‘At Childhood’s End’ (Book/Audio)

‘AT CHILDHOOD’S END’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Ace with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz

This has definitely been one ace of a ‘Doctor Who’ book! 😀

I greatly enjoyed ‘At Childhood’s End’ by Sophie Aldred! Tom Baker did it with his ‘Scratchman’, so it makes sense for Sophie Aldred to do her ‘At Childhood’s End’. I wonder if there’ll be more ‘Doctor Who’ books by actors like Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Colin Baker, Billie Piper, etc! 😀

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sophie Aldred at conventions over the years since 2010. At the time of this review, my previous encounter with Sophie was at the ‘Film & Comic Con Glasgow’ in 2019. Had I known she was writing a ‘Doctor Who’ book for 2020, I would’ve said I’m looking forward to it.

I didn’t think Sophie was a ‘Doctor Who’ writer as well as a ‘Doctor Who’ actress playing Ace in the TV series and the Big Finish audios. She has been an editor of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ once and she must have written some books before whether they are ‘Doctor Who’-related or not in this instance.

I always like it when a ‘Doctor Who’ actor/actress puts his/her own take on the series, whether it’d be featuring the character they played in TV/audio or not. Colin Baker’s done it with comics and short audio stories and Louise Jameson has done it with co-writing ‘The Abandoned’ with Nigel Fairs.

So the prospect of reading a mega ‘Doctor Who’ book penned by the actress who played Ace on TV was irresistible. And because I’ve become friends with Sophie at conventions over the years, just as I’ve become friends with Sarah Sutton, it’d be remiss of me not to check out this ‘Doctor Who’ book.

It was even more exciting when I found out this ‘Doctor Who’ book would feature Ace meeting the Thirteenth Doctor with Graham, Ryan and Yaz. I know Sophie’s been supportive of Jodie Whittaker becoming the Doctor when it was announced in 2017. It is nice Sophie gets to write a story for her. 🙂

It was also exciting to check out what a meeting between Ace and the Thirteenth Doctor would be like. It’d certainly be different compared to how Ace’s relationship with the Seventh Doctor was handled on TV and in other mediums. Would Ace get to like the Thirteenth Doctor in this adventure?

As with latest ‘Doctor Who’ books by the BBC, this comes with an audiobook read by Sophie Aldred herself. I purchased the audiobook for ‘At Childhood’s End’ via Audible so that I could read and hear the story at the same time. It was so lovely to hear Sophie reading this adventure in the background.

Incidentally, as with ‘Scratchman’, Sophie had two ‘ghost-writers’ helping her out on delivering ‘At Childhood’s End’ in book form. These include Steve Cole and Mike Tucker. Steve Cole has written plenty of ‘Doctor Who’ novels and Mike Tucker knows Sophie from working with her in the TV series.

Essentially, the story takes place after Ace’s travels with the Doctor ended. There has been some debate over the years on how Ace’s travels with the Doctor ended as interpreted in the books; audios; comics and such. It sort of gets answered in this adventure, but I’ll get more into this later. 🙂

The story begins with Ace…now using her name of Dorothy…running her charity called A Charitable Earth. This was something that was introduced by Russell T. Davies when mentioned by Sarah Jane in the ‘SJA’ tale ‘Death of the Doctor’. It was also glimpsed in ‘The Promise’ Season 26 Blu-ray trailer.

It was nice to have a story where Ace runs her charity and how she handles life on Earth after her travels with the Doctor ended. She…sort-of defends the Earth in her own way, with her own batcave somewhere. And yes, I said ‘batcave’ because that’s what Ace called it when we get to it in the story.

Anyway, there have been reports of young runaways vanishing from the dark alleyways of London. Ace seems convinced that the disappearances are connected to the sightings of sinister creatures lurking in the city shadows. She’s also been haunted by terrible nightmares that seem so vivid to her.

Conducting her own investigations with the help of a few friends, including her old flame Will Buckland, Ace begins to investigate an alien satellite that has come into secret orbit around the moon. This is where Ace teams up with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor as well as Graham, Ryan and Yaz. 🙂

Incidentally, the book is divided into three episodes – with them being ‘Part One’, ‘Part Two’ and ‘Part Three’. I’m not sure if the episodes are meant to be half-an-hour on TV as they were back in Sophie’s days of ‘Doctor Who’ or if they were meant to be an hour long each. I would take the latter.

