By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
The mother of Rose Tyler, Jackie is the first example of a companion’s parent taking centre stage in the show. Russell T Davies wanted to encapsulate how life with the Doctor affects those left behind and Jackie was our door to it. It was a good step because it was never something addressed in the classic show; indeed with the character of Peri who, in one reality, died when her body was taken over by an alien slug or the true one, and she became Queen Yrcanos on an alien planet. It always bothered me that her mother and step father would never know what happened to their daughter. In fact, that never sat right with me at all. The last person to see Peri alive was her stepfather who left her trapped in the middle of the ocean on a boat to stop her running off to travel the world with two men she met. Now we as an audience know that Peri tried to swim ashore, got into trouble and nearly drowned only to be saved and taken aboard the Tardis by Turlough. In the real world, Howard, her stepfather, would have returned to the boat and discovered she was gone. The assumption would be that she had tried to swim ashore and drowned, her body never to be found. Can you imagine the emotional repercussions? The man would have not only have to deal with the consequences of guilt but it would more than likely have destroyed his marriage as Peri’s mother would have blamed him. There was no talk of siblings so to her, her husband would have been responsible for the death of her only daughter. Although this issue was addressed in both comic strips and novels, that isn’t canon. And Jackie Tyler became the most important semi-regular character in the show’s history. She was the epitome of the greyer areas the classic show avoided. What happens to those the companions leave behind? And as much as Eccleston and Piper were integral to the success of the relaunch of Who, so too was Camille Coduri who played Rose’s feisty mother.
Jackie was widowed when Rose was a baby when her husband Pete was killed in a car accident. Left alone to raise her daughter in a council flat on the Powell estate, Jackie had a string of boyfriends including sailors. She tries to seduce the ninth Doctor when she first meets him but he quickly rebukes her which doesn’t go down well. She doesn’t trust this new man that her daughter seems so taken with and lets him know it. What we later discover is that Jackie has never gotten over the death of Pete, the love of her life and that her world consists of her and Rose and Mickey, Rose’s boyfriend (Noel Clarke). She probably imagined that this was what her life would be with Rose and Mickey getting married and the cycle of raising grandkids on the Powell estate starting again. However, she was in for one hell of a shock.
As I mentioned earlier, the consequences of Peri’s disappearance were never dealt with but in new Doctor Who, they were dealt with in a spectacular way.
In Aliens of London, Rose returns home to discover her mother is an emotional wreck and the flat is filled with missing posters of her. It has been a full year since she left to travel in the Tardis and the Doctor has gotten the dates wrong as he thought they returned the day after Rose left.
Her homecoming is not met with delight and joy as she discovers the full effect of her decision to leave Mickey that night and go off in the blue box. Jackie has the entire estate convinced Mickey has murdered Rose and buried the body where no one can find it. He has been through several heavy police interrogations and is now a virtual pariah, sealed up in his flat, living on his computer to find some way to prove his innocence. Jackie is the most vicious creature in the world; a mother protecting her child. She slaps the Doctor and gets the entire story out of her daughter. She has no guilt at all in almost destroying Mickey’s life and she hates the Doctor so much, she reports him as an alien to the authorities who swoop in and take him and Rose away. She wants him out of her daughter’s life forever as she sees how much she has lost Rose in such a short time. How ironic that it is Mickey who saves her from being killed by a Slitheen. And with the Auton attacks and Slitheen invasion, she sees the danger where Rose sees excitement and adventure.
