I rewatched Series 2 of Doctor Who this week (just kidding, I did it all yesterday.) It was one of those days where you think “Love is terrible, let’s watch someone else’s heartbreak via horrible close-ups, too much makeup and a beautiful Scotsman.”
Now, if you ship the Doctor and Rose as much as I do (soooooooooo excited for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary!) then you’ve probably wondered which episodes have the best interactions that make this couple so great. After all, they have 28 episodes together and while that 28 includes a disappointing lack of sweaty Time Lord sex, there are moments worth our time. Let’s check it out.
Firstly, though, you should know that there are no episodes from the Eccleston era here. This is partly due to the fact that Series 1 was the shittiest thing ever pooped out by Russell T. Davies, but mostly it’s because Chris Eccleston is 19 years older than Billie Piper and he was clearly uncomfortable with even the remotest notion of romantic entanglement.
(Also, “I think you need a Doctor”? Really?)
Secondly, you’re going to disagree with my idea of the best episode. You think you know what I’m going to choose. You don’t.
5. The Idiot’s Lantern
At first glance, this is a completely whatever episode, the only appeal of it being the magnificent lift that David Tennant’s hair achieves, as though it were attempting to break the bonds of gravity, soar through the heavens and mate with the first cockatoo it sees.
What’s great about this episode, though, is the nice mix you get of fun interactions and real emotions. What I like about Rose is that she connects with the Doctor in ways that are exuberant and silly. She’s not competent like Martha, she’s not willful like Amy, she’s not….whatever like Clara. She just gets the Doctor.
Doctor: You goin’ my way, doll?
Rose: Is there any other way to go, Daddi-o? Straight from the fridge, man!
Doctor: Ah, you speak the lingo.
Ten and Rose don’t just solve crimes. They don’t just try to puzzle each other out. They enjoy each other’s company, and they like to impress each other. It’s beautiful to watch. But that’s not the best thing about Rose.
This episode is the first time you really see the Doctor totally lose his shit because of Rose. What’s the one thing that’s lame about God? (Bear with me here.) God loves everyone, totally regardless of whether or not they murder babies, drink PBR or use “compliment” when they mean “complement.”
If God loves everyone equally, it means you’re really not that special or important. So what you actually want is a god that loves you more than He loves everyone else. Deep down, we all want our facelessness to inspire sexy outrage in our deities.
Best Line: [Doctor]: The street. They left her in the street. They took her face, and just chucked her out and left her in the street. And as a result, that makes things… simple. Very very simple. Do you know why? …Because now, Detective Inspector Bishop, there is no power on this earth that can stop me!
Best Moment: She comes back from the TV and they huggle in the street like it ain’t no thing.
4. Christmas Invasion
Much of Tennant’s run is spent being lusted after by Rose, but a lot of that time he seems uncomfortable with her pursuit. He gets depressingly squirmy when she suggests they move in together in “The Impossible Planet,” he has to angrily explain that someday she’ll get old and uggo and he can’t handle that in “School Reunion,” he kisses someone else in “Girl in the Fireplace” and he can’t even properly dictate a goodbye message in “The Satan Pit,” leaving it up to poor Ida Scott to make his last words sound vaguely personal.
Anyway, what I like about “The Christmas Invasion” is that the Doctor seems to attach himself immediately to Rose and, finding her skittish and a bit suspicious of him, has to woo her. He’s not the old Doctor and he doesn’t pretend to be, but he shows off for her. He flirts with her. He entrusts the delicate task of checking his hair for signs of ginger to her alone. He asks her if he’s sexy now.
Even in the middle of a fucking sword fight happening over the skies of London proper, he checks in to see that she’s totally sure that he’s the Doctor, as though that is the important thing when the fate of a planet is at stake.
But that’s just peacocking. The best moment comes when you realize he’s been legitimately worried this whole time that she wasn’t going to keep traveling with him. As per usual with Rose and Ten, you get a lot of unfinished sentences (“I thought because you’d changed…”) instead of any stated emotions, but the best moment comes when he smiles with relief and sighs, “Oh, I’d love you to come!”
