With Ace returning for the BBC’s centenary special in 2022, we take a look at the best Doctor Who episodes for the most explosive companion in the Whoniverse. (Spoliers ahead!)
‘Dragonfire’ is one of the best Doctor Who episodes for becoming acquainted with Ace – partly because it’s the first time the Doctor became acquainted with her as well! In this Season 24 episode, the TARDIS lands on an Earth colony called Iceworld on the planet Svartos, which is something of a huge frozen supermarket overseen by a ruthless criminal with a robot dragon lurking in its depths. (This is Doctor Who, after all…)
But in terms of finding out more details about Ace, ‘Dragonfire’ is one of the best Doctor Who episodes because it gives some crucial information about her character’s origins. In the story, we learn that she arrived on Iceworld after a time storm “whipped up from nowhere” and transported her from Perivale, London, to the planet Svartos. She also reveals that she is orphaned (or, at least, this is the implication) and claims that she has “never had no mum and dad and don’t want no mum and dad.” It’s just her.
But fans would have to wait until much later in the Seventh Doctor‘s era to learn more about the mysterious time storm. Until then, ‘Dragonfire’ stands as one of the best Doctor Who episodes for learning about her backstory.
By the time ‘Battlefield’ aired in 1989, the Doctor Who production team were beginning to peel back the layers on Ace’s character and develop her relationship with the Doctor, and this classic story serves as great introduction to her overall arc. ‘Battlefield’ is one of the best Doctor Who episodes to add to your list because it shows Ace at her human best, making a new friend in the form of Shou Yuing (one of the guest characters) and squaring up to a whole host of malevolent foes, including Morgaine and the iconic Destroyer.
But you will have to watch the extended version to see one of the most interesting scenes. There is a telling moment when Ace becomes defensive of her relationship with the Doctor; the Brigadier (returning here for one last outing) doesn’t know her name and simply refers to her as “the latest one” of the Doctor’s companions, and Ace is obviously offended by this remark, quickly marching off in annoyance. It may not be one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time (it achieved the lowest viewing figures in the series’ history) but it features some truly memorable moments for her character.
‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ aired before ‘Battlefield’ and is widely regarded as one of the best Doctor Who episodes of the Seventh Doctor’s run. In the adventure, the Doctor and Ace arrive in London in 1963 to collect something the Doctor left behind a regeneration or six back and, at the same time, they have the dreaded Daleks to contend with – not to mention the threat of unlimited rice pudding!
‘Remembrance’ is more of an action piece than ‘Battlefield’ but it is one of the best Doctor Who episodes for Ace’s character as it highlights her fearlessness. Indeed, Ace’s confrontation with a Dalek in a school classroom has become an iconic moment, screaming “Who are you calling small?!” before bludgeoning the metal mutant with a baseball bat, avoiding a salvo of projectiles and hurling herself through a window – a far cry from the helpless screams of the Doctor’s previous companions.
But again, there are tantalising glimpses into Ace’s wider personality and attitudes. There is a very memorable moment where she discovers a ‘no coloureds’ sign hanging in the window of a bed and breakfast, which she takes down in disgust.
2) Ghost Light
Like ‘Remembrance of the Daleks,’ ‘Ghost Light’ is also regarded as one of the best Doctor Who episodes of the Sylvester McCoy era – even if people sometimes have a hard time understanding it (but don’t worry, the Lovarzi guide will help you out!)
It is also one of the best Doctor Who episodes for Ace’s character as she is forced to confront her fears, personal history and relationship with the Doctor. He deliberately deceives her, secretly taking her to a mysterious house known as Gabriel Chase in the late 1800s which she burned down as a teenager, after sensing a great evil. And when Ace learns the truth, she is none too happy; there is one particularly famous scene where she says to the Doctor, accusingly, “Don’t you have things you hate?” and he replies: “I can’t stand burnt toast. I loathe bus stations – terrible places, full of lost luggage and lost souls. And then there’s unrequited love, and tyranny, and cruelty…”
Again, ‘Ghost Light’ highlights what a complex character Ace really is, highlighting some of her greatest fears – fears that are big enough to make her burn down a house. Moreover, she is once more forced to question how she relates to his mysterious man who travels the universe in a blue box. Can she really trust someone who would surreptitiously take her back in time to confront one of her most painful memories…?
1) The Curse of Fenric
‘The Curse of Fenric’ brings together many of the threads from the Seventh Doctor’s era and reveals some key details about Ace’s past. For this reason, it is one of the best Doctor Who episodes to have on your viewing list – even if it is rather complicated.
In the adventure, the Doctor and Ace confront an evil from the dawn of time known as Fenric who, as it transpires, has been manipulating Ace’s life since before she met the Doctor. Indeed, it was Fenric who created the time storm that whipped her away from Perivale and took her to Svartos, and it was Fenric who brought her into this latest adventure in 1940s England – for it is here that Ace risks her life to protect a baby, who later turns out to be her mother.
In essence, she creates her own future, and this is a painful realisation for Ace who didn’t have the easiest relationship with her mum. In fact, in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ she claims not to love her.
But ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is also one of the best Doctor Who episodes for exploring Ace’s relationship with the Doctor. In episode four, she loses faith in him completely and is reduced to tears. This is because the Doctor describes her as a “social misfit,” adding: “She couldn’t even pass her chemistry exams at school, and yet she manages to create a time storm in her bedroom. I saw your hand in it from the very beginning… She’s an emotional cripple. I wouldn’t waste my time on her, unless I had to use her somehow.”
Of course, all of this is just a ploy by the Doctor to make Ace lose her belief in him and break the psychic influence that is keeping the Ancient One from attacking Fenric and defeating him. (It makes sense when you watch it…)
And with Ace returning to Doctor Who for Jodie Whittaker’s final episode (alongside classic companion Tegan Jovanka) some of these classic plot points may also resurface. Could she find herself in a second confrontation with the villainous Fenric? There is already a suggestion that she’ll (once again) be fighting a Dalek with a baseball bat, if you watch the trailer really slowly…
In the meantime, which do you think are the best Doctor Who episodes for the character of Ace? And which do you think are the best Doctor Who episodes out of our picks? Let us know in the comments below!
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