“I’ve traveled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two. Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that. Yes. I’ll try and save you.”
Billie Piper said at Gally this year that “Father’s Day” is her favorite, which just made me love it even more, if that’s possible. Rose’s trip back in time to meet her father is Doctor Who at its most personal, but also its most expansive, because the way this show views one ordinary life is the way it views all of them. Everyone matters. Rose doesn’t think that saving her dad’s life would change all that much, but growing up with him would change her, and she’s already saved the Doctor, who saves whole planets. This is why time travel is so complicated—the biggest moments in history depend on people who might never be remembered.
The Doctor’s conversation with Stuart and Sarah, the bride and groom who met on a street corner, is one of Nine’s best moments. It’s almost wistful. He’s the oldest thing in this building (the Doctor’s age always hits me there; it’s hard to conceptualize 900 years until a man stands in a church and says that he’s older than its old stone walls), but there are still experiences that he can never have. He’s so alien and so out of touch, and the fact that he’s never hailed a taxi after a long night makes him see the mystery in it that the rest of us miss. A show about the wonders of the universe can only get so far with those of us who are stuck on earth, but Doctor Who makes everyday life into one of those wonders, and that’s why it’s been around for 50 years. It suggests we can all make a difference here in the same way we could on any alien planet. The lives we lead weave together into this gorgeous web that would all fall apart without taxis at two in the morning.
This is why the Doctor can’t stop caring about people, even though he’s always falling out of their lives, or they’re falling out of his. He’s upset when Rose seizes the opportunity to save her dad’s life, and it’s not just because of the wound she’s left in time. It’s because he cares about her so much, so much more, even, than he cares about couples who meet when they’re getting a taxi home in the morning, and he’s worried that Rose doesn’t feel the same way. The Doctor is hurt to think that Rose might have been using him all this time. I love the way they just dig in their heels and fight. They’re such a married couple.
Rose won’t let the Doctor get away with anything more than she can. She respects herself too much to accept his “I know what I’m doing” explanation at face value. He does have his reasons, usually, but if he won’t explain why some lives can be saved and some can’t, then it reads as controlling. In a way, that’s just the nature of the show’s concept of time travel: It’s unstable, with rules that apply sometimes and not others. Only the Doctor has the instinct to know which rules apply today, which is why sometimes time can be rewritten, and sometimes giant winged creatures attack and consume everyone when they sense a disturbance in what should be. In this case, Pete Tyler’s death seems to be a kind of fixed point (because of Rose, maybe, or maybe just because there were two sets of them there), but Rose doesn’t have a set of time travel guidelines any more than we do.
Rose saves Pete because she can’t help herself, because she’s Rose and she cares so much that she sometimes acts without thinking. Saving him is a mistake, and it’s treated as one, but it’s one that we can understand. She just wants to talk to her dad. I love the way she starts when he touches her face. She’s never felt this before, and she never thought she would, so she grabs his hand and puts it back on her cheek like it’s the only thing she can possibly do. Billie Piper has this way of accessing all of the love she’s got in her and letting herself just BE.
It’s so fitting that in this episode about how wonderful ordinary life can be, an ordinary man saves the day. There are so many ways to be important. There’s getting a taxi home. There’s trying to save someone you love even though you’ve been told it isn’t possible. There’s the life the Doctor leads, taking charge and trying to protect everyone from the inevitable. And there’s Peter Alan Tyler, Rose’s dad, who never gets to take her on picnics or read her bedtime stories or do those thousand other little things that make a good dad. But he does get to sacrifice himself for her, which is like doing those thousand other “proper dad” things all at once. And Rose still gets to call him the most wonderful man in the world.
Bits and Pieces:
“I can do anything. I’m just more worried about you.” CAN you do anything, Doctor? Doing anything seems like a bad idea today.
“Your wish is my command. But be careful what you wish for.”
“The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.”
I really love the line “Mum always said ‘that stupid vase’” because the way it trails off just feels so true to life, and particularly true to Jackie, who probably shouted it at thin air for years whenever anything went wrong.
THE DOCTOR INITIATES THE HAND-HOLDING.
“Okay, look, I’ll tell him you’re not my boyfriend.”
“I did it again. I picked another stupid ape. I should have known. It’s not about showing you the universe; it never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you.” This is so personal for him.
“Rose, there’s a man alive in the world who wasn’t alive before—an ordinary man, that’s the most important thing in creation. The whole world’s different because he’s alive.” And there’s the show.
“For once, you’re not the most important man in my life.” OHHHHHH.
“You don’t scare me. I know how sad you are. You’ll be back in a minute, or you’ll hang around outside the TARDIS waiting for me. And I’ll make you wait a long time!” That is a LOW blow.
“We’re not a couple! Why does everyone think we’re a couple?” Because you know just how to hurt him, probably.
“Now if you don’t mind, I’ve waited a long time to say this: Jackie Tyler, do as I say. Go and check the doors.”
UGH BILLIE PIPER YOU ARE EXQUISITE
“You seem to know what’s going on.” “I give that impression, yeah.”
Rose says that she did have a boyfriend, but she doesn’t now, so it’s official at this point that she and Mickey aren’t together. The year everyone thought he murdered her probably didn’t help.
“Jackie gave her to me to look after. How times change.”
The best part of Rose and the Doctor’s hug is that she pulls back a second before he’s ready to let go, then reaches into his jacket and asks, “Have you got something hot?” Mmmmm.
“That’s why I haven’t done anything with my life, why I didn’t mean anything.” “It doesn’t work like that.”
I love that Nine is just OUT OF THERE the minute Jackie starts arguing with Pete.
“Do you call them all Rose?”
“The Doctor worked it out way back, but he tried to protect me.” LOVE YOU NINE.
“I’ve had all these extra hours. No one else in the world has ever had that. And on top of that, I got to see you. And you’re beautiful. How lucky am I, eh? So come on, do as your dad says. You going to be there for me, love? Thanks for saving me.”