Friday, November 2, 2012

A Companion's Guide: Rose Tyler

Name: Rose Tyler
Portrayed by: Billie Piper
Number of episode as a companion: 18
Home Planet: Earth
Doctor(s): 9th Doctor and 10th Doctor

First Impressions
I think the most appealing thing about Rose Tyler is that she is completely un-extraordinary. In a recent Doctor Who special entitled The Women of Doctor Who, one of the commentators described her that really hot girl who peaked in high school and that's an accurate portrayal. When we first meet Rose she's living with her mother in a small flat, working at a local clothing shop as a clerk and dating a guy that's okay for her because it's easy. She's this really beautiful girl that doesn't think much of herself. She doesn't have many goals and you get the sense that she doesn't find herself very intelligent.

What the creators of the show were able to do with this character was completely transform her throughout the seasons because she was a completely blank slate. My first impression of Rose was very negative. I wasn't a fan of hers at all because she seemed really ditzy and silly. I thought that if the show was going to continue on with her, I couldn't see how people were as nutty about it as they were.

Something Deeper
My first glimpse of the woman Rose Tyler would become was in "The Unquiet Dead". The way she stood up to the Doctor and fervently and passionate fought for humanity's right to keep their dead bodies in the ground showed me a spark in Rose I'd never seen before and I was intrigued. She was still funny and fun loving and giggly in that episode but she also stood up for something she believed in. Her passion was impressive but I also thought it took tremendous courage to stand up to the Doctor even though she was so new. She didn't have a lot of a life to go back to and he might have decided she was too much trouble and dropped her back off. Yet, she stood up to him anyway and that gave me a glimmer of something deeper.

Father’s Day
Rose Tyler becomes a full fledged, fleshed out character in the episode "Father's Day". In this episode, the 9th Doctor breaks his own rules and takes Rose back in time to the day her father died. She was only a baby at the time and never got a chance to meet her dad but has heard a lot about him from her mother. The Doctor warns Rose that she can't interfere with time but that she can go hold her dad's hand as he's dying. But when the time comes, Rose can't pass up the chance to save her father from an oncoming vehicle creating an alternate universe and thoroughly pissing the Doctor off. She ends up paying for these mistakes but she also allows her dad to become the man he never got to be for her in her life. It fleshes out her character for me. And I realized that when the Doctor reappeared (he disappears from existence for a while--it's just part of the plot) and tells Rose to run to her father and she hurries over and grabs his hand as she crying over him and he's dying that I felt for her. I wanted to cry with her. And I thought, I'm invested and I was wrong. Rose is interesting. I never expected her to defy the Doctor and try to save her father but because she did, it suddenly turned her Technicolor in my eyes.

There's something else I noticed in that episode that made me sit up a little bit and that was the chemistry of Rose and the much older Doctor. People kept calling him her boyfriend and they'd both deny it but you realize in "Father's Day" that there really is a spark there that they can't hide from. This is fascinating for two key reasons. The first is that Rose already has a boyfriend back home that she left to come with the Doctor and the second is that Doctor Who has never allowed the Doctor and a female companion have a romantic relationship before. Would they now or would they ignore the obvious chemistry?
GIF from Doctor Who Gif

Bad Wolf Rising
In "The Empty Child" Rose uses her sort of ditzy demeanor to get information out of Captain Jack Harness because he doesn't think she's listening to him. But later in the hospital she is able to tell the Doctor everything he said and is fast enough to give Jack false names. As the Doctor continues to take her along on these adventures, she begins to think on her feet and he encourages this behavior, often waiting for her to work out what is happening and how they can fix it. It is because he fosters this behavior in her that she is able to transform herself into something altogether epic and terrifyingly awesome to behold in "Bad Wolf" and "The Parting of Ways".

