If I’m going to obsessively rewatch this show, I might as well share my feelings with all of you, right? For the sake of anyone who might be reading along as you watch for the first time (WELCOME TO YOUR NEW LIFE!), any spoilery thoughts will be saved for the end of each review. Now then. Ready?
Oh good; the Doctor’s said one word, and already it’s the only word I ever want to hear. This is pretty much a one-second summary of Doctor Who: run. Take the hand that’s reaching out to you and run—from the ordinary, from danger, toward danger, all of that. And how perfect is it that this is the first thing we know of the Doctor? He’s the invitation reaching out to Rose. When he takes off for the London Eye and she chases him down and they take each other’s hands, together this time, both of them choosing to fight this battle—that’s the moment I got this show.
This is what I love about pilot episodes: the only thing they really have to do is to tell you what they want to be and why you should want to be part of it. They’re so innocent. All of the messy bits matter less than the characters and the way they change each other right from the start.
You can see all over Rose Tyler’s face that she’s bored with her alarm clock and her department store job, but she’s not moping. She’s just stuck. So here comes this mysterious man with a life she’s never seen before—of course she’s not going to let him go. He’s something different. She can also tell right away that he needs someone. Look at the way she takes the plastic arm out of his hand and tells him to start at the beginning. She wants to know about the Doctor’s life, and she wants him to not be alone anymore. When he asks her if she believes him and she says no, the way he says “But you’re still listening” makes me go a little weak at the knees.
The Doctor is straight out of war and the last of his kind, and he’s wearing his extra-tortured sadness in the collar of that leather jacket. But he still saves Rose and gives the Nestene Consciousness a second chance, because that’s just how he operates. The Doctor sees something really cool in Rose, and he makes her see it too. When she suggests that students are behind the Autons, he asks her why and she backs off. The Doctor’s not having any of that. He pushes her. It was her idea, so what made her think it? He then praises her for her explanation, even though it’s wrong. He likes her ideas, and he brings out her curiosity.
The Doctor and Rose have the snappiest chemistry in this episode. They barely know each other, and already Rose is laughing and leaning against his arm as they walk. They can’t stop smiling at each other. Eccles is just SO FULL OF SMILES.
In the TARDIS (for the first time! Big moment), he wants it to be alright that he’s an alien, and Rose is very quick to say that it is. But she’ll never let that be an excuse, either. Just because he’s alien doesn’t mean he can just forget to care about Mickey or any of the real people whose lives would be changed if he died. The Doctor challenges Rose to see the big picture, and she challenges him not to lose sight of the individual.
The first time they meet, the Doctor kind of belittles everyday life. When he tells her that he might die on the roof, she doesn’t stay and help, and when he’s attacked by the Autons, Rose takes a minute to take action and save his life. But then she does. The point here is that none of this behavior is automatic. The decision to let someone in when you’re alone, the choice to risk your life for someone else’s, is conscious and deliberate and significant every time. Rose and the Doctor help each other make the right choice, and that’s why he asks her to come with him.
And you know she likes the fact that it’s always this dangerous.
The ladies at Head Over Feels tracked down a theory that I accept completely and totally—when Rose says no, she can’t come, she has responsibilities and a weird boyfriend clinging to her waist, the Doctor accepts it. He moves on. Same old life. All of those pictures of him throughout history were taken after the Doctor left Rose (the way he looked at himself in the mirror at Rose’s place, he definitely seemed like a new regeneration checking out his appearance, not a guy who’d been photographed and sketched a half dozen times). And after all of that travel, he still feels her missing, so he goes back and tries one more time, with a very good pickup line.
“By the way, did I mention it also travels in time?”
“Rose” is not the most impressive episode Doctor Who has to offer, and I think we all wish we could introduce friends to the show without the caveat, “Well, a trashcan does turn her boyfriend into plastic.” But it’s still a surprisingly smart reintroduction. Because the Doctor is new to Rose, he feels new even to fans of the classic series—and he is new, too. His sonic screwdriver and TARDIS are familiar, as are the Autons, the snappy dialogue, glorious cheesiness, and occasional casualty. He just wears a cool leather jacket now, and he maybe has some perfectly domestic feelings for one Rose Tyler. Welcome to 2005, Doctor.
Bits and Pieces
“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. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 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… That’s who I am.” Ok, so is the Doctor just trailing off at the end, suggesting what might happen if we let go of the world, positioning himself as the one who thinks about those things, who stands on the earth and feels its place in this spinning universe and thinks about what happens if we let go of our homes and of each other, OR is HE the ellipsis? Is he that space? Is he everything that happens if we let go, or is he the one holding on? Either way, I’m IN THIS. I’m in it hard.
Stupid ape count: 1
“I AM TALKING.”
“Nice to meet you Rose, run for your life.”
“Lots of planets have a North.”
“Honestly it’s aged her.”
DOCTOR: What are you doing here?
ROSE: I live here.
DOCTOR: Well what’d you do that for?
Make way everyone, the sass has arrived.
DOCTOR: (having immobilized a plastic arm) You see? ‘Armless!
ROSE: (hits him with it) D’you think?
“That won’t last—he’s gay and she’s an alien.”
ROSE: What have I done wrong? How come those plastic things keep coming after me?
DOCTOR: Oh, suddenly the world revolves around you! You were just an accident. You got in the way, that’s all.
ROSE: It tried to kill me.
DOCTOR: It was after me, not you…The only reason it fixed on you was because you met me.
ROSE: So what you’re saying is the entire world revolves around you.
DOCTOR: Sort of, yeah!
ROSE: You’re full of it!
DOCTOR: Sort of, yeah!
“If I might observe, you infiltrated this civilization by means of Warp Shunt technology, so may I suggest with the greatest respect that you shunt off.”