Re-watch: Doctor Who Rose Review

I shouted out to my Facebook to find out whether or not people wanted me to go back to the start of New Who and reveal my thoughts on RTD era Who. Enough people said yes that here I am. Joining me in my re-watch-a-long is friend and fellow Whovian, Ben.

Rose jump started the show back into gear and back onto screens after a long hiatus. Both Ben and I were in high school when the episode came out and share a lot of nostalgic love for Rose. But how did the episode hold up?

We start the episode meeting Rose and her partner, Mickey. Rose is a London chav down on her luck, and Mickey isn’t the most attentive boyfriend. Her mother is also a genuine nightmare (what was with RTD and nasty Mum’s?) Her regular working day is put into jeopardy as she meets The Doctor and walking plastic mannequins. When The Doctor tries to disappear from her life, events keep casting them together, and the two find themselves working together to stop an alien invasion.


The Title Sequence

Maureen: I was struck by the difference in TV graphics quality between 2005, when the season came out, and now. I don’t know about Ben, but I also started bopping along to the theme tune. It too, fills me with nostalgia. I also felt irrationally happy at Billie Piper’s name coming up on the screen. I didn’t particularly love the way the Rose character was written, but I’ve always rated Billie as a much better actress than pop-star. Ben?

Ben: I was definitely feeling the nostalgia with the theme song, travelling with TARDIS through space and time only to be immediately brought down to earth by way of 2005 graphics and picture quality. It really has not aged gracefully! Now, full disclosure: I was introduced to Dr Who by some friends who were up to David Tennant’s first season, so I’m pretty sure I rushed through Eccleston’s season over a weekend in order to catch up. It’s going to be interesting to see how much I remember of this season!

Which brings us to…

The Companion

Maureen: I quite liked Rose and Mickey in their first scenes together and I bought them as a couple. The montage of Rose’s regular day paints her as a regular working class poorer gal and I think at the time that made her pretty relatable, especially for the teens and young people in the viewing audience who were working casual jobs and dreaming of a Doctor to take them on an adventure. It might not be the world’s most original companion story arc, but it seems to work every time the showrunners use it.

I’m not so sure about the strange special effects! Billie had a weird back light behind her the whole time that made her look like she was in some kind of advert. I’m not sure what they were showing off… the bleached blonde hair and the baggy clothes?

From the first time Rose meets Nine, there is great chemistry between the two and it makes me wonder about the need for Mickey at all. There isn’t much chemistry between Billie and the actor playing Mickey and it doesn’t help that both characters are written in this episode to appear inconsistent and rather self-absorbed! It was especially noticeable in the contrast between self-absorbed Rose failing to notice Mickey as Nestine in the car and then restaurant vs. Rose appearing genuinely upset about Mickey dying and The Doctor failing to care towards the end of the episode.

I think the idea is meant to be that Rose has nothing to stay for at the end of the episode; that Mickey is selfish (highlighted in the scene where he chooses the pub and a match over taking care of his in shock girlfriend and his over protective manner when Rose goes to see Clive) and Rose’s Mum is no better… nattering on about compensation, that Rose has aged from the department store explosion and taking every opportunity to remind her that she needs to get back into the rat race with another job. I’m not sure RTD quite pulls this off given how selfish and self-absorbed Rose can come across in this episode.

Ben: You’ve summed things up pretty nicely here, I don’t know what more I can add! The montage was effective in showing us a day in the life of Rose, and in making her easy to identify with. And the clothes! The hair! The mid 2000’s were a dark time…

What I found confusing was how different Mickey was in each scene he was in, it’s like they were still writing the script as they were shooting and hadn’t settled on his characterisation. There’s not much in the way of a spark in their relationship, which to me really emphasised how much of a rut Rose was stuck in. And then there’s her mum, who’s basically just an amalgamation of tropes and stereotypes. It’s no wonder she leapt at the chance to go adventuring with The Doctor!

Also odd was the incredulity Clive’s partner expressed at Rose being interested in The Doctor because she was a girl! It’s 2005 here, come on people. And Mickey being concerned about her meeting Clive? Not a cute look. The final thing I would point out is how quickly Rose went from crying with worry over Mickey to quite happily running away with The Doctor after they survived their brush with death. It would make more sense for Mickey to have been a good friend than a boyfriend, I think.