The story is also divided into 32 chapters. There’s also a prelude at the beginning of the story as well as an interlude between ‘Parts One and Two’ and an interlude between ‘Parts Two and Three’. Both interludes feature the Seventh Doctor and Ace and they take place before the two parted company.

There’s also a coda at the end of the story as well as acknowledgements made by Sophie Aldred. Incidentally, ‘Parts One and Two’ take place in 2020 whilst ‘Part Three’ takes place in 2020 and beyond. The interludes take place in 1990 – though that’s more they take place in 1990 for Ace here.

This also happens to be not the first time Sophie Aldred has voiced for the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz in ‘Doctor Who’. Sophie voiced them in the audiobook for ‘The Secret in Vault 13’. I’ve yet to read/hear that ‘Doctor Who’ story. I’m looking forward to that with Sophie reading it!

Thus, this was the first time I heard Sophie voice the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz in ‘Doctor Who’ on audio. I really enjoyed Sophie’s voices for these characters. She captures what Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill sound like as the characters in the TV series. 🙂

Sophie does a good Northern accent for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, much like how Clare Corbett voiced her in ‘The Good Doctor’. It was also fun to hear how Ace interacted with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz as characters compared to Ace interacting with the Seventh Doctor. 🙂

Just to point out, ‘Part One’ mostly focuses upon Ace’s journey. She’s mostly referred to as Dorothy before she’s revealed as Ace at the end of ‘Part One’. The Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team don’t join in until the end of ‘Part One’. The rest of the story has more splits of character journeys throughout.

From ‘Part Two’, we cut to the journeys of the Thirteenth Doctor and Ace together as well as Graham, Ryan and Yaz together and sometimes reuniting as a group before interchanging with each other. In ‘Part Three’, it can be a challenge to keep up with character journeys if you read a chapter per day. 🙂

But that wasn’t a major issue for me as I enjoyed reading/hearing the story and how Sophie interpreted the characters of Ace, the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz from her angle. I admit, I would’ve preferred more interaction between these five characters in ‘Part Three’ as there was in ‘Part Two’.

At least they were reunited on a sort of level in the final chapter of the story. It’s also hinted at in the coda that Ace may be travelling with the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team for a while. I’m sure Ace got back to Earth someday to run A Charitable Earth again. How long she was away for, I don’t know.

In terms of Ace’s relationship with the Thirteenth Doctor, she’s surprised to find her as a woman and not as a man as she used to know him. She gradually accepts her, but there is friction between them. Ace is suspecting the Doctor is manipulating her again as she/he used to do in their travels together.

The Doctor denies that she is manipulating Ace again. It’s quite a contrast to have Ace interact with a Doctor who isn’t as manipulative as she/he used to be when she/he was Sylvester McCoy. There is an instance where Ace proves the Doctor wrong in whether she’d kill somebody or not at the end. 🙂

In terms of the relationships Ace has with the Thirteenth Doctor’s companions, she gets on well with Graham and Ryan and likes them instantly. Yaz is a different story however. There is a sense of jealously on Yaz’s part where she’s uneasy whether to trust Ace or not, especially regards explosives.

Yeah, Ace has some new explosives in this story which happen to be called Nitro 90 instead of Nitro 9. Yaz, being a police officer, is suspicious about why the Doctor would keep company like that who deals with explosives. I do like the scenes where Ace and Yaz seem to be rivals during the story here.

I wish that could’ve been explored further especially in ‘Part Three’. Most of the time, the Doctor, Ace, Graham, Ryan and Yaz are on separate journeys as well as other characters before reuniting in the final chapter. Maybe more character exploration’s saved for a future Ace/Thirteenth Doctor tale.

It was fun to hear Graham’s down-to-earth nature, especially when he interacts with characters like Ace, Chantelle and Ryan. There are some scenes between Graham and Ryan when they’re together as grandfather-grandson. Graham also gets rescued by the Doctor and Yaz whilst Ryan is kidnapped.

Ryan is equally enjoyable as a character in the story and may even have a semi-romantic plot with Chantelle whom he crushes over. There are also instances where Ryan does get to stand up for himself against the villains of the story. Sophie writes so well for the Thirteenth Doctor companions.

