Ace is coming back into Doctor Who! Yes, Sophie Aldred is returning to the part for Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, The Power of the Doctor.
So how did she feel about coming back? What was she doing when she got the call to return?
Can you tell us about the call to come back and be a part of the centenary special and was it a tough decision?
I’ll never forget where I was. I was in the conservatory in my house, and I got the call from my agent who said ‘Andy Pryor who is the Casting Director on Doctor Who has been in touch and you know what that means!’ I put the phone down and burst into tears. The call I didn’t realise I’d been waiting for all these years. The next thing that happened was a Zoom call with Chris Chibnall where he asked me if I would do the great honour and privilege of being in the BBC centenary episode. I said wild horses wouldn’t stop me! That was it.
What were your first impressions of getting that script and what were you most excited about?
There’s a particular thing that happens which I couldn’t believe Chris put in, because it calls back to something I did thirty years ago. To do that again was just incredible. I was really lucky that I was a companion as I met the Daleks and the Cybermen and the Master. I was really excited to meet and be in scenes with Jodie and Mandip and it was a thrill to be in the TARDIS – What was I most excited about? All of it!
Were there any big differences in being on set, was the family feeling always there?
The family feeling was completely the same, run by Jodie. That was totally her, it was incredible. The banter, the jokes, but also the hard work ethic, having fun, everyone, cast, crew, production. It was lovely to see the relationship between Jodie and Mandip. It reminded me of how it was with Sylvester (McCoy) and me. The same close relationship which I’m sure will be for life, like mine with Sylv. I think the only thing that was very different was not having rehearsals like we used to have at the BBC in North Acton and COVID of course. Everyone was in masks. It was quite weird because my wonderful makeup artist, India, was wearing a mask, and when I saw her without it, I had no idea who she was!
Was it difficult to keep it a secret? Were you shocked by the response?
Yes it was difficult to keep the secret because I did quite a lot of appearances and podcasts during COVID and people were asking me direct questions about it. There were some fans that were awfully near the mark and I just couldn’t say anything! I knew the trailer would be well received by the fans, but I didn’t think that we would break the internet [laughs]. The following day someone told me that on the BBC news website ‘Janet and Sophie back on Doctor Who ’was one of the biggest topics which was just bonkers. I had no idea it would be such a big deal. People were still tweeting, nearly two weeks later, and still going now!
How has it changed when you’ve been at conventions?
The conventions that I love most are the small ones with about a couple of hundred fans. That ’s like a family really; that’s not changed. Although people are incredibly excited and always tell me how they screamed and shouted and jumped off the sofa when they saw the trailer. As for the bigger ones, the Comic Cons, my queue for one recently was all day long, and I didn’t stop! I ’ve never had that, not even when we were doing the original series. Demographic wise, there’s a lot of young women, who have fallen in love with the series via Jodie and now who have gone back and watched the classics and they really relate to the character of Ace. They love the realism, her feistiness, her wearing her heart on her sleeve and she speaks to them.
How difficult was to get back into Ace’s skin on set?
In Big Finish and other audiobooks and spin offs, I’m usually playing a younger Ace, probably up to age 30. So suddenly to play middle-aged Ace… I’d had a chance to think about how she’d be and how she’d be with the Doctor (through other projects like the Torchwood audios and the Blu-Ray box set trailer). It doesn’t take her very long to get back into this youthful frame of mind!
Can you tell us how you prepared for Ace’s stunts – I hear you were looking forward to that side of things?
I was talking to Janet Fielding in one of our breaks and I said when Chris asked me what I’d like to do, I wanted to show that middle aged women have still got it! We can be fit and active if we choose to and do that same stuff and I said to him that I’d love to do what I used to do. Janet said several expletives [laughs], because of course she had to chase me around up the stairs, run around, and do all that as well. I think she was secretly pleased!
Did you strike up any bonds on set and how was it working with the core cast?
It was gorgeous to see Jodie and Mandip’s bond. I really get the feeling that they would do anything for each other as people. I’m sure they see each other a lot but I remember when Doctor Who stopped I missed being with Sylvester (McCoy) on set and I’m sure it’s the same for them. I think the relationship that has delighted me (as well as deepening the friendship with Janet of course) has been the one with Jemma (Redgrave) because the three of us, me and Janet and Jemma planned meeting up after – we haven’t done it yet! Jemma’s always working! We will eventually!
How was the atmosphere on set?
It was bittersweet. We weren’t there the day they did the last scenes but I know there were lots of tears shed. I said to the crew, ‘Gosh you’re going to miss this.’ It was a really solid group of people who loved each other’s company and working together. There was no hierarchy.
Have you followed Jodie’s Doctor throughout her tenure?
Yes I have — I think it’s really important that she’s brought a whole new demographic to the fandom. That’s her legacy, it’s bringing that young female audience to Doctor Who.
There are a lot of villains involved in this episode: can you tease audience about what they’re going to expect?
I was thrilled to watch Sacha, the Master, in action. I think he’s a genius and he’s so not like that in real life; he’s sweet and mild mannered. I think the word I’d use to describe his acting is dangerous. You always feel with this Master that he is on the edge of insanity, but totally logical and has got a plan. He’s not an over the top villain which would be so easy for the Master to evolve into, but he’s got this edge and way about him. You don’t know where you are with him and you don’t know quite what he’s going to do next. Which I find incredibly exciting to watch as an actor, it’s like watching a masterclass, watching him work.
Patrick (O’Kane) as well is great to watch. What he goes through to be that character, he can’t sit down, or go to the toilet. He’s another menacing, brilliant actor. You’re watching and you just think wow! Similar kind of dangerousness, it’s electric to witness that.
What can viewers expect from Ace’s return and this episode?
They’re already excited! They won’t be disappointed.
The Power of the Doctor airs on BBC1 and BBC America on 23rd October 2022.