October 26, 2011

In Defense of Rose Tyler and the Doctor's Attachment to Her.

This is probably gonna provoke a serious flame war, but I feel the need to get this out of my system and onto this blog ASAP. Basically, this is going to be an entry dedicated to defending the character Rose Tyler from the rather harsh feelings and unfair criticism that I feel some Doctor Who fans have had towards her. I'll also make an attempt at explaining why I feel the Doctor was so emotionally attached to her, which is something else some fans took umbrage with. If you're interested in what I have to say, then please join me after the jump. If not, then don't bother posting a comment. I won't stand for people bitching about Rose without first reading what I have to say.

First of all, Rose grew up with a single parent, her mother Jackie. The reason why her father Pete wasn't around is because he died when she was still a baby, as detailed in the episode "Father's Day". Also shown is that her mother told her positive stories of her father growing up, so that Rose wouldn't grow up to resent her father, despite the fact that Pete wasn't the perfect guy Jackie was making him out to be.

A young girl growing up without a proper father figure in their life can have all sorts of issues, even if they aren't apparent to the average person. Some girls will actually go seeking out guys who are a close approximation of who they think their father was, even if they aren't fully aware of why they do it. It's a psychological thing that most girls like that do, and the sad thing is, too many people nowadays fail to realize that.

However, even if she didn't have those issues, there's another thing many fail to take into account: her age. When she meets the Doctor, she's still basically a teenager. When you're that young and enter a relationship with someone, it's gonna be difficult to let go of them when you eventually do break up. A lot of early relationships between two people in the real world have been like this in some form or another. Especially nowadays with teenagers getting pregnant while in high school and/or deciding to marry their high school sweetheart as soon as they graduate, but that's another discussion altogether.

Before I discuss the Doctor's emotional attachment to Rose, I want to defuse this argument fans have that the Doctor was being "out of character" because of that. First of all, the Doctor's personality changes whenever he regenerates. Whether it's a significant alteration of his brain chemistry as a result of literally becoming a new man or whether it's just a fully conscious decision on the Doctor's part is never elaborated on, but what can't be refuted is that each Doctor's personality is fundamentally different from the other save for the occasional similarities.

If you look at the First Doctor at the start of the show, he's not really all that heroic. He's not interested in saving people or the universe at large, he was more into saving his own skin. Hell, his first 2 companions are school teachers that he basically kidnapped because they were too suspicious of his granddaughter. There was even one time he attempted to bash a defenseless person's head in with a rock, before someone stops him and calls him out on it. I'm sure any of you looking back at him would be appalled that the Doctor started out as such a jerk. I know I was.

But as time goes on and he starts to travel with and meet many different people, he begins to mellow out and becomes a much more compassionate figure. He also becomes much more involved in righting the wrongs of the universe, which is especially prevalent when he regenerates into the Second Doctor.

Another thing that I feel defuses the "out of character" argument is his seventh incarnation. While he started out kinda buffoonish and clown-like, he eventually developed into a much darker and more manipulative person. While he still cared about his companions, this version of the Doctor was not above using them as pawns to further his goals. He does get called on it a few times in the series, but not much. Like the attachment to Rose, many felt this was also "out of character".

I personally think that while the Doctor may be a good person, he may not always be a nice one. Contrary to what many people think, being good and being nice are not always synonymous with one another, nor are they mutually exclusive. They certainly can be, but that doesn't mean they always should be.

All that said, just because he hasn't expressed a certain kind of feelings doesn't mean he's incapable of expressing them. Put another way, just because he's never expressed those kinds of feelings before doesn't mean when he actually does express them, that he's behaving in an "out of character" manner. As the First Doctor established, he's a man who's quite capable of anything and everything.

The only thing I would truly consider to be "out of character" for the Doctor is if he ended up turning into someone who truly relishes omnipotence, power and destruction and basically travels the universe causing mayhem and enjoying the power he holds at the expense of everyone else, kinda like his nemesis the Master.

Interestingly, we came close to seeing the Doctor at that point in the 2009 episode "The Waters of Mars". Luckily, the Doctor realizes in his horror that he went too far, and there may be a price to pay for what he did. Since then, he's tried to dial himself back to prevent himself from becoming such a monster again.

Now, bear in mind my feelings on the Doctor's strong emotional attachment to Rose are mostly based by the information that's been presented in the series, as well as my own interpretation of what the creative team had in mind when they set about portraying this. I'm all for hearing other people's thoughts on it, but bear this in mind: I'm not looking to change people's opinions of Rose. If you still don't like her after hearing my argument, then that's fine.

When the Doctor and Rose first meet, he's in his ninth incarnation, possibly fresh from the ravages of the Last Great Time War. He's still grappling with all he had to do. Most of all being the genocide of his own people. It's unknown how long the Time War truly lasted for the Doctor. It could've lasted decades, centuries, possibly even a few millennium. Given that Time Lords are very long-lived, and taking into account this then-current Doctor's personality was decidedly more alien by comparison to his predecessor, it can be inferred that he had little or no human contact for a very long time.

