A Bad Wolf or Just Plain Bad? Addressing Rose Criticisms
Guest contributor James Nash examines the most common criticisms of Billie Piper’s companion.
Ah, Rose. What did you do to gain the hate of some of the Doctor Who community? Every fan I have spoken to loves Rose. Radio Times readers voted her as their favourite companion, they love Rose. From the off, I am going to say it, I love Rose. Today I’m going to explore the general problems some of the community and others have with Rose as well as try (probably in vain) to persuade you that Rose Tyler is not the devil’s spawn. The main issues I have identified are: Series 2 changes, selfishness, ‘clingy’ nature, jealousy and her return.
As you may all remember, Series 2 came out last on the Series 1-7 Face-Off results, something I definitely disagreed with. In terms of stories, no, it is not the best series. I believe that honour goes to Series 4 and 5. Much like Series 6, I believe it contained some average to bad episodes, yet some truly phenomenal ones also. Unfortunately, I would call second series of the revival inconsistent. A lot of comments have said, as well as several articles, that Rose’s character declined in Series 2. However, if you look closely, this just isn’t the case.
Even in some weaker episodes such as ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ and ‘Fear Her’, Rose proves herself. While the Doctor is off chasing cars on his moped, Rose correctly identifies the television set as the real threat in 1950s London. She investigates alone, and although ends up faceless, this act clearly indicates her bravery and that while the Doctor might see the bigger picture, she notices the smaller (and sometimes more important) details. It is also this act that pushes the Doctor to stop the villainous Wire. Again, without the Doctor, Rose strives to save him and the world while visiting the London 2012 Olympics. She again uses her gutsy-ness – ‘Kel: You just took a council axe from a council van, and now you’re tearing up a council road! I’m reporting you to the council!‘ – as well as her loyalty to the Doctor to aid her. But most importantly, her compassion shines through. She once again sees the finer details and recognises that the Isolus pod only needed love, and helps Chloe Webber throughout the ordeal as well.
Of course, she also displays her worthiness in the better episodes. In the wonderful and heartbreaking ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, Rose, with ‘help’ from Mickey, shows the viewers her curiosity, defying the Doctor, to investigate the SS Madame de Pompadour and the Clockwork Droids. She may be loyal to the Doctor, but does defy him when she wants too (other examples of this include ‘Dalek’, ‘The Parting of the Ways’, ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘Doomsday’). Steven Moffat also puts aside Rose’s jealousy and allows her compassion to take center stage, having her warn and attempt to comfort Reinette. Both Rose and Reinette understand the nature of life with the Doctor – ‘Rose: Are you okay? Reinette: No, I’m not. But you and I both know, don’t we, Rose, the Doctor is worth the monsters…‘ – leading to a subtle bond between the two. In an episode where she is really only a supporting character, she puts aside her feelings to help a woman in a similar situation to herself, despite the fact that both of them have romantic intentions towards the Doctor.
In the inexplicably terrifying ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’, Rose motivates and leads the remaining members of Sanctuary Base 6 so they can stop the Ood and defeat the devil himself. ‘The Valiant Child’ rallied to the defense of the Ood when she realises that humans still use slave labour over two thousand years after her time, calling herself a ‘friend of the Ood’, as well as taking charge even after the creature from the pit had prophecised that she would ‘die in battle, so very soon‘. She is also willing to stay and face the possessed Ood again, if it means she will be reunited with her Doctor.
Honestly, I fail to see how anyone can be oblivious to the on screen (and off screen friendship) chemistry between David Tennant and Billie Piper. They can be two best mates having a laugh and making bets around Queen Victoria, or distraught, separated lovers on Bad Wolf Bay. This amplifies the complexity of their relationship and how deep their trust goes. I consider the two of them *ducks behind the sofa* ‘my Doctor and companion’. These factors show, that come rain or shine (or come ‘Fear Her’ or ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’), Rose Tyler grows as a person in Series 2, taking more responsibility and becoming a leader, while keeping her essential companion qualities.
Oh, how could I have failed to see it?! Obviously Rose should live with her mum FOREVER. Obviously she should stay with her boyfriend (that would rather go watch the football at the pub than console her after she lost her job and almost died) FOREVER. And how dare she try and use what she thought were her last seconds to tell the Doctor that her death wasn’t his fault, rather than blaming him or screaming (‘Dalek’ if you were wondering). How selfish of her to actually grow up! I hope the sarcasm is clear. This isn’t saying that I hate Jackie and Mickey, I love them. They go through great character development too. But there comes a point where you have to leave the nest if you want to have new experiences and grow as a person.