Knowing that he cannot win against an invasion of Daleks and their king, the Doctor tricks Rose into getting into the Tardis and going home. The Tardis then dies leaving her stranded in her own time period while she knows that somewhere in the future, the Doctor and all of her new friends are going to die. A phrase has been following her across the universe that she and the Doctor noticed which is "Bad Wolf" and because Rose has been putting things together with the Doctor, she realizes that if Bad Wolf is in her time and in all other times that there has to be a way to get back. She'd been leaving herself the same message all through time to show that it's all connected. She figures out a way to get the Tardis up because she remembers it is a living thing and absorbs all the Tardis's essence on her way back to the Doctor transforming herself into this other worldly creature called the Bad Wolf. By taking in the Tardis's soul, she can see all of time and space and erase or create life. The consequence to these actions is that all of that knowledge will burn her up from the inside unless the Doctor does something and quick.

The 9th Doctor takes the Tardis's energy from Rose is a kiss that may or may not mean more. I like to think it is a statement on the chemistry they've been building throughout the entire season but regardless, it is the last human touch this Doctor will ever feel. As he lets the Tardis' energy back into the Tardis, he begins to regenerate and explains to Rose that he will essentially die and be born again as a new man with all the same experiences and memories but with a different face and thoughts and likes and dislikes.

Thus enters the 10th Doctor who radically changes Rose again.

Cat and Mouse
Throughout season 2, Rose and the Doctor continue to grow closer after she realizes that he truly is the same type of man, just "slim and a little bit foxy". This season shows a happier Rose and the Doctor encourages her laughter and giggling as much as her mind. Rose continues to build on the courage and determination she found at the end of Season 1, risking her life to help the trapped people in "Tooth and Claw".

But what Season 2 also does is begin a game of cat and mouse between the new Doctor and Rose. In "New Earth", when Cassandra enters Rose's body, the Doctor refuses to do anything until Cassandra takes over him so Rose is free. He also seems to notice Rose's body since Cassandra flaunts it. Throughout that entire episode, the Doctor refuses to help unless Cassandra takes over him. Likewise, in "The Girl in the Fireplace" they give the Doctor a small romance which makes Rose jealous and in "The Satan Pit" they even have the Doctor and Rose discuss living with each other if they were to be stranded (though the Doctor seems really freaked out by this concept).

Both the Doctor and Rose are constantly pitted against each other in season 2 to try to figure out their feelings for one another. Rose is obviously interested though she never outright admits it but the Doctor seems a lot more hestiant. His resistance is explained very early on in the season with "School Reunion".

A Companion Expires
In "School Reunion" Rose is faced with her own expiration date when former companion Sarah Jane Smith (one of the most well liked companions in the early Doctor Who) returns as a guest star. Rose is extremely protective of her Doctor at first, going as far as arguing with Sarah Jane over who is closer to him. They both realize they are being silly and end up bonding in the end but this episode forces Rose to realize something. There were others before her. How long until the Doctor grows tired of her and trades her in for a younger companion like he seemed to have with Sarah Jane?

This also addresses the Doctor's eternal problem of bringing company abroad his Tardis. He will watch them grow older and die but he will never grow older himself and may never die. The Doctor assures Rose that as long as she'll have him, she can remain with him till the end of her days which Rose happily accepts. But his promise is tested at the end of the seasons in perhaps one of the most heartwrenching episodes in the series.

"This is the story of how I died. This is the last story I'll ever tell." These are the words spoken by Rose that greet the viewer in Doomsday because in this episode, viewers witness the last few moments Rose will ever spend with her Doctor. Due to an invasion on Earth that is going south quickly, the Doctor has to close a portal that are dimensions between worlds, sealing Rose and her mother away in another dimension which will never be able to be opened again.

Though the Doctor urges Rose to go with her family, she steadfastedly decides to stay behind with the Doctor even though it means that she too will never see her mother or other dimensional father again. Rose's courage to make this choice is perhaps her biggest transformation yet. She starts out as an indecisive store clerk who doesn't expect much more out of her life and through her experiences with the Doctor, she learns how to assert herself and trust her instincts. So even when she is forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she does it with conviction.

It is because she chooses to stay with the Doctor that her getting ripped away from him is one of the saddest moments of the series. She looses her grip on a handle and is going to get sucked into a hell dimension when her father (he is alive in the dimension her mother goes to) swoops in to save her just as both the hell portal and the dimension with her mother close. She is safe with her family but she is permenantly sealed from the Doctor forever. Seeing both the Doctor and Rose standign at the same wall in different dimensions, trying to get back to each other can make even the hardest of men feel a little teary eyed.

