Home : Archive : TSV 41-50 : TSV 47 : Review

Ace! The Inside Story of the End of an Era

By Sophie Aldred & Mike Tucker

Book review by Jon Preddle

If everyone who worked on Doctor Who had taken their cameras with them on location and into studio and all their photos were published, the result would be a joy to behold. Although such a book is something we can only dream about; thankfully Ace! is a step in the right direction, being illustrated with over three hundred photos from authors Sophie Aldred and Mike Tucker's personal photo collections.

Ace! is a look at the making of Seasons 24 to 26 with Sophie's nine Doctor Who stories covered in production order. Firstly Mike covers his effects contributions to the seven he worked on, explaining how miniatures, explosions and stunts were created, and lets us know enough of the secrets behind the effects without destroying the magic.

After Mike's bit, Sophie gives a very personal account of her time on the series, sharing with us her nervousness at her audition and her first day in the studio for Dragonfire (the book even includes her letter from the BBC giving her call-time). There are anecdotes a-plenty, usually involving props that fell apart or Sylvester's unexpected outbursts when a take was fluffed that would sometimes reduce Sophie to tears.

Every second page spread features a full-colour montage of snaps. Sophie's photos are generally group shots with the guest cast on location and in studio, while Mike's are more of a technical nature, being shots showing props and miniatures under construction. There are also original design drawings for many of the props and monsters (some of which were ultimately never used, such as the original drawing for the Destroyer from Battlefield, later used in an episode of Red Dwarf!). These photos are, for me, what makes this book exciting.

The book is not solely written by Aldred and Tucker; there are also contributions from others involved in Seasons 24 to 26; such as John Nathan-Turner, Andrew Cartmel, Ian Briggs, Ben Aaronovitch, Marc Platt, designer Ken Trew, and effects designer Perry Brahan, all of who add further insight to this period in the series' history.

The final sections look at the cancelled Season 27, which includes a brief summary of the stories that were in development - with the secret of Ace's planned departure finally revealed!

It is a pity there are not more books like this; there must be other actors and production crew out there who have a similar story to tell, or photos to share with us. If you are a fan of Sophie and Ace, or special effects, buy this book. You won't be disappointed.

This item appeared in TSV 47 (April 1996).