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There’s a powerful argument to be made that Ace, companion to the Seventh Doctor and posh girl pretending to be street-scruff (her real name is Dorothy, y’know), is the Scrappy Doo of the Whoniverse: she’s a terrier, likes a fight, has a big mouth and a lot of what I believe you Americans like to call “addy-chewd.”
She’s also pretending to be something she isn’t (tough, in Scrappy’s case, streetwise in Ace’s) and possibly only exists because the producers of the TV show were worried about losing the younger viewers.
There again, she got rid of the over-sibilant panto bickerfest that existed between the Doctor and Mel, and that’s no small thing. Plus she walks around with a bunch of explosives on her back, and you can’t imagine Nyssa ever doing that.
Here’s her first time in the TARDIS. Doesn’t Mel remind you of Hermione in the first Harry Potter film?
This is a two-for-the-price-of-one moment. We get rid of Mel, and we welcome Ace, who actually says “ace!” when the Doctor invites her aboard. That’s good brand awareness, is that. Well done, Sophie Aldred.
Now, the thing with Ace is this, she’s not as strong as she makes out. She calls the Doctor “Professor” because she needs him to teach her how to survive, after some time building up defences around herself and pretending she doesn’t need anyone’s help. Well, either that or she’s got a poor memory. She’s relatively comfortable kicking ass, because it’s safest, when you act as if you might be under attack at any moment, to find out that you are right.
But she does have the thing all the classic companions have, the ability to cause trouble where there is none, and stop trouble when the Doctor can’t. He may not like her bag of Nitro-9 (a home-cooked explosive she makes because she is good at chemistry, just like all hoodrats are), but he’s not above getting her to lob a few grenades when trouble comes calling.
So, the Doctor needs her because she’s a fight-starter, and she needs him to prove to her that the universe is not fundamentally out to get her, even when it is.
Look, here she is, the Hannibal Lector of cyber-kind, still wearing her Blue Peter badge.
Not that’s she’s a total hardnut either. Here’s she feeds a cheetah with water, before being told off by the Doctor:
And here are the Doctor and Ace flying off into the wild blue yonder at the end of their last adventure together. The way the series ended, it looked like Scrappy Doo, having failed to rally the kids, had to take a back seat while Scooby and the gang, after a long rest, eventually got to come back out and play.
But Ace was always better than that. And, if anyone on the production team is reading this, she’d still fit in with the modern show, although clearly by now she’d have reverted to type, and be running a boarding school (with a shooting range out the back), and calling herself Dorothy again.
And if anyone said she was Scrappy Doo to her face, she’d probably blow up their house.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic