Let’s talk about the tenth Doctor’s ongong obsession with Rose. Three episodes post-Rose and we get at least one reference and an anguished expression in every one.
In The Shakespeare Code, we had two references. The first can just be put down to the Doctor being wrapped up in the problem at hand and not noticing what effect his words are having on Martha. Indeed the “right in front of me but I can’t see it” dialogue wants us to make this connection – Martha is a Rose replacement and the Doctor must accept her in the same way that the audience must accept her. This is nothing new, many old series companions were broken in over the course of a story or two, but in the new series the language used to show this process has changed to match the language used in modern televsion.
The second is more problematic. There’s nothing wrong with a companion’s name being an inspiration to the Doctor – in Curse of Fenric the seventh Doctor recited his companion’s names as an article of faith against the vampiric Haemovores. But, of all the names the witch could have drawn out of the Doctor’s head, and remember she was trying to hurt him not arm him, why did she pick Rose? Sure it’s a painful memory, but is it the most painful? What about Gallifrey? Or Adric? Or Roz? You know, people who are really dead because of the Doctor and not just Rose’s “I’m ‘dead’ ‘cos I’m trapped in a parallel universe”. Maybe the witch wasn’t too good at plundering a Time Lord’s brain, and couldn’t get down to the depths where he stores the old memories. Or maybe Rose is more important to the tenth Doctor, and below I look at some possible reason why, though first we start with other explanations for his behaviour.
- The Doctor is testing Martha. He’s treating her badly by comparing her with Rose to either see whether she’s got the fortitude to stick it out, or to try to drive her away (possibly just emotionally as physically he could have just not picked her up in the first place) before she gets hurt. Whilst there are some parallels between the tenth and seventh Doctors I don’t feel this is one of them, and I think next week’s episode will kill off any lingering doubts.
- The tenth Doctor has no filter between his brain and his mouth. We’ve seen this throughout the last season, he thinks out loud, he’s rude without realising it, he never, ever shuts up. So perhaps previous Doctor’s did feel this way about their companions but they simply didn’t say so (certainly not when the camera is pointing at them). Looking at the previous Doctor with the biggest gob, the Big Finish audio Thicker Than Water does feature Mel getting sick of the sixth Doctor banging on about how great Evelyn had been. So, Rose? Nothing special, her Doc’s just got a big mouth.
The tenth Doctor is an emo kid. He reacts in a more emotional way to almost everything. Some past Doctors have had moments of passion but this one seems to get them over just about every little thing. So again, previous Doctor’s did feel the same way when companions left, they just bottled it all up inside. Once more, Rose? Nothing special, her Doc’s just more open with his emotions.
Why this is the case is another question. Whether it’s due in some way to the loss of his homeworld and race – if the Time Lords do share some sort of group mind as some stories suggested then maybe the absence of all those staid old duffers on Gallifrey has removed an emotional damping effect from the Doctor’s mind. Or maybe it’s because Rose herself did something to his head…
Rose is imprinted on the tenth Doctor’s psyche. There is a theory, predating 2005, that at regeneration the Doctor’s new form and personality are shaped by what and who are around him at the moment of regeneration. This is taken to extremes in novels such as The Taking of Planet 5 where military Time Lords take on new forms that are resistant to whatever just “killed” them. In the Doctor’s case this can explain some of his drastic personality changes – look at who was around him at the time.
The tenth Doctor was born when the ninth kissed Rose (oh, okay the vortex energy may have had something to do with it as well). There was a cut line from The Christmas Invasion where the new Doctor’s accent was claimed to have been picked up from Rose. He can’t stop talking about her because she is part of his mind.
Rose is special. She is one of the few companions who was both chosen by the Doctor and chose to go with him. Look at the original series – most of the companions are people who stowed away on the TARDIS or wandered on board by accident. Even when the third Doctor was moaning to the Brigadier about needing an assistant, he didn’t particularly choose Jo so much as get given her as a fait accompli. But the Doctor invited Rose to come with him, and she accepted. Now this part of Davies’s vision for the series – the Doctor and his companion must want to be together – but it does mark Rose out as different to many of predecessors.
But only to start with. No matter how much they resented them to begin with the Doctor became fond of all, or almost all, of his companions. Look at his reaction (silent, see point one) to Jo’s departure. So are there other ways in which Rose is special?
Well, here we run into the party line. Eccleston, Piper and Davies all trotted out the story that the Doctor was scarred and solitary (from the Time War we subsequently learnt) and that Rose would get to him and make him connect to people again.
An aside, considering that personality changes, sometimes drastically, with regeneration, is it normal for Time Lord couples to stay together after one of them regenerates? Compare the Trill in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
So far so good, but that’s the ninth Doctor. Carrying this over to the tenth Doctor seems at odds with what we’ve seen before – look at the very different relationships the fourth and fifth Doctor’s had with Adric. If the tenth Doctor didn’t feel quite the same way about Rose that the ninth had then a lot of season two makes perfect sense. But the end of Doomsday and ongoing references ro her in subsequent stories turn this on its head.
The tenth Doctor feels extremely strongly about Rose but was pushing here away (a little but not too much, just like an addict he wants to stop but can’t) both because she was special to his previous self and beacuse he knew that she would get hurt sooner or later. Now that she’s gone he can wallow in his feelings. This works well when combined with one of the other possibilities listed here.
The Doctor’s memory is still knackered. The eighth Doctor lost his memory on a regular basis in both the novels and audios. In the novels this was a complete loss of memory and lasted for at least a hundred year’s of his lifetime and was never resolved when the eighth Doctor novel range finished (though the last book hinted at how he might regain his memories). What if he never did? Or only did so in part. Or if the Time War wiped some of them out again. If he can only vaguely remember his earlier companions (he can remember K-9 and Sarah Jane, but maybe not with total clarity – his “Sarah Jane, my Sarah Jane” may have been an attempt to make his memories clearer), then Rose is sort of the first. His memories of her, his feelings for her, are unclouded and sharp, and so they dominate his mind more than we would expect.
So how do I read it? A combination of several of the above.
After the Time War the Doctor is hurt and alone, he’s lost his own race and seems to be less favourably disposed towards humans (“stupid apes”) than before. His memory may not be all it was. He meets Rose and
through her rediscovers his compassion and affection. When he dies the transfer of vortex energy between the two of them imprints something of Rose on his new mind. He adopts an accent like hers (notice how Tennant’s accent wandered a bit in the post-Rose Smith and Jones), becomes even more human (i.e. emotional) than his last two lives, and can’t bring himself to push her away even when it becomes clear that her increasing need for him will end up getting her hurt. When they are finally parted he goes into withdrawl, with some of the darker aspects of his personality coming out (Donna’s insight at the end The Runaway Bride), and he can’t get Rose out his mind. And because this Doctor never stops talking, this obsession comes out through his words.
He needs help again, and now he’s got a doctor (almost) to help treat his addiction.