REVIEW: "ACE: The Inside Story of the End of an Era" Book

by Zepo
27 June 1999

Sophie Aldred and Mike Tucker, _Ace: The Inside Story of the End of 
an Era_ (London: Doctor Who, 1996). 

[Image of Book]

RATING: 8 (of 10)


     When a Doctor Who hardcover is released it tends to always be
looked at as a special occasion by the buyers of Doctor Who
merchandise.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that if one is
serious in Doctor Who circles that the hardcover books are the
important ones to buy.  If one misses a softcover novelization a
fan is often forgiven but to miss a hardcover offering denotes
less of a commitment to fandom.  The quality of the hardcover
releases of Doctor Who non-fiction works have been spotty over
the years.  Peter Haining's seminal _Doctor Who: A Celebration_
is still the book that led the field and opened the door to other
non-fiction Doctor Who works.  Never mind that Haining's book is
often considered inaccurate in parts by many fans, or that he had
some of the biggest names in the production and fandom of the
show contribute to his work.  The fact remains that the hardcover
works are scrutinized by the fans of the show as works that
should maintain the highest accuracy.  After all they are seen as
having the greatest impact.  So why not tackle the first
hardcover offering that was written by a person that the other
hardcovers usually concentrate on?  I'm talking about the book
_Ace: The Inside Story of the End of an Era_ written by actress 
Sophie Aldred and BBC Special Effects maven Mike Tucker. 
     This book is quite an interesting offering.  Featuring a look at 
the stories that featured the Seventh Doctor's companion Ace, Sophie 
Aldred and Mike Tucker are able to concentrate on works that, for the 
most part, included themselves.  The book opens with a short look at
the Seventh Doctor and the three shows that were made before
Sophie Aldred joined the show.  Tucker had worked on a number of
these shows so there is, in fact, a basis that makes these
inclusions interesting as well as topical.  From there each story
until the end of the series is covered.  
     The review of each of these stories is done in a rather 
interesting style.  First Sophie Aldred writes half of the chapter 
giving her own view of the story and passing on both humorous 
anecdotes as well as historical tidbits about the production of her 
shows.  She covers many things such as her original interview 
process, her input into certain scenes, on location filming, 
interaction with guest stars, continuity, cut sequences, and even 
costuming.  Her memories are quite a fascinating look at what it 
might be like to be an actor or actress on the Doctor Who lot.  After 
Sophie's memories are recorded, the chapter finishes with a second 
view, that of effects man Mike Tucker.  Mike gives us a look at the 
pre and post production of the series and the effects included in the
shows that feature Ace.  We are given his own recollection of
working on the stories as well as being told how some of the
effects are created and ones that never reached the screen. 
     The book is rife with personal photographs -- wonderful 
behind the scenes shots that include some of our favorite actors.  
The photos that are included in the book once again give us an 
insight into being on a Doctor Who set.  We often hear stories 
about what a happy atmosphere there is while working on Doctor 
Who.  The photos in this book seem to confirm that.  Mike 
Tucker's contributions of photographs of some of the unused props 
or effects work he had contributed to are priceless.  Ace's
"Silver Nemesis" stereo boombox originally featured organic
speakers that looked somewhat like Zygon control handles.(p.44)  
Mike is kind enough to include a picture of the original prototype 
in this book.  There are many more of these photographs as well. 
     The book does not limit itself to simply the television show's
interpretation of Ace.  Chapters are included on the Ace that is
presented in Virgin's line of New Adventure Doctor Who novels. 
Even a special photocall of Sophie Aldred dressed in the black
rubber combat suit of the NA covers is featured in this book. 
Sadly, the book could have used perhaps more of these pictures,
which are all crammed on a single page and not very large, if
only make use of such an opportunity to feature the "new and
improved" Ace that was once again written out of the books.  
     The strength of this book is that it feels as if one has 
attended a Doctor Who convention or gathering.  One feels as if one 
has actually gotten to know Sophie or Mike.  Their stories and
recollections are quite real and vivid and one can easily see
that Doctor Who has made quite an impact in their lives.  Reading
their misadventures and opinions about their time on the show is
glorious and if one has never been to a "con" this might be the
best substitute.  In fact, because of the visual documentation
included in this book, the stories seem even more real and
interesting than hearing the stories from the actors while
crowded into an auditorium at a convention.  Of course nothing
can take the place of actually being at a con but this book made
me wish I was at one as I read it. 
     This book is a great offering -- one that will be an interesting 
read to both the casual fan and the obsessive researcher alike.  
I enjoyed it from cover to cover and hoped in my mind that other 
former companions or Doctors would follow Sophie and Mike's path and 
give us such a wonderful book that features their recollections of 
their time on the show as well.  Sophie Aldred and Mike Tucker may 
have had a larger collection of photographs than anyone else who 
would want to do a book about their era on the show, but this book's 
text alone would have made a wonderfully vivid read.  How many other
programs have the actors and effects people so thrilled and
excited by their jobs that they decide to write a testament to
their enjoyment of their time working almost ten years after the
fact?

(c) copyright Zepo, 1999.


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Last Updated June 29, 1999