3. Journey’s End (Spoilers for Idiots Who Haven’t Finished Season 4)
There are no happy endings in Doctor Who, but if there was one, this would be it. You know deep down that the Doctor can’t really be happy because he can’t let himself be happy. But you also know that Ten and Rose need a happy ending, that the two of them must be off gallivanting around some galaxy.
There’s a nice, dissonant equality to Ten and Rose in this episode. They’re both competent people at this point but in different ways, which is evident from the first moment he sees her with a gun that’s bigger’n she is.
There’s the fantastic tension where they cope with having been apart for so long, and then the wonderful teasing when they realize they’re both still crazy in love:
Rose: Basically we’ve been building this, um, travel machine. This, uh, dimension cannon so I could, uh, so I—
The Doctor, grinning: What?
Rose: So I could come back. Shut up.
Anyway, then there’s the ending, which is amazingly sad and romantic. For me, though, the kiss wasn’t even the best part of it. The whispered “I love you” was nice, because if it was inaudible it meant I could supply my own dialogue.
Anyway, all of that is heartbreaking and awesome, but frankly the best line owes itself entirely to David Tennant. When the Doctor is describing how he’s part human now and therefore has a mortal life, he says the following line:
Doctor: I could spend it with you. Rose Tyler.
Not a particularly great line, but go back and watch the way he says it. The way he draws out her name and examines the edges of it with his fantastic, Scottish tongue. It’s lascivious and drawling, the kind of proposal that would upset the institution of monogamy because everyone within earshot would accept it immediately.
This is my favorite Ten and Rose episode. I bawl every single time I watch it. It has to be the single saddest, most romantic episode in the Doctor Who canon.
Ten and Rose are parted “forever.” She cries like a newborn pug and he sheds a single, beautiful tear that probably ends up curing cancer or something. She finally confesses that which has been obvious for the entire storyline and he starts to reply with similar words of love, but is suddenly, horribly, cut off mid-sentence.
The Doctor: “Rose Tyler-”
There are a few reasons why I can’t make this number one here. First of all, it’s pretty clear that Rose shacks back up with Mickey, which is completely inexcusable, all things considered. Secondly, while it’s the greatest ending of two characters ever, it’s still an ending, and you can only watch it so many times without getting dehydrated from all the crying.
1. Fear Her
Hear me out on this one, because the story in this is super shitty and involves an irritating little girl who does not know how to maintain a stage whisper.
Please don’t tell me that the whole torch thing at the end is cheesy or that the monster isn’t scary or that the single parent issue is ham-fisted. I know all of those things. I’m busy ignoring them.
Okay yes, this episode doesn’t have the most dramatic arc or even a very good mystery. But it is the best episode of Rose and The Doctor, and I’ll tell you why. A good love story is “Doomsday.” It has heartbreak and star-crossed lovers and great confessions of love. A great love story is one where the two heroes are just as much fun to watch together as they are to watch being torn apart.
This is the only episode where the Doctor and Rose are equal detective partners, doing equal amounts of work, having fun and laughing together. At the beginning he talks about edible ball bearings and by the end of the episode she’s found some for him.
Throughout the episode he figures out the technical, fantastical elements and she actually saves the day by rescuing him through the domestic approach, all by herself.
It isn’t just their equality, though. It’s their excitement for each other and the work. Take the moment where he asks her what she smells and she’s ecstatic that she gets it right. Or when she starts to work out a solution and he, grinning, asks her if she’s deducting, to which she responds with a saucy “I might be.”
Anyone can have a heartbreaking separation or even a happy ending. But I need to know that Ten and Rose are leading an exciting, compatible life off in their other dimension. This episode better than any other shows me the fun and flirty dynamic that makes The Doctor and Rose the best couple on the show, and one that keeps being interesting even after they’re gone.