The Doctor

Maureen: By far the best aspect of Rose is The Doctor. From the second big eared, wide grinning Chris Eccleston shows up in The Department Store we know we’re in for a rollicking good time. He simultaneously gives off the appearance of being utterly mad and more than a little damaged too. (random aside: I never knew the Matt Smith AKA Eleven ‘I am talking’ moment was originally a Nine moment!)

This speech personifies Nine in a nutshell:

Nine: Rose: Really though, Doctor. Tell me. Who are you?

The Doctor: Do you know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid. The first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it because everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it. {he grabs her hand} The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. And the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour and I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go… {he drops her hand}. That’s who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.

Back in high school, when I first saw the episode, I loved the little nuggets RTD dropped about The Time War and I still think now it is one of the most intriguing parts of the episode. The mystery about the nature of The Doctor explored via Clive was also interesting. One of my favorite exchanges in the whole episode was between Clive and Rose:

Clive: The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he’s there. He brings a storm in his wake. And his one constant companion.

Rose: Who’s that?

Clive: Death.

And certainly there is an element of danger throughout the episode. Mickey almost dies without The Doctor noticing or caring. This Doctor is no Eight. He is rude and callous and alien. He tells Rose he isn’t bringing Mickey along in the TARDIS and is smug in his knowledge Rose will follow him into the TARDIS. I do love the way Rose looks back as the TARDIS re-materilises and runs for the TARDIS,the huge smile on her face surely reflecting what the audience felt.

Ben: First of all, I’m 99% sure The Doctor would be a member of the forum Clive runs, much like how the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork is a member of all the groups organised to depose him. He’s great from the get go; a disarming mix of humour, ears, and darkness, with more than a little damage. My favourite quotes include:

The Doctor: Nice to meet you Rose, run for your life!

The Doctor: It’ll never work, he’s gay and she’s an alien.

The scene in Rose’s apartment with the hand was pretty ridiculous (in particular, the exchange between The Doctor and Rose’s mum), but it did do a good job of fleshing out The Doctor. Things like him reading a book in an instant and seemingly assessing his appearance for the first time give us definite clues to his non-human qualities, which the speech Maureen details in the next scene builds upon dramatically.

I similarly loved the hints of the Time War and the things haunting The Doctor, but what I was shocked by was how callous The Doctor was about saving everyone! Considering how much later Doctors wax lyrical about the wonders that are humans, this came as a surprise. His line to Rose telling her to go home and enjoy her beans on toast was condescending, and I get the feeling he didn’t exactly check to see if the building was empty of humans before blowing it up. And yet the confrontation with the Nestine Consciousness would have ended in a very different way was it not for the assistance of Rose.

The alien of the week

Maureen: Old fashioned special effects aside, I quite liked The Nestine and the first mention of the good old Shadow Proclamation. The plastic mannequin’s first appearance in the deserted store is still scary and even the plastic garbage bin sticking to Mickey is quite freaky. I’m not so sold on the Nestine Consciousness, but hey, it was 2005.

Ben: I do love when Doctor Who leans into horror with its alien plots of the week, so despite the special poor special effects I quite enjoyed the Nestine. Mannequins coming to life is something of a trope, but they found a new angle here with the central consciousness and the mimicry of Mickey. The Nestine Consciousness definitely reminded me of the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin, which was amusing. Additionally, the talk of starvation and wars makes it clear there’s more to this invasion than a simple land grab; this isn’t black and white. Overall, a solid effort. Who knew late night shopping could be so dangerous?

All in all Ben and I agree Rose was a rough pilot which showed a lot of potential. Our scores?

Maureen (AKA Inkashlings): 6 out of 10 inky stars. I’d have gone higher if the story hadn’t contained the Rose/Mickey sub-plot. I don’t think it works now or at any other point in the show.

Ben: I find myself agreeing with Maureen also with 6 out of 10 stars.

Next Sunday we re-watch The End of the World which has a lot of memorable characters, spear-headed by skin-lady Cassandra. Gosh we’re both excited!

About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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2 Responses to Re-watch: Doctor Who Rose Review

  1. Elisi says:

    For the definitive, extra-long take on this episode, this is where to go:

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