There was a "vote for the best woman of Doctor Who"
poll going on over at BBC america. Rose won. Naturally, bashing was there with a vengeance. Fortunately, I already had this idea gestating in the back of my mind, which allowed me to resist the urge to jump into the fray. I wrote this instead. Journey's End was an ending that pleased no one, but this interpretation allows me at least to make sense of the way it went. The Great Adventure There’s no happily ever after, not for them. But there doesn’t have to be.
The annoying thing about knowing another person well, Rose mused, was that it was all too easy to forget that others did not share your insight into his character. The Doctor was particularly hard for most people to understand. She couldn't claim to fully know him herself. But she understood enough of his life to make the choice she had.
It was easy to be awed by the Doctor's chaotic life and amazing timeship. He dazzled you with his feats of cunning and courage, swept you of your feet with adventure an excitement, and left you breathless at the breadth of time and space laid out before you. But Rose had been dazzled and swept up and left breathless before, by another man, no, a boy really. Jimmy Stones hardly compared, but at least Rose was no stranger to heartbreak, or disappointment, or the inevitable fact that men lie. Rose knew herself, and if she had entertained many self-deceptive illusions, none were about her own motives or identity.
Rose went with him the first time because she yearned for that thrill of emotion standing with the Doctor gave her. Not excitement, or love, or anything so straightforward. No, it was a desire to be someone, to mean something in the larger scale of things, to have her name be something more than another datum in a sea of bureaucratic statistics. She didn’t want to be Rose Tyler, shopgirl who missed her A-levels forever. It was that same yearning that had brought her into Jimmy’s disastrous orbit years ago, before the drugs or anger problems or failures that ultimately proved that her boyfriend would never make good on his promise to take her out of the estates, away from the grind of lower class survival, into a whole new world of opportunities. She’d hitched her fortunes to a potential rock-star, ascending with Jimmy when he seemed a golden prospect and descending in the same blaze of fury any falling star trails. So it wasn’t strange to make that leap again, to throw herself into the dubious but glorious life of a genuine alien, a master of time and space.
She’d stayed with him, in a sense, for that same reason. Rose Tyler, of Powell Estates, citizen of Great Britain, when all was said and done, was a prole, with no more to look forward to than the drudgery of a hopefully steady job that hopefully managed to cover the bills with a little left over. Rose Tyler, companion of the Doctor, was a savior of worlds, a witness to momentous events, a voice of compassion and a counsel of mercy to a man at whose coming armies and thrones and gods trembled. She was constantly in trouble, lost, a woman out of her league. And yet, when the sins of the past clutched at her Doctor, her touch soothed him; her voice calmed the Oncoming Storm. It didn’t make her more than a former shopgirl, now unemployed, a rarely obedient but still loving daughter, a dreamer who had made good on none of the lofty goals of her youth. She was still a frail, ignorant human thrust into a wide universe full of things both wondrous and terrible. But when the storm had passed and calm settled in, she danced in the rain and made the lonely god smile. She's Rose Tyler. The Doctor came for her, came back for her, again and again.
It didn’t make her unique - Sarah Jane was ample proof of that; but even the Doctor said it made her special. And so she stayed. Not because of her need, but his. She was his companion: the damsel in distress he rose to the occasion to save; the check on his anger that allowed him to express, ever so rarely, the sentiments that gnawed away at him; his absolution at dusk, after his eyes grew sad with remembering. He’d done so much for so many, so often alone, unappreciated, unknown, unremembered. She owed it everyone to do something for him. More, she owed to herself, to Rose Tyler, who had lived a not quite fantastic, but still worthwhile life for two decades without knowing that she slept safe at night because of him. She wanted, she had, to be there for that frightening, confusing, desperate man. And so she stood by him, through danger, and terror, and Mickey’s snide remarks, and Sarah Jane’s cautionary tales (all of them), and Daleks, and his own, unsure attempts to drive her off. Because he needed her to be there with him, Rose Tyler, a normal human girl who wanted and needed him just as much because of everything he’s done. Despite everything he’s done.
She understands why Sarah Jane turns down his offer to travel with him again. Sarah Jane came to him innocent and unblemished and lost her faith when he left her behind without so much as a goodbye. Sarah Jane saw the stars and was inspired - but she had a life to come home to, work that she was passionate about. Rose Tyler is not and will never be Sarah Jane Smith. She told the Doctor she would stay with him forever, and insisted that she meant it. He didn’t believe her. She could forgive him for that. She doesn’t believe him either, the liar, worst of liars, who can justify it all as being for her own good and she couldn’t even argue with him -except by laying the only thing she had on the line: her life - not just her mortality but your future, and dreams, and soul. She could only bear up under his old eyes by giving her whole self to him, could only meet crisis after crisis with a smile by reminding herself how ridiculous it was that she, Rose Tyler, held the fate of the universe in her hands, could only be whatever he needed on those bad days when he lost that brilliant spark of hope because she had burned all the bridges behind her. She didn’t fear death or pain or oblivion, not anymore. She only feared losing him, feared him losing her, feared him losing himself, the Doctor she loved. As Sarah Jane said, he was worth it all. Worth having her heart broken for, however many times it took.
How can she explain that to anyone?
Her parents, with the wisdom of experience, were silent and obliging, at least for the first few days, hesitant to prod her in this emotionally charged state. But Jackie has never backed down in her life, and it’s not long before she begins to probe, to question, to doubt. Her mother is stunned when Rose can so easily laugh off her suspicions, her aspersions. It was just too funny not to laugh. Jackie wonders if the Doctor has, after all this time, fobbed off a damaged, incomplete, copy off on her, a consolation prize in the game of love. A half-human trinket for the foolish human who wanted too much. She loves her mother dearly, so she never tells Jackie that the Doctor is fall more broken and battered than her 2.0 edition, that he has cast away from himself many a woman without any thought of appeasing them, that he has long ago had and lost a family. It is enough that she knows the truth. This isn’t something the Doctor, that mad, brilliant, wounded Time Lord is doing for her. It’s a kindness she’s doing him.
After all, when you have all of time and space at your finger tips, all but that patch of home you most desperately want to return to, when you have long and endless tasks ahead of you without even the easy relief of death, when every day is a potential adventure - and a potential catastrophe. . . What then do you want? What do you yearn for in your hearts of hearts? What would you treasure above all else? Rose knew - how many times had she dragged the Doctor into all those mundane, banal domestic chores he claimed not to do? He argued and whined and made faces, but she knew he lied; he needed that touch of ordinary everydayness as much as she did. This is what you yearn for when you are timeless and immortal: You envy the poor mortals with their candle flicker lives where everything is in such sharp simple relief. Where love and family and home last a lifetime, and no sacred duties can override them. Where you can not only rush into adventure, but also come home from one, or even, if you wish, decide to take a less trod-upon path for a while, and admire the far off and silent stars in the sky.
It’s all she can still give the Doctor, after everything. They've both come too far for her to be that carefree shopgirl, the sunny foil to his well-hidden tragedy. So she took the hand of the stranger with a familiar face, and did so gladly. She had a world to show him, a far off country beyond any he has yet inhabited in anything but dream. It’s an imperfect, frayed universe, but full of splendor nonetheless. She knew he’d love it. And she’ll be there to catch him, comfort him, and carry him home, every step of the way.