Death is an all too familiar figure to Jackie and that figure has returned in the form of the Doctor to tempt her daughter away. She makes the Doctor promise to keep her safe and get her home rather than die out there in time and space which he keeps in the Parting of the Ways when he sends Rose back rather then have her face the Daleks. And strangely enough it is at this point that Jackie sees she is fighting a losing battle, especially when she discovers Rose met Pete. Could it be this is where she begins to thaw in her hateful attitude to the Doctor? He has kept his promise and given Rose the chance to talk with her father which inwardly impresses her. And she is more content this time to let Rose go with him. So when the injured regenerated Doctor is delivered on her doorstep, Jackie steps in doing what she does best, taking care of people. Although how she thinks a ham sandwich will cure him or why one of her boyfriends carries a Satsuma in his dressing gown are questions best left unanswered. In his tenth incarnation, she openly kisses him and welcomes him to her dinner table, something she would never have considered before. She is happy to see Rose happy as her happiness is all that matters to her, even if it is with an alien in a time travelling box.
To see exactly what Jackie deals with while her daughter is off travelling in time and space, she had an entire episode dedicated to her: Love and Monsters, in which guest star Marc Warren as Elton Pope, part of the group LINDA, is sent by the mysterious Victor Kennedy (Peter Kay) to find Rose Tyler. He gets close to Jackie who opens her heart as to how she feels about her daughter out there somewhere. We see a more vulnerable Jackie, a simple mother missing her only child but when she discovers that Elton is actually searching for Rose, we see the firecracker Jackie of old, fiercely protective of not only Rose but of the Doctor too. He is as important to her as Rose and Mickey and no one is going to hurt the latest addition to her family. And I believe she misses Mickey when Rose and the Doctor return to tell her Mickey has stayed in the parallel universe after their battle with the Cybermen. He may be gone but at least he isn’t dead which is what she fears the most. And it’s interesting to see her parallel universe self is a super rich spoiled bi@#h that dies alone when she is converted into a Cyberman. And the first one ever to retain her memories after she is converted. Even in a metal suit she is no pushover. In this reality, she and Pete were still married but had no daughter. They had separated but maintained the illusion of the happy family to keep the world at bay. It’s interesting to see what money did to this version of Jackie. In short, it’s an interesting foreshadow of what is to come.
Although she has no desire to travel in the Tardis, she gets her chance in Army of Ghosts when she is hijacked and ends up in Torchwood, impersonating her daughter alongside the Doctor. Nothing scares Jackie, not even a top secret all powerful organization but even she cannot imagine what that day will bring when both the Daleks and the Cybermen invade Torchwood, placing the entire world in danger. She is almost converted into a Cyberman but escapes and in one of the series’ most emotional scenes, she meets her dead husband from the parallel universe. And they run into each other’s arms. The Doctor has brought the love of her life back to her and she ends up in the parallel universe with him, living the life she always dreamed of and ending up having a son called Tony. And this time, money doesn’t turn her into a cow. She has Rose and Mickey round her and they are happy. She and Mickey are especially close given what happened between them and if you think for one second she mellowed, think again.
When Rose goes off through the dimensions, thanks to Torchwood technology, to find the Doctor, Jackie follows with Mickey in a battle that would take them against the Daleks and Davros, who stage a full scale invasion of Earth after they transport it into the Medusa Cascade. She will stop at nothing to save Rose, especially when every reality is in danger from Davros’ mad scheme. The parting scene between her and Mickey is subtle and underplayed and much more poignant for it. These are two close friends who have been through hell and back to find that life is much more than they ever thought. Both have dead loved ones brought back and a brand new hope for the future. When they return to Bad Wolf Bay with the human Doctor, not only is Rose’s journey complete but Jackie’s too. She knew that her daughter’s love for the Time Lord would never let her rest and to see them together at last is enough for her. Jackie Tyler has gone on a journey she never could have imagined. By stepping through the doors of a tall blue box, Jackie’s world of the Powell estate, the place where she once thought she would live forever and die, melted away to a life that brought the love of her life back.
Jackie Tyler, mother, bi@#h, tiger, lover, is as much a part of the Heroes of Doctor Who than anyone else, more in some respects. She could be your best friend but your worst enemy. And you couldn’t help falling in love with her. Jackie Tyler and Camille Coduri, we salute you.