Courtesy BBC Studios, BritBox

In many ways, Ace was the definitive companion for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. But why? And how did she help to shape the final era of Doctor Who’s original run?

Having recently finished reading Sophie Aldred’s novel At Childhood’s End, I felt it was worth diving into her final season on Blu-Ray. In fact, Season 26 was the final season of Doctor Who for over a decade and a half. This is bitterly ironic, as it was during this time that the series was arguably the best it had been in years.

However, Sylvester McCoy’s era as the Seventh Doctor didn’t exactly start out that way. In fact, McCoy’s debut season might be one of the weakest of Doctor Who‘s original run. The series often came across as a bit pantomime with a tone that felt too childish. And yet, paradoxically, there were moments where it came across as too violent, almost as a way of trying to compensate.  But despite featuring cannibal grannies, slaughtered tourists, and melted crime lords, Season 24 felt rather immature – perhaps even because of those elements rather than in spite of them.

It also has to be said that – while the companion has been handled far better in the audios and other expanded media – Mel didn’t quite work in this season. On paper, she sounded like a great character – a computer genius with strong morals who can surely work well on her own terms.

But instead, Bonnie Langford’s character was written to be the ultimate screaming companion. Despite having the potential to be great, it was clear that the writers weren’t quite sure of what to do with the companion. So it’s unsurprising that Mel didn’t stick around for McCoy’s second season.

Fortunately, the writing team had an Ace up their sleeve…

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