Even now, twelve years and three Doctor’s removed from her departure, Rose Tyler remains arguably the defining companion of twenty-first century ‘Doctor Who’. As the first companion of the modern era, her importance to the show cannot be overstated (regardless of what one thinks of the character). But the thing about Rose is, as important as she was when she was on the show, her true legacy may well lie not in her time in the TARDIS but rather in her exit.
Not only was her departure the first of the modern era (and thus important by default), it was also of particular dramatic importance. That can be a tricky needle to thread, so naturally, then-showrunner Russell T. Davies decided that the best approach was to simply break ‘Who’ fandom’s collective hearts. Indeed, anyone who’s taken note of all the Tenth Doctor and Rose cosplayers at the average convention (or spent five minutes on Tumblr) has to wonder whether or not the fandom as a whole will ever truly heal.
And of course, her importance to the Doctor wasn’t lost on anyone involved. Speaking at the recent Wizard World New Orleans convention, Tenth Doctor David Tennant shared his thoughts on his former companion’s importance and the real tragedy of her departure.
“Well, he was devastated. I think Rose had helped him reform himself. I think Rose had influenced who he became when he regenerated into me. I think her influence was very formative for the Doctor, having come out of this terrible war and all of these extraordinarily awful things that he’d been to and been borne witness to. And that she helped him recover, helped him become the man that he re-found. To lose her was devastating, and yet, as it went for the Doctor, kind of inevitable. That’s part of the tragedy of that character, that every relationship he forms with anyone other than a Time Lord – and of course, there were none of them left – was, by its very nature, transient, because he’s effectively eternal next to a human being, who might get a hundred years if they’re lucky. So that’s one of the tragedies of that character that makes him sort of timeless. So yeah, to lose Rose – the woman who’d helped him rebuild who he was, and the woman he almost dared to fall in love with, I think – was devastating for him, and took him a long time to get over. And maybe he never did. He was never quite over it while he was me.”
Relive the heartbreaking moment when the Doctor says goodbye to Rose:
‘Doctor Who’ will return later this year with the debut of the series’ eleventh season, in which Jodie Whittaker stars as the Thirteenth Doctor.