Bad Wolf Bay
Only by burning up an entire sun can the Doctor get back to Rose long enough for a proper goodbye. As she walks on the beach, going to the spot the Doctor sent to her in her dreams, the Doctor fades into view for their final goodbye. With the moments slipping by far too quick, Rose admits the biggest thing one can say to another and that is that she loves him. I think it speaks volumes about her as a character that she is willing to take these last few minutes of her time with the Doctor to say something they both already knew, something that they had been skirting around all through time and space and put it out there when there is nothing left.
And she is rewarded with the closest thing to a reciprocation that a companion has ever gotten...

Rose Returns
I think that it is becuase she never got a full conformation that Rose was willing to fight tooth and claw to get back to the Doctor. All through season 4, we see Rose's face flash on screens, we see her speak to the current companion and visit the Doctor's world for brief snatches of time just to get back. Had she gotten her confirmation from him, she still would have tried but I feel like that almost gave her the fuel to try that much harder. During her travels apart, Rose becomes even stronger, toting around a gun and blasting Daleks without batting an eye. Her final return in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End" shows a much more independant and fiercley determined Rose than we've ever seen.

And she succeeds after an entire season of flitting in and out. The Doctor sees her and they run to each other only for him to get shot. This ends up being a happy circumstance when he is able to stop the regeneration process and send it into the hand he lost back in Season 2, creating a human/Time Lord double of himself with all of his same memories but who is much more like the man he was before Rose softened him. He leaves this double with Rose and tells her that she can spend her life with him and they can grow old together but Rose isn't convinced. I love that Rose was smart enough to want the real geninue thing. She doesn't just accept the Doctor pawning off a clone until she reaizes that this Clone Doctor is the human part of him. Sort of like he took his human heart out and gave it to her. When Clone Doctor is able to say the words she has been fighting all this time to hear (I love you) she realizes that she can be happy.

Now, critics have aruged that Rose's return and subsquent happy ending cheapened the emotional impact that "Doomsday" had and I can see that point. I just completely disagree. Rose fought and grew and performed miracles to get her happy ending which is exactly what she learned from the Doctor. All those tools that the Doctor helped tend in her over her two seasons as a companion, she utilizes to make her return. She put blood, sweat and plenty of tears into getting back to the Doctor and if we hadn't seen that same type of spirit it wouldn't have been our Rose.

It is through Rose's tremendous growth and her vivacious spirit that she became my favorite companion to ever appear on Doctor Who. Her ability to be brave and strong when she needs to and laugh and enjoy her time with the Doctor even when she doesn't makes her unforgettable. Her journey from medicore to world-savior and the intensity of her love for the Doctor (and his for her) is the heartbeat of Seasons 1,2 and 4 and kept me pushing play to watch another episode long after 4 AM rolled around.

GIF from Doctor Who Gifs
Great Rose Episodes:
  • Father's Day
  • The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances
  • Bad Wolf and The Parting of Ways
  • The Christmas Invasion
  • Tooth and Claw
  • Fear Her
  • Army of Ghosts and Doomsday
  • The Stolen Eath and Journey's End
I'd love to hear in the comments what you think of Rose!


  1. I personally have always disliked Rose. The 9th Doctor wasn't that interesting to me and I ended up skipping a good chunk of episodes so I think I missed most of the Bad Wolf storyline! It's good to know that Rose developed into a stronger character, because I could never understand why the Doctor liked her so much. I might have to go back and watch those episodes I skipped! Great post :)

    1. I can see why you might not have been a fan of her if you didn't watch her Bad Wolf episodes. She really stepped up and became THE hero in them and it made me gain a ton of respect for her character. You should definitely go back to the earlier episodes and check them out.

  2. This is awesome! Thank you so much for compiling all of this. I love Rose and I think she really developed into a strong heroine.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was really fun going through Rose's story and picking up on things I might not have connected the first time. I love her so much!


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