Sophie Aldred: “Fan love” kept Doctor Who alive

Sophie Aldred portrayed Ace opposite Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor from 1987 to 1989, and was witness to the end of the show’s classic era of Doctor Who when the BBC cancelled the show in 1989. It wouldn’t return to our screens – bar a TV movie in 1996 with Paul McGann- until Russell T Davies was charged with rebooting the series in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston taking on the lead role.

But what was it that kept the flame of the series alive throughout the 1990s and the first five years of the noughties? It was fan love for the show according to Aldred, who will be returning to Doctor Who as Ace in The Power of the Doctor, a special feature-length episode that will not only coincide with the 100th birthday of the BBC, but also mark the final appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and the end of the Chris Chibnall era as showrunner.

When asked about the many mediums, including audiobook versions of Doctor Who that had continued throughout the16 years the show wasn’t on TV, Aldred was sure that it was the passion that people have for the show, and the huge fandom behind it that kept the interest levels up until 2005.

“It all came from that fan love of the programme. Without a doubt it was people like Big Finish who kept Doctor Who alive.” she told BANG Showbiz news.

“I very much doubt it would have come back without them. That’s because it kept the fans going, there was new material. It would have just collapsed in on itself had it not been for the books, the audios, the spin-off film, the company that was doing interview tapes and things like that.”

She pointed to the audiobook specialists Big Finish as playing an important role in keeping the fans and writers engaged with the stories during the television wilderness for the show.

“The people behind Big Finish were fans who were also professionals who had also dabbled a bit in writing themselves. People like Mark Gatiss, Russell T Davies and Steven Moffatt and it gave them a platform as well. It gave them a chance and it gave us a chance to do some really good work that we loved doing, it was a real win win all around and it really kept things going for Doctor Who.”

Sophie Aldred will reprise her role as Ace in The Power of the Doctor alongside another classic companion, Tegan, played by Janet Fielding. Both characters will reunite with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in an episode that she has described as “one for the Whovians” and will see the return of the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master.

The Power of the Doctor will give way to a new era of Doctor Who with Russell T Davies back at the helm, and Ncuti Gatwa taking over the lead role. There are a number of 60th-anniversary specials planned for 2023, before a first full season is expected sometime after. It is thought filming will begin for that new season in November.