If you’re wondering who this Chantelle person is I’m talking about, then I can tell you that she happens to be Squeak from ‘Survival’. Yeah! That little girl who was crying for her dead cat in that story ends up being a 30-year-old blonde model/actress, matching to how Adele Silva looks today. 🙂

It was fascinating to read/hear Chantelle as a character compared to how she was a little girl from Perviale in ‘Survival’. She does start off as a somewhat dumb blonde living in a council estate flat before she unveils to become an interesting person with certain morals and be involved in the story.

Other characters featured in the story include the aforementioned Will Buckland, who’s actually quite a nice chap that Ace used to date a while ago. There’s also Kim Fortune who becomes connected to Chantelle; Ace’s business associate Sanual; and Ace’s cat who gets the name of Sorin. 😀

The villains are connected to Ace in an intriguing way, especially in terms of when she was ‘time-stormed’ to Iceworld in ‘Dragonfire’ before she ended up being as a wolf of Fenric in ‘The Curse of Fenric’. Certain names for the villains are Halogi-Kari, Legata Aquillon, the Wraiths, the Astinger, etc.

I believe this is an instance of where you need to re-read/re-hear ‘At Childhood’s End’ again in order to get over some of the complexities of the villains and their motivations for capturing people via time-storms and such. It does seem really complex, especially when so many villains are involved. 😐

The story also includes a spidery-like gadget called Squidget that’s used for certain stealth missions or something in the adventure. I couldn’t help think of the little robot R.A.L.P.H. from ‘Spy Kids 2’ here. And of course, this adventure would not be complete without featuring Ace’s baseball bat in it.

It’s also important not to forget that the Seventh Doctor features in the two interludes of the story. This gives Sophie the chance to voice Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor again just as she did for stories like ‘Shockwave’ for the ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series. It was fun to hear Sophie round on the ‘r’s again. 😀

This leads onto something significant in the book that might be construed as controversial in some ‘Doctor Who’ fans’ eyes. This is in connection to how Ace leaves the Doctor to run A Charitable Earth. You see, in the interludes, the Seventh Doctor and Ace come across a device called the Quantum Anvil.

The device happens to allow people to see alternative versions of the future. When Ace looks via the Quantum Anvil, she sees alternative futures including her living on Gallifrey; her travelling with the Doctor and Benny I believe; her travelling with the Doctor and Hex; her where she ends up dead, etc.

Now, as I’ve been able to gather, at the end of the second interlude between ‘Parts Two and Three’, Ace falls out with the Seventh Doctor and decides to leave the TARDIS which leads her to run A Charitable Earth. All the alternative futures Ace saw via the Quantum Anvil…happen to be in parallel universes.

This is where things are messed up in terms of the Seventh Doctor and Ace’s timelines according to some people. For a while, and certainly on my part, timelines have been compiled for ‘Doctor Who’ characters where the TV stories; books; audios and comics coexist with each other as…one timeline.

But according to ‘At Childhood’s End’, it seems the Big Finish audios; the book stories and the comics stories exist in alternative timelines away from the main TV timeline. Now, this is going to give people some headaches when they’ve been used to the TV, audio, book and comic stories coexisting as one.

And look, I don’t like it when sci-fi shows such as ‘Doctor Who’ do that where they suggest multiple continuities for certain characters. It changes my perception on how a character’s timeline should go and I’d like to think that Ace’s TV adventures; Big Finish audios; books and comics can coexist as one.

But here’s the thing. Over the years, I’ve become accepting of the fact that time is always in a state of flux. Just because the Big Finish audios; the books and the comics exist in alternative timelines, doesn’t mean they can’t coexist with the main TV timeline. There’s always room for possibility here.

And it’s not like ‘Doctor Who’ hasn’t been an offender for messing up continuity before. They did it even in the TV series where ‘Mawdryn Undead’ messed up the U.N.I.T. timeline. And there’s always that possibility that certain stories/timelines can occur differently within the ‘Doctor Who’ universe.

Maybe ‘The King’s Demons’ did happen before ‘Black Orchid’ according to the ‘Black Orchid’ Target novelization. Maybe the Fifth Doctor stories featuring Nyssa and Billy do happen in an alternative timeline. Maybe the War Doctor never happened and the Eighth Doctor just regenerated into the Ninth.

The possibilities of multiple universes happening in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe are endless. And it’s not just with ‘Doctor Who’. Spider-Man and Batman have been offenders in that regard with multiple continuities whether they’d be in comics, movies and TV stories. It’s just how you perceive it.

