By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Once again we look at the supporting characters that have helped define the Doctor. This week, Billie Piper as Rose Tyler…
When the series returned revamped for the 21st century, Russell T Davies insisted that the role of Rose Tyler was an equal role to that of the Doctor. It was to be the Doctor and Rose, end of.
And nobody can deny that there was a great amount of surprise and concern that former pop star Billie Piper had been selected to play the role. Hopes were not high but I have to say Billie hit the ground running. Rose was just a normal girl working in a shop, collecting the lottery syndicate money and having lunch with her boyfriend.
But then someone entered her life with a single word – ‘run!’ – and over the next two years that’s exactly what happened.
Rose came across as nasty and selfish at times eg when her boyfriend Mickey joined them on the Tardis. To be honest, the whole concept of Rose being in love with the Doctor and him being in love with her never really worked for me. It felt like Doctor Who in name only in that respect. And it failed in that aspect in stories like the Girl in the Fireplace which showed exactly why the Doctor never fell in love. It also rattled as the Doctor gave up everything including Rose for Madame Pompadour without a second thought. Much was made of it via her mother, the fantastic Jackie Tyler who was initially hostile to the Doctor but warmed to him in his tenth incarnation. But she knew how dangerous the life he promised her daughter was, even when Rose couldn’t see it. But Rose listened to no-one and when she asked the Doctor to bring her back to see her father, she becomes the woman who sat by his side and held his hand as he died after being hit by a car. Leading up to this, she ignores the Doctor’s orders and saves her father from being killed, resulting in the world being wiped out by the Reapers, huge bat like creatures that literally ate history away to try to heal the damage created by Rose. Her scenes with her father were some of the most powerful ever, especially as he sacrifices himself to secure his daughter’s future.
But with Rose it was a chance to reintroduce new viewers and remind old ones just how magical travelling with the Doctor was.
In the Unquiet Dead, the very action of stepping into freshly fallen snow in Victorian Cardiff is almost like watching it happen for the first time. In World War three the Doctor is not prepared to stop the Slitheen in case he loses Rose and his emotional blackmail to get her to come back to the Tardis is like a jealous boyfriend as he believes Mickey just might win her back. But it is also important as she is the first person to help break down his emotional barriers having been so isolated following the Time War. And the line “Rose, I’m coming to get you!” has gone down in Who history as the definitive moment the Doctor allows himself to declare his feelings for any person. Not even a Dalek invasion force will stop him from saving the girl he loves, something the Daleks have already figured out.
But it is with the tenth Doctor that Rose seems more real and this younger version of the Time Lord makes her even more determined to have him so to speak. When trapped on an asteroid on the edge of a black hole in the Impossible Planet, they face the real possibility of spending their lives in this time zone together as partners, even discussing mortgages.
Her feelings are never more obvious than when she came face to face with Sarah Jane Smith. Discovering that not only did she travel with the Doctor but had feelings for him, Rose is openly hostile towards her which didn’t really endear her to me to be honest. Don’t diss the Smith. But as they trade insults and try to outdo each other with their adventures (Sarah wins by the way with the Loch Ness Monster) they realize the Doctor may have changed his face but it’s the same man both of them fell for. It is Sarah that encourages Rose to keep travelling as it’s worth getting your heart broken. It is also the point where Rose realizes that she is literally the latest in a long line but also that this time may be different.
The love triangle that was her, the Doctor and Mickey was faced head on with her former boyfriend’s addition to the crew. When they land in a parallel universe where Rose’s dad is still alive and Mickey gets a second chance to save his grandmother, they finally part in a tear jerker of a scene where Mickey decides to stay, having accepted he has lost Rose to the Doctor forever. It doesn’t matter he will be trapped on this Earth forever as it is the only way to purge Rose from his life forever. And this is the moment that Rose and Mickey’s relationship solidifies from that of lovers to deep friends that would die for each other and Rose finally realizes what she has done and how much Mickey really means to her.
But like everything else, it is Mickey that returns to our Earth from the other side to save Rose from Torchwood and the mysterious sphere that is cracking open the dimensions again. Of course, it holds the Daleks and the battle for control of Earth is joined when the Cybermen invade from the other universe. Rose ends up reunited with her family in the other universe but ripped from the Doctor in the series’ most heart-breaking scenes when the Doctor doesn’t get to tell her he loves her when power gives out.
But when that girl really wants something she goes for it and her surprise cameo at the end shocked everyone. Throughout the entire season Rose was glimpsed trying to contact the Doctor but it wasn’t until the story Turn Left that we learned why and that she needed Donna Noble to sacrifice herself to achieve it. This was quite a shocking development as this Rose was much harder and determined to do whatever it took to find the Doctor. She used Donna’s dying breath to get a message to the Doctor as reality itself was in danger from what we ultimately learn is Davros and a new Dalek threat. And it is a tribute to Mickey that it is he who brings Jackie with him to get Rose back. And having done that, he finally leaves to return to our Earth to begin a new life. Rose however gets her heart’s desire when an aborted regeneration causes the creation of a second Doctor. This one has only one heart and can never regenerate so they can live their lives together like any normal couple. She is convinced when he is about to tell her what the answer to her question was the day they got separated. She finally gets to hear him say he loves her. In a deleted scene, the Doctor gives them a piece of Tardis with which to grow their own so the other universe will have a Doctor and Rose defending it.
Overall it was a love story that was powerfully emotional and gave the series some of its best stories and memorable scenes but to be honest, I wouldn’t want to see it repeated. But it made perfect sense as it is the story of the Doctor rediscovering something to care about after losing everything and everyone he loved in the Time War. And it is the story of a girl discovering a new way of life and all its possibilities through the eyes of an alien that had lost faith in everything. And whether you agree with it or not, it gave us two years of compelling and unforgettable viewing and cemented the Doctor back into television landscape forever. No mean feat.