Confession #114: I've Come Full Circle on Rose

Several months ago, I got my daughters to agree to watch an episode of Doctor Who with me—just one. I told them if they didn't like it, they didn't have to watch any more. It turned out, though, that they did quite like it, and we ended up watching another right away.

Since then, we've watched a number of stories together, from Series Ten to The Monster of Peladon to Dalek. With the summer holidays winding down and a new school year starting, we've come to something of a viewing standstill (though I'll admit to not being overly anxious to push forward, as the next two episodes in the queue are Love & Monsters and Fear Her...), but now that we are ~85% through Rose's time as a (regular) Companion, I have to say it's made me think about her differently—again.

When I first started watching, Rose was my everything. I fell in love with the show and the Doctor through her, totally reading their relationship—starting with Nine—as romantic. I even had my own headcanon about exactly when each fell for the other, and when each ~realized~ they'd fallen for the other. I made notes (I'm that kinda nerd).

I spent a great deal of Series Four (which was airing as I caught up to it) waiting with bated breath for Rose's return. It couldn't come fast enough for me. Although Donna replaced her as my favorite modern Companion (until Series Ten), for several years I had nothing but fondness for Rose. Then I started interacting with The Fandom.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this (I'm assuming you've dipped your toes into Fandom if you're reading a blog) that there are two vociferous schools of thought about Rose in the greater community: those who adore Rose (usually including shipping her with the Doctor), and those who abhor her. While the latter group may or may not actively wish to erase any trace of the character from the Whoniverse if they could, they certainly dislike the character's extreme importance to the Doctor (and thus the overall show) during the RTD era. (Sometimes, they also dislike other fans who do like Rose, especially those from the aforementioned first camp.)

When I first came across this perspective, I didn't get it at all. "Rose is awesome, what's your deal?" I thought. The more opinions I read, though (and perhaps the more context I got, as I watched more of the Classic era), the more I saw their point. Why couldn't the Doctor just move on (he never mentioned Sarah Jane; why should he mention Rose)? Why did she have to keep coming back? The Doctor shouldn't be mooning after anyone, especially a barely-past-juvenile of a different species with a relatively mayfly-like lifespan.

For the next several years, I leaned more toward the Rose-is-tiresome camp. One of the  most egregious offenses of the character is that the Tenth Doctor became especially careless and irresponsible in her company. The two of them went swanning about space and time on a lark, barely registering the true horror that those around them experienced as they made their touristy way from one disaster to the next. They got so wrapped up in each other that they became a bit callous.

Then we met Clara.

Now I find myself firmly on the Cranky Pants side of the aisle. I never quite warmed to Clara, first being irritated by the fact that she was a plot point instead of a character ("the Impossible Girl") and then being irritated by her open disregard for her own safety as she pushed the envelope ever harder (Series Nine). However, there are a lot of folks for whom she is their favorite Companion.

The funny thing is, some of the same things I hated about Clara are effectively the same things that many have not liked about Rose. Eleven clearly had the hots for Clara, which squicked me out. Clara was written as the most important entity in the universe (not just to the Doctor), and died something like four times but kept coming back. Twelve clearly couldn't move on from that last time and would undoubtedly be bringing her up every chance he had if they hadn't wiped his mind. And talk about swanning about space and time on a lark... These two take the cake.

All of this had been swirling in my mind when my girls sat down with me to watch Rose. With the added benefit of their fresh eyes, I could see the episodes of Series One and Two with some of that old adoration. Rose is awesome. She also has a lot of flaws, just like all the other Companions.

Now, though, I can view her journey more objectively. I can see how her own strengths and weaknesses lead her where they do, how the Doctor's attachment to her makes him do some silly things, and how many parallels there are to his behavior in other incarnations and with other Companions (and not merely those mentioned here).

The result is that I've begun to like Rose more again—I've allowed myself to like her again. Yes, the Doctor gets all moony over her and it's annoying, but no more so than with Clara. Some fans can't stand one, some can't stand the other, and some can't stand either (or love both)—and all are perfectly reasonable responses.

Having thus adjusted my perspective, I have come full circle in my opinion of Rose. When she gets into a tight spot and one of my girls gasps her name in alarm, I can remember my own initial reactions with a smile, and enjoy the ride again like it's the first time. It feels like coming home.

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One of Rose's least attractive characteristics is her attitude towards Mickey. She so took him for granted and treated him terribly. She was his girlfriend but upon meeting The Doctor she dropped him like a hot potato with no regard for his feelings. She never had a Dear John conversation with him (that we saw) and left him to figure it out on his own.

To be fair, a lot of the women in New Who seem to be cruel to their men. Amy had a wonderful time making Rory think she was in love with The Doctor instead of him, then giving him mixed signals to draw him back. Over and over. Clara's relationship with Danny was toxic and her habit of regularly lying to him was not attractive. And don't get me started on River Song!

I can see reasons why The Doctor should have been so attached to Rose. He just (he thought) murdered his entire species when he met her and needed an emotional anchor. He imprinted on her like a baby duck. She looked up to him and fell in love with him and he didn't have anybody else. No wonder he was devoted.

But I never thought Rose was a particularly nice person and I suspect that if I met her in real life I wouldn't like her much.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I doubt that Rose and I would get along in real life, either. As someone through which to live vicariously, though, I really connected with her.

And yes, she was horrible to Mickey. I'm willing to put that down to her age and overall immaturity, though. I can't say I'm proud of all the relationship decisions I made through my time at college (up to age 22, and Rose was only 19 and 20 in these two series), so I'm willing to cut her a little slack. :)

By mrfranklin

BTW, I was always quite fond of Love and Monsters. It didn't have much Doctor in it and the monster was silly but Elton was a fascinating character.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a supporting player in a Doctor Who episode? What would it be like to be Third Civilian From the Left? After The Doctor defeated the Cybermen or the Daleks and flew off in his blue box, leaving you to pick up the pieces and speak to the press, maybe get arrested for blowing up that nuclear power plant or mourn some friend or relative killed in the action, what would you think?

Who was that masked man? Where did he come from? Where did he go? How did he know so much about Daleks and how to stop them in the first place?

These are the kinds of questions Elton and his friends have. This is what gets them in trouble.

I think it's a great episode.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I agree that the concept of the episode (foregrounding those would would usually be background characters) was a good one. Add in the Absorbaloff and a really questionable offhand comment about the continuing romance at the very end (let's not think about the logistics too hard...), and I found the execution of said concept sorely lacking.

By mrfranklin

I like the dynamic Rose had with 9 but was annoyed by the dynamic with 10 - not just her overt sexual attraction to him, but how awful a person she often was when traveling with him. 9 as mentor worked. 10 as bf did not - he was far too permissive with her shenanigans.

Sometimes a companion is written to fit well with a particular Doctor actor and it just doesn't work after the regeneration. I quite liked Adric with Tom, but he was an annoying fifth wheel with PD. Peri worked very differently with 5&6. Etc

By fizzixrat (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

You're absolutely right that the Companion-Doctor dynamic works differently across Regenerations. My feelings about the Rose-Ten dynamic have been pretty malleable over the years. Because of how I initially experienced that season, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for those two, despite their poor behavior together.

For me, if you want to talk about bad behavior and a Doctor who's too permissive of a Companion's shenanigans, I'd say take a look at Clara and Twelve!

By mrfranklin

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