I can’t deny I’m a little annoyed that ‘At Childhood’s End’ establishes the audios, the books and the comics for Ace exist in alternative universes. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean the TV series cancels them out. It’s likely that the ‘Doctor Who’ stories in any medium can co-exist with each other.

So, am I against the idea that multiple ‘Doctor Who’ universes can co-exist with each other? No! Will there be a story where it gets explained how the multiple ‘Doctor Who’ universes can co-exist with each other? I hope so. We’ll just have to wait until someone comes up with a clever way to explain it.

Overall, ‘At Childhood’s End’ has been a fun ‘Doctor Who’ adventure to read/listen to. I enjoyed Sophie Aldred’s writing and reading of this tale and it was fascinating to hear her take on Ace meeting the Thirteenth Doctor with Graham, Ryan and Yaz. It was truly worth the purchase for me. 🙂

I look forward to meeting Sophie Aldred again at a convention and share insights with her regarding how she conceived this story with Ace and the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team. It’ll be an interesting conversation to have with Sophie, especially concerning Ace’s timeline. I am looking forward to it. 😀

‘At Childhood’s End’ rating – 8/10


The previous story

For the Seventh Doctor was

  • ‘Atom Bomb Blues’ (Book)

For Ace was

  • ‘Atom Bomb Blues’ (Book)
  • In Remembrance’ (CL) (Audio)

For the Thirteenth Doctor was

  • ‘Praxeus’ (TV)

For Graham was

  • ‘Praxeus’ (TV)

For Ryan was

  • ‘Praxeus’ (TV)

For Yaz was

  • ‘Praxeus’ (TV)
The next story

For the Seventh Doctor is

For Ace is

For the Thirteenth Doctor is

  • ‘Can You Hear Me?’ (TV)

For Graham is

  • ‘Can You Hear Me?’ (TV)

For Ryan is

  • ‘Can You Hear Me?’ (TV)

For Yaz is

  • ‘Can You Hear Me?’ (TV)
Return to The Seventh Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Ace’s Timeline
Return to The Thirteenth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Graham’s Timeline
Return to Ryan’s Timeline
Return to Yaz’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

2 thoughts on “‘At Childhood’s End’ (Book/Audio)

  1. Brilliant review Tim, blimey such depth to this review, i haven’t heard the audiobook yet but you given a intriguing pro’s & con’s summary of the story, it’s difficult with Aces timeline as there’s no definitive exit yet for her character but i always refer to BF as canon because of Night Of The Doctor where the Eighth Doctor speaks of his companions so I’m not sold on this alternative universe malarkey.

    Interesting & informative review, I’ll have go now purchase the audiobook & give this story a listen, stay safe & healthy my good friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘At Childhood’s End’.

      I’m surprised you haven’t heard the audiobook yet. You’re usually up to date with some of these ‘Doctor Who’ stories. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you get around to hearing it.

      Glad you enjoyed the pros and cons I’ve given to this review. I enjoyed Sophie’s take on Ace meeting the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz. It’s annoying and frustrating when there doesn’t seem to be a definite exit for her character from the TV series. I was keen on the idea that all the books, comics and audios form into one timeline. It doesn’t seem to be the case now.

      I agree, the Big Finish audios should be part of the main continuity since the Eighth Doctor established that in ‘The Night of the Doctor’. I don’t like it when the TV series seems to be ignoring the Big Finish audios as part of the main continuity. It’s happened lately with the Mary Shelley stuff in both Eighth Doctor and Thirteenth Doctor stories. I’m also not sold on the idea that Nyssa and Tegan may be a couple according to the latest Sarah Jane story ‘Farewell, Sarah Jane’. It doesn’t make sense and it contradicts what went on in the Big Finish audios for the two characters. I’ve always considered Nyssa and Tegan as best friends. I’m sticking to certain stories as part of the main continuity whether it’d be TV, audio, book, comic and my own stories. 😀 I’ll have to do a series of blog posts regarding that issue.

      Same to you, Simon. I hope you’re coping okay during this tough time. I’m getting fed up at my end. I want to see movies at cinemas and see Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton at conventions. I’ve got something in mind to share in my upcoming birthday post for me, which I’m looking forward to despite being stuck at home.

      Many thanks.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

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