Series 5 also recently established that most of the universe is absolutely terrified of him, to the point of some regarding him as some kind of incomprehensible alien monster that brings death and destruction wherever he goes. The Doctor's at a point where he's basically the Time Lord equivalent to a shell-shocked veteran. He's probably heard those terrible things that were being said and is most likely wondering if there's the distinct possibility that they might be right.

Then one day, he returns to Earth for another bout of world-saving like he usually does, and runs into this girl. From her point of view, he's not the "Destroyer of Worlds", "Oncoming Storm", "Bringer of Darkness" or some other fanciful title the universe has decided to drop on him that century. He's just some mysterious weirdo who has big ears, wears a beat-up leather coat and talks like he's from the North. Rose befriending random people like him no matter who they are is one of her strengths.

The Doctor latched onto her because it was the first time in a long time -especially since the Time War- someone treated him like an actual person and not some monster that needed to be feared. Rose basically helped him to rebuild his life after what seemed like a lifetime of total isolation. The fact she essentially dragged him from the depths of despair is what led him to be obsessed over her. I'm also pretty sure that he knew that, considering that anyone that would've managed to connect with him at that point in his life would've received the same treatment.

However, there's also another less complicated alternative for those loyalists of the platonic "Doctor/companion" relationship. It could be that the Doctor saw things as strictly platonic from his point of view, and decided to use Rose his model for re-learning human behavior after being out of touch for so long. Rose would flirt with him and he'll gently encourage it. He's basically thinking that's how close friends act, which ultimately leads to the confusing mixed messages he ends up sending new companion Martha Jones at the beginning of Series 3.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that the Doctor truly loved Rose, regardless of what others say. Considering when he reached his eleventh incarnation, the Doctor expressed guilt at what he had put Rose through emotionally, -as shown in the episode "Let's Kill Hitler"- I think that's some proof right there that he had feelings for her as well. Also, it was a nice bit of character exploration we'd never seen the Doctor go through before, and I applaud then-head writer Russell T Davies for going against the grain in order to keep the show fresh and interesting while at the same time honoring everything that had happened in the classic series.

That's not to say I think Rose is a perfect character. Far from it, in fact. Hell, she basically ditched her boyfriend Mickey to go travel with the Doctor, as shown in the debut episode for the new series "Rose". He took care in calling her out on several episodes later, in "Boom Town". Also, in the aforementioned episode "Father's Day" the Doctor takes her to the point in time that her father died. She decides to save his life, and in doing so causes a horrible paradox that allows these time sensitive creatures called "Reapers" to show up and consume anything (and anyone) in sight in an attempt to fix the wound.

Her reasoning for why she saved her dad is a basic human one: she wanted to have a father growing up. Granted, Rose also rather naively thought that if the Doctor can intervene at certain points in history, she could do the same. The Doctor took care in explaining to her that he's a Time Lord, and has more comprehensive senses in dealing with historical events. She, being human, lacks them.

But all the same, she still wanted to have a father. My best friend lost his mother to leukemia when he was a young boy, and he's said to me on occasion he wished he could have known his mother better, so he could relate to Rose's plight a little. Plus, by the end of "Father's Day", she ends up having a much better understanding of how the Doctor does things, as well as mostly coming to terms with not having a father growing up.

There's also another thing that some people won't let Rose live down, which I think is totally unfair. In the episode "School Reunion", the Doctor (at this point early on in his tenth incarnation) is reunited his old friend Sarah Jane Smith, who used to be his companion back when he was in his fourth incarnation. Rose was bit hurt and jealous, because she hadn't thought of the fact that the Doctor traveled with other women than her, and that she was the latest one in a long line of companions.

This comes to a head when she and Sarah Jane start having an argument as to which of them had the best adventures. However, unlike other arguments of this type, it dissolves into a mutual joking fest about the Doctor's personality quirks, like stroking bits of the TARDIS in an affectionate manner, which becomes infinitely more hilarious in hindsight thanks to Neil Gaiman's episode "The Doctor's Wife", but I digress.

The fact that Sarah Jane and Rose end up becoming friends despite the latter's jealousy speaks volumes. However, another reason for Rose being hurt is because of the fact that she can't accept that the Doctor is so capable of moving on with his life after having so many close friendships like the one he had with Sarah Jane, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to be feeling, especially considering how young she is. If you were the Doctor's companion, and you met someone from his past while travelling with him and he never mentioned them before, would you be a bit hurt about that? If you were as young as Rose is, I'll bet you would have.

But it's the jealousy and some other negative aspects that some people tend to cling onto when it comes to deriding her as a character. But all the things that they complain about point towards showing that Rose -much like the rest of us- is a flawed human being. She's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and nor should she be.

I'm sure the Doctor recognized that about her and loved her anyway, despite those flaws. While I do agree he did put her on a ridiculously high pedestal, the fact remains that the Doctor was able to overlook and forgive the things she did wrong and accept her for who she is as a person, because she did the same for him when he was still grappling with the emotional aftereffects of the Time War.

