Doctor Who - Looking back on Doomsday, the Doctor, and Rose Tyler

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Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Doomsday, the final episode of Doctor Who’s second series following its triumphant 2005 revival. It’s an episode known for many things - pitting the Daleks against the Cybermen for the first time in Doctor Who history, introducing Torchwood, as well as giving us Catherine Tate’s first appearance as Donna Noble.

Most importantly, though, it’s known for being the story where Rose leaves the Doctor.

Inspired by Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, and wanting to provide a cataclysmic event that would keep the Doctor and Rose apart forever, Russell T Davies decided to leave Rose trapped in a parallel universe that the Doctor could never revisit.

Doomsday, then, saw the culmination of a two-year plot arc, and it is heartbreaking. All of us in the audience had watched these two characters travel together, and grow together, ever since the show returned; it was with the Tenth Doctor that we really saw the depth of feeling these two characters had for each other. Notably, however, their feelings had never really been expressed to one another on screen before; though we all talk about the epic love story between the Doctor and Rose, it’s actually far subtler and much more understated than that.

In episodes like The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, the pair come close to saying they love each other, but ultimately eschew the final declaration - one memorable line of the Doctor’s, before facing possible death, is “Tell Rose… tell her… oh, she knows”. Their bond had been built through shared experiences, and through the chemistry that Tennant and Piper shared, but never really made explicit. The Doctor and Rose weren’t ever really in a relationship together; it was never anything that complicated, or that mundane. It was just the Doctor and Rose, in the TARDIS. As it should be.

But that’s what really emphasises the tragedy of this moment – there was a sort of purity to it, because it was the first time that the pair of them expressed these feelings. The first time they chose to, because it was the last time they could. Which serves only to heighten the sheer cruelty of “Rose Tyler, -”, in the end – we know what he was going to say, but it’s just not fair that he didn’t get to say it. That made it all the more frustrating, really, that the pair of them wasted time on little small talk; in a way, though, that makes the moment all the more effective. These two inarticulate idiots, dancing around their feelings – and, in the end, denied even that one final moment together.

The moment - which you can watch here, if you’re interested - contains some of David Tennant and Billie Piper’s best acting together on Doctor Who. Often people highlight Piper’s work in Father’s Day, which I wrote about here, as being her best, but I think she may well have surpassed herself here; Rose’s grief at losing the Doctor, open and raw, is quite powerful. Similarly, Tennant does a wonderful job at showing the Doctor sad, yet trying to distance himself - making small talk, making little jokes, doing his best to remain positive. When they are, in the end, finally torn apart, the moment is deeply poignant.

Ultimately, it was cruel, it was unforgettable, and it was wonderfully written by the fantastic Russell T Davies. There’s a reason why the final scene of Doomsday is so iconic, and that’s because it really is that good.

Related:

Doctor Who - A tribute to Christopher Eccleston’s “Fantastic” Ninth Doctor

Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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