Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. This week’s ship: Doctor/Rose.
Who Are Doctor/Rose?
Doctor/Rose refers to the Doctor and Rose Tyler, main characters of the rebooted BBC sci-fi extravaganza, Doctor Who.
The Doctor is the main character — the show is more or less named after him. He is an alien from the planet Gallifrey. His people — Time Lords (and Ladies) — have the ability to travel through time and space with the help of machines called TARDISes. They also have the ability to, when they die, regenerate in a new body. Thus, the Doctor is very old — 900 years old when we first meet him.
Doctor Who has a long and somewhat complicated history, so let me first clear up a few things. I am only talking about the new show, not the original 1960s story. I am also choosing to only focus on the 9th and 10th regenerations, who interacted with Rose Tyler. (For this article, I will not be discussing the new regenerations in depth, so I will be using he/him pronouns and assuming the Doctor is male for the majority of this post.)
The 9th Doctor (Nine) was the first in the new show. He was also my first Doctor, and you never get over your first. Nine, played beautifully by Christopher Eccleston, was goofy and fun, but also dark and serious. He had just survived the Time War, where he committed genocide to save the galaxy. So, he’s a little damaged. He comes to Earth, where he meets the shopgirl Rose Tyler.
Nine and Rose have many adventures, but, sadly, Eccleston left after only one season. He was replaced by David Tennant, whose 10th Doctor (Ten) was a fan-favorite. Ten was all the fun and almost none of the darkness of Nine — at least while he had Rose. They had fun adventures, saved the galaxy, and fell in love. When Rose left, Ten became dark again, and it was pretty sad.
Rose was my first companion, just like Nine was my first Doctor. I kind of picked up the show by accident, but my mom grew up with Doctor Who and wanted to watch it. We quickly became engrossed in the story of this old alien — but also the story of his young, fun companion. The Doctor (almost) always has a companion, someone to share in his remarkable adventures across time and space.
We meet Rose when she is 19. She works in a shop, lives with her mother, and generally seems unremarkable. However, she has a lot of spunk and doesn’t take any crap from the Doctor. Eventually, to save the Doctor and the galaxy, Rose looks into the heart of the TARDIS — absorbing the Time Vortex and becoming wildly powerful.
Sadly, her body couldn’t hold the vortex, and the Doctor absorbed it, which killed him. That’s when Ten came along. At first, Rose wasn’t happy; she loved Nine and didn’t want some new guy hanging around. However, over time, the relationship developed further and they truly fell in love. Ten was young (okay, relative) and lighthearted. He brought a new light to Rose’s life.
Ten and Rose only had one season together, which is tragic. Rose was lost when a gate to a parallel world was closed. Ten only had a few minutes to say goodbye, where Rose revealed she loved him. Ten was taken away before he could respond. Rose spent ages trying to reunite with the Doctor, and when she did, she met a clone. Ten left Rose again, but this time she had his clone, and they were able to live together happily.
Why is Doctor/Rose OTP?
The Doctor/Rose relationship is special, despite its short tenure on the show. Since Rose left, the Doctor has gone on to have other relationships, but this one was the first, good relationship. (Don’t @ me about Sarah Jane, it’s different.) Part of the reason why I hold Doctor/Rose close is because they were my first, but they were actually pretty groundbreaking for this show.
Doctor Who has tried to recapture the success of this relationship, but in my opinion, recent attempts have failed to live up to the Doctor/Rose dynamic. The new relationships just lack that certain something that made this pair click.
I Am The Bad Wolf
One thing that could have derailed the Doctor/Rose relationship is the power imbalance. Rose is a 19-year-old human girl. She is relatively uneducated, works in a shop, and comes from a disadvantaged background. By contrast, the Doctor is a wildly powerful, 900-year-old alien who has traveled all across time and space. There’s a lot of room for inequality there.
But instead of focusing on that imbalance, the show focused on the ways that each had their strengths. Sure, the Doctor had more experience, but Rose wasn’t precisely lacking. She learned fast and brought human strengths to the table. Rose was incredibly compassionate and forgiving, traits that the Doctor valued. By being kind and good, she made the Doctor better and helped him recover from the Time War.
For his part, the Doctor didn’t make Rose feel lesser. Sure, he was snarky and occasionally said rude things. But, to be fair, he was like that with everyone. With Rose, though, he pointed out her positives. This is one of the Doctor’s most endearing traits: an ability to value everyone (see: Donna Noble). He values Rose for what she brings to the table, rather than bemoaning what she lacks.
The Bad Wolf saga really brings this point home. Nine sent Rose back to Earth, and is now facing certain death alone. With sheer human stubbornness, Rose returns to him as the Bad Wolf, a powerful creature who sees through all time. The Doctor remarks that that is what he feels like. For once, someone can understand the Doctor. Although Rose didn’t stay the Bad Wolf, this interaction really underscores their dynamic.
Rose Tyler, I —
The Doctor/Rose relationship is also OTP because it is a timeless story of great tragedy and yet happy endings. These two people, who were lonely and damaged, clung to each other. They fell in love. Rose was determined to spend the rest of her life with the Doctor, though he could not return the favor. Separating them was unthinkable… so of course that’s what the show did.
When Rose is forced to stay in the parallel universe without the Doctor, it’s heartbreaking. She is left alone on the beach, crying. Meanwhile, the Doctor was cut off just before he could tell her he loved her, too. Following this, we don’t see Rose for awhile, but we do stick with the Doctor. His reaction is pure tragedy. Lost, and alone without his love, the Doctor is even more damaged than he was before.
It is Donna Noble who saves the Doctor — another seemingly unremarkable human. Thankfully, the writers didn’t try to cram in a romance a la Martha Jones (who actually isn’t that bad, just bad shipping). Donna helps the Doctor heal from his heartbreak. Later, it is Donna who gives Rose and the Doctor their happy ending.
Rose is able to reunite with the Doctor in his universe. They work together to save the world — yet again. At the end of the episode, however, the Doctor sends Rose back to her universe… but with a small gift. Donna had created a meta-crisis clone of the Doctor by accident. This clone was violent and damaged — like Nine when he first met Rose. He is also half human, and can spend the rest of his life with Rose. This is the happiest ending they could have found. Sure, it’s not exactly what we wanted, but it’s still something.
What’s Next for Doctor/Rose?
Sadly, there’s not really a next for either of these characters… per se. The Doctor is still around and continues to have adventures. However, Ten is long gone. He was replaced by Matt Smith’s Eleven, then Peter Capaldi’s Twelve, and now we’re on to Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen! But while the Doctor lives on, Thirteen is definitely a different person than Ten. She is still new, so we’re yet to see who she will be, but she’s not my Doctor anymore.
Rose, for her part, has not resurfaced since leaving for the parallel universe with the meta-crisis clone (the Bad Wolf doesn’t count!). Presumably, she had a happy ending, but this is Doctor Who, so who knows? It’s for the best anyway; I think Eleven would have broken Rose’s heart. Instead, she gets to live out her life with a human(ish) version of her beloved.
Is Doctor/Rose Canon?
Yes? Sort of? Like everything with Doctor Who, this answer to this question is a little… wibbly wobbly. The Doctor/Rose relationship is made more or less canon with the intervention of the meta-crisis clone. I suppose one could argue it became canon when Rose told the Doctor she loved him. Although he didn’t get the chance to reply, it was heavily implied.
Still, canon is confirmed with the meta-crisis clone. By giving Rose a human version of the Doctor, the show confirmed that there is a relationship to be had there. It might not technically be Doctor/Rose, but it’s pretty damn close. I’m willing to take what I can get when it comes to the BBC.