There’s a term known as the ‘Working Class Yoke’. This is where someone from a working class background may have to (unfairly) carry that ‘burden’ around. It’s also where a working class person is (also unfairly) held down by that yoke, meaning that they are expected to stay in their home town and work in their local shop, for example. My father came from a working class background and ‘broke the yoke’ as it were, by realising that he could do more, and leaving home to live in London. Now, as a family, we are middle class. My dad aspired to have a nice house in the countryside (a typical middle class lifestyle), when most of his school friends are still living where they were. Now please note I’m not insulting anyone of a working class background or those who still live where they were born. I’m simply saying that he realised that if you don’t put yourself into extraordinary situations, then nothing extraordinary will happen. That is what the Doctor did for Rose, he ‘broke the yoke’ for her and gave her a chance at seeing the universe differently. Arguably he did the same for Mickey is Series 2, leading Mickey from the idiot to the hero. People say that she was willing to leave her life behind to stay with the Doctor, and that doing that was wrong. But it wasn’t her life; it was the life Jackie wanted her to have. Travelling with the Doctor, that was truly her life. Should we blame her for wanting to live it? No. How could she ever go back after the TARDIS?
Clingy. A word thrown around too often when discussing Rose. She is by no means a one-dimensional character. To put it simply, she cares deeply for the Doctor, so wishes to stay with him when she can; but when circumstances force them apart, she’s more than capable at not only looking after herself, but also leading others (mainly evident in ‘Turn Left’). However, if you still want to call her clingy, we have to note that she is not the only clingy one in the relationship.
Much to the annoyance and despair of Martha Jones, the Doctor spent the majority of Series 3 still mourning Rose. I feel that if Martha had stayed another series, she could have really come out from under Rose’s shadow and become not just the wonderful companion that she was, but perhaps viewed by the public as one of the greats. While Martha was saving his life and walking the Earth, Ten decided to mope and talk about how great Rose was, in front of his new companion. This was one of my criticisms of Series 3, the Doctor barely noticing Martha, and her sudden crush on him was detrimental to her character. It didn’t sit right with me that this smart, rational woman fell in love almost immediately with a madman in a box. It felt natural that a lost teenager slowly began to love the man that showed her an entirely new way of living, it worked for Rose’s character. But as much as I love Rose, she didn’t need to be mentioned in EVERY episode afterwords, I felt the mourning of her could have been handled better. But I digress. The Doctor was obviously a little clingy himself, but while he was being moody, Rose was actually doing something to get back. She had a dimension cannon built, travelled from parallel to parallel, warned Donna of the danger, just to see the Doctor again. When two people in a complicated relationship are equally obsessed with their other half, I don’t think you can call either one ‘clingy’. I think they’re just really into each other.
Moving on, jealousy. Now taking on the Doctor Who companion, the incredible Sarah Jane Smith, was a bad move. In a personal favourite of mine, ‘School Reunion’, she took on 99%, if not the whole of the classic series fandom. Even now, as a NuWho fan, I know that nobody could even try to match Sarah Jane. However, if you went along thinking that you were your partner’s first girlfriend/boyfriend, and suddenly his/her ex that they’ve never mentioned before turns up, you’re going to be a little confused. And yes, a little jealous.
A word against Sarah Jane is considered blasphemy, but here goes. Just as we have to remember that the Doctor was equally as clingy, we have to note that Miss Smith was just a tad jealous herself. In my honest opinion, I believe that the snarky comments between them and then the full out competition was done purely for comic relief. I found the rivalry hilarious, and it actually made the eventual friendship between the two all the more sweet. Sarah Jane referred to Rose in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode, ‘Revenge of the Slitheen’, calling her a friend; both were also obviously happy to see each other again on the Crucible in ‘Journey’s End’.
Unfortunately, I can’t argue on behalf of Rose in ‘The Stolen Earth’, when she remarks ‘I was here first!’, and believe that was a mistake on RTD’s part. However, you will also notice the little glimpse at the bond/friendship/admiration/whatever-you-want-to-call-it between Rose and Martha in ‘Journey’s End’. Perhaps that’s how Rose’s friendships work, they both insult each other and then end up bezzies. As a 15 year old who is pretty socially awkward and considered by many to have nice eyes but be a little weird, I obviously know a lot about love (not). But even I can understand and sympathise that jealousy is generally a factor of love, and that if someone else enters the scene and you consider them a threat, you’ll do whatever it takes to stay with the person you love. Yet again, it is Rose’s love for the Doctor that is an explanation of her behaviour.
