When Russell T Davies breathed new life into the Doctor, he not only re-imagined one of pop culture’s greatest heroes, but gave his human companion a history just as vibrant as any Time Lord adventures.
Billie Piper’s portrayal of the straight-talking, cockney rebel Rose Tyler henceforth inspired both fans and writers alike, who loved the character’s ability to travel the spectrum of space and time, and still keep her feet on the ground. Steven Mofatt put it best by saying, “She has a bigger status than most of those companions and really seriously, for the first two years, that was Billie Piper’s show and she was amazing.”
She was the first fleshed out companion
Whereas most classic Who companions’ big red “This is Your Life” books would be virtually empty, RTD ensured that Rose Tyler would have a life before The Doctor came into it; complete with job, boyfriend, and amorous mother. As such, Who finally had a realistic representation of a teenage girl, unlike previous characters that looked like they’d strolled straight out of the Beano. She seeked more than rescue from a monster, she needed rescue from the mundane drudgery of life itself. As she once said upon being plunked back on Earth at the end of The Parting Of The Ways: “What do I do every day…? What do I do? Get up, catch the bus, go to work, come back home, eat chips and go to bed? Is that it?” She was a truly fascinating character.
She made the Doctor “better”
For a 19 year old shop clerk and a Time Lord pushing his 1000s, Rose was an unusual source of wisdom for a hardened, war-ravaged Doctor. In the episode Dalek, for instance, she returned the compassion that the Time War had robbed him of; protecting the poorly pepper pot against a Time Lord driven to a gun. As the Doctor says to Rose – of his meta-crisis clone – in Journey’s End, “[he was] born in battle. Full of blood and anger and revenge. Remind you of someone? That’s me, when we first met. And you made me better. Now you can do the same for him.”
She came from nothing
In the same way that most classic companions showed no signs of having a past, Rose’s concerns were more about having no future. Instead, Rose came from a modest upbringing, with a history of broken hearts and bereavement, making the sci-fi series a heck of a lot more human in the process. As a blonde 19 year old with no A levels, it would have been easy to confine Rose to a bimbo stereotype. Instead Russell T Davies instilled her with a warm heart, courage, and quite the witty repartee. Rose’s normal life came to an abrupt end when the Doctor’s involvement provided the perfect allegory for any worker who’s ever had a ‘bad case of the Mondays’, when the mannequins in her earnest shop job ended up turned into murderous Autons, and consequently forcing an unemployed Rose to re-evaluate her life path. Good news for the Doctor, bad news for Rose’s CV.
Then she became the Bad Wolf
After a full series of sassing the heck out of everybody, Rose’s defining moment of bravery fell right at the end of series 1, where she displayed her true loyalty for the Doctor and the Tardis to the same level that kid from Matilda did for a giant chocolate cake, ie: by absorbing it. By doing so, Rose was able to play with the lexis of time and space, spreading the warning message “Bad Wolf” wherever the Doctor went, a sly motif that ended up shaping the arc of the whole series. Showing the love he had back for Rose, this resulted in our first proper Doctor/Companion snog since the 1996 movie, which apparently is how you save the universe these days. This cost us one Christopher Eccleston, but gained us one of the most loyal companions the Doctor would ever have.
Sticking with the Doctor through and through
Don’t you hate it when your balding, Mancunian best friend regenerates into David Tennant? For some reason Rose did, and in the Christmas Invasion had to come to terms with the man she thought she knew being, well, a completely different one. Although regenerated Doctor/companion crossovers were commonplace in the old days, Rose’s allegiances stretched far beyond, to the extent she planned to give up her whole family to be with the Doctor forever in Doomsday. As we all know, fate made sure that didn’t quite work out, but this didn’t stop Rose cropping up again, and again in future series trying to find him – such as in Turn Left, guiding Donna Noble through a parallel universe, and in the 50th. As RTD said:
“Let’s be blunt — every time I brought her back, the ratings went up.”