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Doctor Who's 'Ace'. The 10th Anniversary of the London Exhibition
It’s been ten years this month since I celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, with an exhibition of long-lost photographs of the Doctor’s much-loved companion, Ace. With Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy in attendance, Orbital Gallery London, hosted the show from September 5th - October 1st 2013. I thought I’d share in two parts, some of the photos that didn’t make it onto the walls due to space limitations at the time, among some of the others that did, including this photo of Ace and the Doctor at Coal Hill School (aka St John's School, Hammersmith), in the 1988 episode, Remembrance of the Daleks.
Watching Doctor Who is a rite of passage for every child, as it has been since the early sixties.
Just as the seasons came and went, so did The Doctor. My first memory of him was as the grumpy old man who I really wanted as my own Grandfather. I watched him on telly every week. The Zarbi, the Cybermen and of course the Daleks. How could he defeat them all?!? I watched him throughout his first three incarnations, then I stopped, but he continued to inspire me — so when I finally came to work on Doctor Who Magazine in 1985, it was one of those things that your younger self would be so very thankful for.
At this time I was working for Marvel UK, and I’d just been given the chance to redesign the magazine by its new editor, Sheila Cranna. What it sorely lacked was new photographs, as those in the archives had been so thoroughly overused.
Because of my previous job as a freelance photographer, it made sense to me to take my camera along to interviews, set visits and press calls. One of these was the first appearance of a young Sophie Aldred, who was about to play the Doctor’s new companion, Ace.
The press call was followed by a trip to North Acton rehearsal studios to take some shots of Sophie for DWM, when she wasn’t being hounded by press photographers. Trying to figure out the best location for the shoot, we settled on the roof. In these days of health and safety madness we’d probably have to fill out a risk assessment form (at least); but back then, like a couple of errant teenagers, we snuck past the signs and found ourselves in a perfectly photogenic spot at magic hour with a bird’s-eye view of London.
As well as being completely relaxed in front of the camera, I did notice a tendency in Sophie to get a bit too close to the edge. This slightly fearless nature became even more apparent in the Dinosaur enclosure at Crystal Palace park a few years later, as I watched her scaling those monstrous, life-sized dinosaur sculptures to pose precariously on their various appendages.
It’s interesting to note that I’d been itching to revisit these dinosaurs since I’d last photographed them as a ten year old, with my very first plastic Diana 110 camera, and here’s that very shot from 1969.
Some time after this on our days off, we used to take photographs for fun, with Sophie sporting a series of guises cooked up by a very talented make-up artist named Nina Gan. This was followed by a Paul Thomas animation project, called Saffron, with Sophie posing for a whopping 900 stills; cover shoots for John Freeman during his time as editor of Doctor Who magazine, and even a cover for the Judge Dredd Megazine during my time at 2000 AD (I’ll add this and others to Part 2).
These photographs were taken in my high-rise flat in the East End of London. Bow Church, to be precise.
Sophie is my most-photographed person of all time, so I thought it might be a nice idea, during the Doctor Who anniversary year of 2013, to exhibit a few of the photos that were never published. Luckily, Orbital Gallery in London seemed to think so too – and having shown them the many contact sheets, I set about looking for the negatives to start scanning. Hundreds of pages of negatives were thumbed during the search to locate them and to my absolute horror I couldn’t find them anywhere.
I can’t imagine how I lost them, because I’ve always been so careful with my negatives; in fact I used to have a recurring nightmare that I was running around the hilltops looking for somewhere to bury a metal canister full of negatives, prior to some kind of atomic war. Why I would place such value on my photos is anyone’s guess, but as Sophie’s husband Vince helpfully suggested, maybe war broke out because of the negatives.
Thankfully, the portraits that ended up on the walls weren’t printed from relics unearthed in a scorched metal time capsule. In fact they were thankfully discovered down the back of Sophie’s old filing cabinet in Lewisham, just in time for the exhibition. Phew!!!
To be continued in Part.2 soon.
A previous Doctor Who feature here.
Doctor Who © BBC
All Photos © 2023 Steve Cook
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