Now, her return. I’ve been honest with you up to now, so why stop? My jaw literally dropped at Rose’s cameo at the end of ‘Partners in Crime’. I was nine years old, and had no idea that Rose was slated to return for Series 4, and had not even heard the rumours. That scene was executed perfectly, particularly the use of camera angles and the music used (Rose’s departing theme, Doomsday). Although, it might seem odd, but looking back, Billie Piper’s facial expressions really impress me. From those 10 seconds, I saw sadness, disappointment, and desire to see the Doctor again, just by looking at her face. The teases of her ultimate return were also played subtly and got me even more excited.
Then came what could be a contender for the top spot on my list of ‘Best Doctor Who Episodes’, the dark, emotional roller coaster called ‘Turn Left’. Now Rose may not be the same Rose we all know and… apparently hate (and she sounded a bit odd), but that only displays the evolution of her character. She is even more brave – travelling across universes alone, leading a UNIT team, warning Donna of events to come etc. She is fiercely loyal – trying everything to get back, warning the Doctor of events to come etc. And she is just as compassionate – saving Donna and her family, holding Donna as she died etc. Rose was the only person left to aid Donna, just as Donna was the only person to aid Rose, and was the only person with the knowledge and experience to get Donna to turn left and warn the Doctor in a different universe. Also note, that the supposed selfishness and jealousy were virtually non-existent here.
I agree that her role was minimal in the finale, especially in ‘Journey’s End’, but couldn’t the same be said for other companions? Were Jack and Sarah Jane there because they were destined to become half Time Lord, or had access to top secret, dangerous UNIT technology? No. They were there because they are the Doctor’s friends, just as Rose is, and that’s the only reason they need. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the end, she got her happy ending. For those saying that she didn’t deserve it, I think we’re forgetting that Rose Tyler has saved millions of lives, hundreds of worlds; she even helped save the whole of reality. Doesn’t deserve it my (insert rude word here). In the world of Doctor Who, I’d be lucky not to be hit by a bus, and I consider myself a pretty decent human being. Her new mission was to make Meta-Crisis Ten better, to be his doctor, just as she was for Nine. I also consider that deleted scene from ‘Journey’s End’ canon. The Doctor and Rose, in the TARDIS, as it should be.
From my point of view,’The End of Time’ cameo was perfect as well, bringing her story full circle. It showed how much Rose’s character had matured and evolved, from the naive, lost, teenage girl, to the brave, loyal, compassionate woman. If we count Billie Piper’s role in phenomenal ‘The Day of the Doctor’, she was simply outstanding. She even threatened to steal the scenes she had with John Hurt, portraying a sentient piece of machinery with a conscience, but with subtle hints of Rose embedded throughout. At least in my view!
So, finally, to conclude. Today, I hope to have shown you what is actually only a glimpse of the positives of Rose’s character. To me, Rose was the one thing I could have hoped for in any fictional character. She was human. And I don’t mean she wasn’t an alien, I mean that even when in life and death situations, she kept her humanity. Yes, she made mistakes. Yes, she had flaws. She was human, one of us. She was just thrown into a whole other world (both emotionally and physically). I live a middle class lifestyle. I have parents who are still together. I live in a nice house in the countryside. Rose lived a working class lifestyle. She was raised by a single mum. She lives in a council flat in London. As a person, I’m probably more like Martha, Rory or Clara. But I connect with Rose Tyler more than any other Doctor Who character, let alone any companion. Because she wasn’t perfect; she could be a little selfish, she could be a little clingy, she could be a little jealous. And do you know what, that’s fantastic. Because nobody’s perfect but in my view, Rose Tyler was pretty damn close. So even after this, you still hate Rose, it doesn’t matter me. We all love Doctor Who here; it’s what unites us. What matters to me is that you see that she did actually have some good in her, so before you start saying ‘I hate Rose, she’s a horrible person’, really think about it, look at the positives. In my view, they far outweigh the negatives. So if you managed to stay till the end, I sincerely thank you. And don’t forget to comment below and give your thoughts. Ah, Rose…