“Rose” is the story that kickstarted the modern era for Doctor Who. It’s the story that connected the classic series with a new audience, set up a new concept that explained the Doctor’s absence within his own reality—namely the Time War—and set a tone that can still be clearly heard within the most recent episodes, over 10 years after it was first broadcast.
It’s also the story of a heartbroken alien meeting up with a very normal girl. He saves her life, she saves his, and a partnership begins.
So here are a few little things to bear in mind, the next time you watch:
Let’s start with a little pre-history. When the BBC was considering bringing Doctor Who back in the early 2000s, Russell T Davies was not the only person to have put in a pitch. Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) suggested making the Doctor be the character the audience empathizes with, rather than the companion; Matthew Graham (Life on Mars) wanted to make it Gothic and scary; and Dan Freedman, who had directed the 2002 Seventh Doctor audio adventure Death Comes to Time, pitched a fantastical approach.
According to Andy Murray and Mark Aldridge’s book T is for Television: The Small Screen Adventures of Russell T Davies, Russell knew he wanted the first story to be from the viewpoint of the Doctor’s new companion, that she would get stuck alone in her place of work and that it would be attacked by Autons. Oh, and he also knew the first word his Doctor would say:
Except it wasn’t clear that the Ninth Doctor would be Christopher Eccleston just yet, Actually, Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson were both approached, and both turned the job down. Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek) and Bill Nighy were also under consideration. Russell had worked with Christopher before on his supernatural drama The Second Coming, and had assumed he wouldn’t be interested, but he was, and he dropped Russell a line to ask if he could audition.
On a similar note, Billie Piper was not the only person to audition for the part of Rose Tyler. Georgia Moffett was also up for the role, but she was considered to be too young to play it. She would, of course, get her chance to appear on the show later on, appearing in “The Doctor’s Daughter” a year or two later.
It’s interesting that the first monsters to appear in the rejuvenated show are the Autons, as their attacks tend to coincide with the arrival of significant new people in Doctor Who. They first attacked in “Spearhead from Space,” which was also the first time we met the Third Doctor and his assistant Liz Shaw. Their second attack “Terror of the Autons” introduced Jo Grant, UNIT’s Mike Yates and a rogue Time Lord by the name of the Master. They did bring Rory Williams back as a Roman centurion though (“The Pandorica Opens”), so they’re not all bad.
The name Rose Tyler was chosen for very significant reasons for Russell T Davies. He wanted to pick the most British name he could imagine, and he wanted to reverse a trend towards boyish names—Peri, Ace—that he’d noted in the latterday Doctor Who companions. Also, one of his previous TV successes was a drama called Bob and Rose, and he felt the name was a good luck charm. He also liked to give his characters the surname Tyler—Ruth Tyler in Revelations (1994), Vince Tyler in Queer as Folk (1999), and Johnny Tyler in The Second Coming (2003).
As the story begins, we see Rose Tyler going to her job in the London department story Henricks, which is a pun on the actual shop Fenwicks in Bond Street. The shop exterior she is seen entering is actually a branch of House of Fraser in St. Mary Street, Cardiff.
The Doctor picks up a book in Rose Tyler’s flat and flicks through it, saying “Hmm, sad ending” as if he’s read it in one swoop. The book is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which does have a sad ending, and that whizz-read is a reference to something very similar the Fourth Doctor did in “City of Death.” Just to keep the tradition alive (and because he loves to show off), the Eleventh Doctor does it again in “The Time of Angels.”
One particularly timey-wimey detail is that the Doctor appears to have recently regenerated, because he comments on the look of his own ears when in Rose’s flat. But when Rose meets Clive, the man who’s been investigating the Doctor throughout history, he shows her a series of photos and drawings of the Ninth Doctor, with that same face. Clearly these pictures have been taken at some point further ahead in the Doctor’s timeline, but in Rose and Clive’s historical past.
Oh and Clive also says that the Doctor brings “a storm in his wake,” which may well be an early TV reference to the Doctor’s alias: the Oncoming Storm. This was first coined about the Seventh Doctor in a 1992 Doctor Who novel called Love and War, by Paul Cornell. It was a name given to him by the Draconians.
“Rose” is the first Doctor Who story in which you can see the inside of the TARDIS from the outside. Previously when the Doctor entered his police box, all you could see were shadows, but the console and the walls of the interior are plainly visible as the Doctor enters and leaves, setting a template that still exists today. It is also the first time the outer doors of the TARDIS are visible from the console room:
As the first episode of the regenerated Doctor Who (and also the first 45-minute story, rather than half-hour serials), there was a lot riding on this one story. The good news is “Rose” is still the most popular (in terms of U.K. audience figures) first episode for any of the Doctor’s new incarnations. It was watched by 10.8 million people, beating the previous record holder, which was “Robot,” the first of the Fourth Doctor’s adventures in 1975.
For the final word, let’s hand over to someone who really knows what he’s talking about:
Now go back and read the entire 10 Things You May Not Know About Doctor Who archive.Read More