At Childhood’s End Book Review
One of my favorite things about Doctor Who is that you will never run out of content. It’s been a while, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to revisit At Childhood’s End. It’s one of my favorites, and who better to share what Ace has been up to than Ace herself? Sophia Aldred wrote and narrated the audiobook A.C.E. (a cheeky reference to her character’s name.)
It’s always interesting to see how companions react to different Doctors, and Ace meeting Thirteen is no exception. Not to mention all of the added variables since I didn’t know the terms of Ace’s departure until reading! Although this is divergent from where the on-screen story went in The Power of the Doctor, it’s wonderful to see different scenarios play out.
Ace is such a forthright, strong character that broke the mold at the time. To revisit her later in life, after her life with the Doctor, is appealing. How would the Doctor and Ace part ways? How would someone like Ace fit in after all those galaxies? Would she still be cooking up Nitro-9 and donning her patched jacket? Would she still go by Ace or revert to her given name?
If you watched Sarah Jane Adventures, you might have noticed a mention at the end of The Death Of The Doctor. Sarah Jane talks about various companions she’s looked up. One of them is “a Dorothy something. She runs that company, A Charitable Earth. She’s raised billions”. How did Ace end up being a multimillionaire?
We learn a lot about Ace in At Childhood’s End. Terrible dreams plague her every night. Meanwhile, disaffected teenagers are being abducted. (Sound familiar?) Ace investigates of course. In doing so, she gives off extraterrestrial Batman vibes. Alien activity on Earth is exactly her speed.
References to past stories, monsters, friends, and foes pepper At Childhood’s End. Any fan would love listening in and catching some mention of a past favorite. I think many would find a new favorite in Squidget– a squidgy gadget– an all-purpose tech-savvy creature we meet in Ace’s ‘Batcave.’ The K-9 to her Sarah Jane, almost.
Something’s orbiting the moon so, naturally, Ace gets in the thick of it. Along the way, she meets familiar faces! Well, maybe not familiar faces. Not to her. Not yet. I think that sort of reunion is vital to handle carefully and I loved it. I won’t spoil it for you, nor the scene later on that had me leaping up and re-reading (or re-listening.)
This book is a bit grittier than some Doctor Who books, so probably not for folks in their single digits, but teens and up should be good. There are some dark and grim bits in this book, plenty of angst, and some soft moments that tap into characters and relationships in a way we don’t get to see often in the show.
We follow Ace and the fam (Yaz, Ryah, Graham, and the Thirteenth Doctor) as well as a couple of new characters. At the time this came out, and when I read it, these characters had yet to cross paths. In a way, their reaction to Ace was just as interesting as Ace’s reaction to the Doctor. We learn what’s going on through Yaz’s mind, and it made me think about their on-screen meetup.
The characterization in this book is phenomenal, in my opinion, and with so little to go on at the time of writing it, it’s truly impressive. After reading Tom Baker’s Scratchman, and Sophie’s At Childhood’s End, I look forward to more companion novels like them in the future! Because it’s not just about revisiting the characters, but the actors who help make Doctor Who special.
TLDR; socially awkward 13, jealous Yaz, Thasmin angst, 9/Rose callback/vibes, badass Ace, morally-grey 7, well-rounded Ryan, loveable Graham, loveable Squidget, some astronaut guy, weird aliens, great characterisation