Is it really too much to ask for some of us to follow the Doctor's example and accept her in that way and look past her mistakes? Or do you just not like her because she the one companion who shook up the status quo of the "Doctor/companion" relationship?

I really want to understand why so many people react negatively to her. If anything because it really bugs me that a flawed character like Rose is considered a "Mary Sue" by some people, and yet the flat character Bella Swan -who is to my mind definitely a much more textbook example of the aforementioned trope- is considered by others to be a "good role model for young girls". Please leave comments and let me know.


  1. I have been and always be huge Rose fan. You are right, in the Doctor's own words, she made him better. He learned how to live and enjoy life again through Rose. He fell in love with her, is that a crime for a Time Lord? And how could she not fall in love with the man who showed her all of time and space? I think that Rose and.the.Doctor had more of a connection than any other companion.

  2. Another criticism of Rose is that she raped the TARDIS and took the Time Vortex from her. First of all, if the TARDIS truly didn't want her to succeed, she could have locked her out, like she did the 11th Doctor in The Eleventh Hour. But she didn't. Also, some claim Rose selfishly didn't want to give up the power of the Time Vortex. However, I have always held that it was the Time Vortex that didn't want to give up Rose - and that's why it didn't kill her. Anyway, I totally agree with you, Rose is my favorite companion, and the Doctor can and does fall in love - he was a husband, father, and grandfather, after all. Thanks for a great blog!

  3. Anonymous9:22 PM

    I agree with all of you! Rose is one of my top fave companions with River, Donna, and Sarah Jane and that's saying alot! I think one of the reasons that I got back into Doctor Who after the space of nothing after the 1996 Movie was because of how she saw things and how she made the Doctor better. She needed him and he needed her. I am glad she ended up with her own version of the Doctor and I would love to see her again in, say, the 50th Anniversary Specail.(Would also love to see the Tardis that was given to them to grow just to see what it looks like!) Even the current Doctor is always trying to have the human race show the best of themselves and Rose is one of the best! I miss her alot and I know I'm not alone. I look forward to finding a 9th or 10th Doctor with Rose or any other Doctor with a companion at DragonCon and that is one of the top highlights of that con for me! By the way, I've been a fan of this show since the 4th Doctor and I'm proud to say that I'm still a huge fan of the show today! Thank you for defending Rose Tyler, she deserves it for all the good she has done!

  4. About the last paragraph, it's the Internet. Labels like "mary sue" tend to get twisted. The term "furry" was used to be described as anyone who likes anything having to do with animals with human traits, aka anthropomorphic creatures. Now, because of the episode of CSI and the Internet in general, it's become a negative term, relating to sex and even pushing on bestiality. Same with anything else, or even certain groups of people in fandoms. It runs on stereotypes.

    Back to the rest of the topic, I always liked Rose. I didn't get into DW until the new series, and my first episode was Boom Town until I went back to "Rose". So she was pretty much what I thought all the companions prior to her acted with him.
    I just think she is, as you said, a human being. She has faults like everyone else. Though, also on those lines, she's a human, meaning she is one of the greatest lifeforms in the universe, being capable of emotions unheard of in other places.

    The last thing is a little off topic, but it's interesting to see how the Doctor treats the companions, especially old ones with new regenerations or different ones with the same regeneration. I personally think that his love and appreciation for her grew more after she went against his word and tried to pilot the Tardis, and absorbing the time stream (which also caused the Doctor's opinions of another companion to change, but that's another matter). The first episode of the second season especially you can see this. Though maybe it's because he's in a new regeneration, but who knows.
    Heck, even when she WASN'T there she was important. And hey, she sort of got the Doctor at the end, an aging one that's half human :p

  5. "yet the flat character Bella Swan -who is to my mind definitely a much more textbook example of the aforementioned trope- is considered by others to be a "good role model for young girls". Please leave comments and let me know."

    You must not use much of the internet- it seems everyone and their dog has a massive hate-on for her, and she's not even that much of a sue, more of a self-insert. Nobody has ever called Bella a good role model, just the exact opposite, like she's Hitler simply for theccrime of being a poorly written character.

    Anyway, sorry. Didn't mean to derail. Great post! Rose seems terribly misunderstood at times by people (namely rabid Martha and River fans) who can't handle

    1. God, it's been far too long since I posted anything on this blog. Mostly because I've had other things in my life preoccupy my life.

      Anyway, I use quite a bit of the internet, actually. But I stand by how I worded things because I've seen a lot of older ladies who've posted reviews of the Twilight series saying without a trace of iron that Bella's a "good role model for young girls" because she "isn't rebellious and knows her place". It's really pathetic, almost as if the women who fought for equal rights among the sexes died for nothing.

      But thank you for your feedback all the same. I really appreciate seeing new people check out my writing, even though I haven't touched it in years.

  6. While I admit that she has some negative character traits, Overall, I like Rose because she had depth to her character (unlike Clara) I think you need to have some negative character traits to make them seem more human. Clara justs comes off as being too "perfect" for my liking (No, I'm not criticising Jenna Coleman, just her character, Jenna herself is a fine actress).