I’ve written about Rose before. It was one of the first episodes I wrote about, on this blog, when I had grandiose ideas of writing about each serial and episode of Doctor Who in order for Classic and New Who. Thankfully, after just two entries (Rose and An Unearthly Child,) I quickly realized that just wasn’t going to work and moved on to other attempts at scheduling posts. Those, too, failed miserably.
So, after I finished watching or listening to every Doctor Who episode, ever, yesterday, I decided to start from my beginning. I turned on Rose and about halfway through the episode got out a clipboard and proceeded to take over two pages of notes of things I wondered or noticed. Afterward, I went about trying to see if who had the answers or saw made the same connections that I did. Of course, since this episode has been around for 14 years, there was plenty to find. I’m not going to go into all the pieces and parts. If you want a break down of the episode, the tropes and where to find all the spoilery connections to other media, I highly recommend the TV Tropes article on Rose. It has EVERYTHING: a summary of everything that happens as well as a breakdown of all the tropes that can be found in the episode. There are a lot.
I have only one or two observations that I’d like to add or extend upon what I previously said about this story.
The first is the extremely intense and violent nature of an opening episode for a beloved family show that had been off the air for 16 years. My own children love Doctor Who. However, there are some episodes that can be just too much for them. They’ve sat through all of New Who with me, on multiple occasions. So, I was rather shocked that my youngest, who is eight years old, decided to take himself out of the room during this particular review of Rose. The Autons, in particular, hold a horror level response for him. Combined with the creepy, dark basement of the department store and action music, he declared, “I don’t like this one. It is just too scary!” Perhaps it’s because I grew up with movies like Mannequin or I’ve just watched the episode too many times, but I never really thought about the episode being too intense in a long while. Yet, it’s all there: expressionless killer beings, mass shootings, loss of a side character that breaks your heart. From the very first episode of the relaunch, Doctor Who belies what it will later become, by declaring that no one is safe and people could die at any moment.
The second, I feel rather moronic about not realizing how much this episode is a reflection of Spearhead from Space. I often think about Jo Grant’s first episode, Terror of the Autons, when I watch this episode. However, that was not the first time the Nestene appeared in the show. Instead, it was Spearhead, the third Doctor’s first episode. The TV Tropes article, that I mentioned before, goes into how this episode is a modern retelling of the Third Doctor’s first venture out. Now, it has none of the regeneration sickness, cute looks at how the Doctor came into his wardrobe or work with the military that the Third Doctor did… that will actually come more into play with our next Doctor, Ten. However, it does have the premise of the Doctor trying to save the Earth from an alien invasion, feeling superior to the beings that surround him and the need to be slightly humbled in the face of great obstacles.
Rose has a clear thesis on what the show is all about, “Run.” Like Spearhead, this episode has the Doctor being attracted to companions that make him think, push him when he’s wrong and have them save the day when the Doctor is just not enough. It is so exciting because it claims, “Even superheroes need to be rescued and often by everyday people.” That is such an empowering statement.
On a quick note, I will say that my least favorite part of this episode is the mean spirited remark Rose gives her boyfriend, Mickey, just as she leaves. It is such and odd and cruel way to leave someone you cared for just a short time ago. I get that perhaps R.T. Davies was attempting to provide some sort of emotional distance between them in an attempt to make Rose leaving the the Doctor more palatable. For me, it actually undercuts that joyous run to the Tardis by leaving us with a sour and unkind taste in our mouths. My heart breaks for Mickey, especially knowing what he will later endure with the police, after Rose has been declared missing. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that this post is also going to end with, just like the episode.
What are your favorite takeaways from Rose? Be sure to leave a comment!