"Rose" is the opening episode of the first series of the revived British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. The episode was directed by Keith Boak and written by Russell T Davies who was also one of the three executive producers. It was first broadcast in the UK on BBC One on 26 March 2005. "Rose" was the first Doctor Who episode to air since the Doctor Who television film in 1996.
The plot involves Rose Tyler meeting the Doctor, a time-travelling alien Time Lord. She first encounters him in the department store where she works, while being attacked by Autons – living plastic in the guise of shop window mannequins. Rose and the Doctor uncover and defeat a plot by the alien Nestene Consciousness, which aimed to take over the Earth using the living plastic, after which she accepts the Doctor's offer to travel through time and space with him in his time machine, the TARDIS.
The episode marked the debut of Christopher Eccleston, the ninth actor to play the Doctor since the programme started in 1963, and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, the Doctor's companion. Being the first episode of the revived series, several lead characters were introduced; Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler, and Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith. Viewers did not see the Doctor character regenerate from a previous incarnation; regeneration being a plot device in which the character of the Doctor changes body and identity. Russell T Davies felt it would be clearer for the viewer to begin the series with the new actor in place rather than show the previous actor regenerating. "Rose" began filming in Cardiff, the headquarters of BBC Wales, in July 2004, with some location scenes shot in London. "Rose" was viewed by 10.81 million viewers in the UK, the most viewed Doctor Who episode since The Creature from the Pit in 1979 (making it the first episode in over 25 years); and received positive reviews from critics, though there were some criticisms of its use of humour.
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), a teenage shop assistant, is being chased by mannequins in the basement of Henrik's, the department store where she works. She is rescued by the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) who destroys the building with an explosion. The next day, the Doctor visits Rose at her home where he is attacked by a plastic mannequin arm which he and Rose subdue. Rose investigates the Doctor and meets Clive (Mark Benton), who has been tracking the Doctor's appearances throughout history. Clive tells Rose the Doctor is dangerous, and that if he's there, something bad is about to happen. While Rose is talking to Clive, her boyfriend Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) is kidnapped by a wheelie bin and replaced with a plastic doppelgänger.
The fake Mickey takes Rose to lunch and attempts to question her about the Doctor, but the Doctor shows up and beheads the doppelgänger. The Doctor takes Rose and the plastic head to the TARDIS and attempts to use the head to locate the controlling signal. With the head connected, the TARDIS takes them to the London Eye. The Doctor explains to Rose that the fake Mickey was an Auton, controlled by a signal from the Nestene Consciousness. He has a vial of anti-plastic that can be used to destroy the Nestene if necessary. Realising that the transmitter is the London Eye itself, Rose and the Doctor descend underneath it to stop the Nestene Consciousness. They find Mickey, tied up but alive, and the Doctor speaks to the Nestene Consciousness. He tries to negotiate with it, but the Consciousness blames the Doctor for the destruction of its planet during the Time War. The Consciousness activates all the Autons at a shopping arcade, where several shoppers are shot and killed, including Clive. The Doctor is also held down by a pair of Autons, but Rose rescues him and the anti-plastic drops into the vat where the Nestene Consciousness resides, killing it. With the Consciousness dead, the Autons all collapse. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to take Mickey and Rose home, then persuades Rose to join him as his new companion in the TARDIS.
Both the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness first appeared in the serial Spearhead from Space (1970), then reappeared in Terror of the Autons (1971). This story introduces The Shadow Proclamation, an intergalactic police force mentioned several times in the revived series and eventually seen in "The Stolen Earth". This is the first mention of the Time War, which would be one of the running threads throughout the series.
Doctor Who originally ran from 1963 to 1989, when it was cancelled after its twenty-sixth season. Television producer Russell T Davies had been lobbying the BBC in an attempt to revive the show from the late 1990s, and reached the discussion phase in 2002. It was announced in September 2003 that Doctor Who was returning and would be produced by BBC Wales via a BBC press release. The format of the programme was changed to 45-minute episodes, lightening the pace. Davies was inspired by American series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville, in particular by using Buffy's structure of season-long story arcs around a "Big Bad" villain.
It was announced in March 2004 that Christopher Eccleston would be playing the Doctor. Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, stated that casting an actor of Eccleston's reputation signaled "our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values — to be surprising, edgy and eccentric." Eccleston is the ninth actor to play the Doctor since the programme started in 1963. New actors are able to take over the role through a plot device of regeneration, in which the character of the Doctor changes body and identity; this having been introduced in 1966. Russell T Davies decided to begin the revived series with a new Doctor rather than show the regeneration, as he believed it was "madness" to start with someone and then change him before the audience could build a relationship with him. Davies wanted to initially approach the revival as a "new programme". Eccleston's character is more "down-to-earth" than previous Doctors; Davies referred to him as "stripped down", while still having "fun and humour". Eccleston's costume of a battered leather jacket was in Davies' original pitch, but the clothing also went with Eccleston's desire not to have clothes dominating his time on the show. The Ninth Doctor's clothes do not dominate him, but rather create a simple silhouette and an "action man" vibe.
Billie Piper's casting as Rose Tyler was announced in May 2004. According to executive producer Julie Gardner, former pop star Piper "fits the bill perfectly" as a "unique, dynamic partner for Christopher Eccleston". Davies described Rose as "the ordinary person who stumbles into something extraordinary and finds herself their equal." Camille Coduri and Noel Clarke were also cast to play Rose's mother and boyfriend respectively; Davies wanted to include these characters to "make her real" and to "give her a life". Rose's family is also working-class, which had rarely been seen in companions on the show prior to "Rose".
The episode name had gradually been shortened; in Davies's pitch it had been called Rose meets the Doctor, and the journey begins, on his contract Rose Meets The Doctor, and finally shortened to Rose. Also changed from Davies's original pitch were the names of the supporting characters: Judy Tyler became Jackie Tyler, and Muggsy Smith became Mickey Smith. Davies had trouble coming up with how Mickey was supposed to be captured by the Nestene while waiting for Rose in the car, and finally realised he could be lured by a plastic wheelie bin. He commented that such instances of the ordinary being made scary made Doctor Who unique. Davies had to take out "oblique" references to the Autons being like terrorists, as the Eye was once a target of a terrorist attack. The entrance of the Doctor was something much debated; Tranter and other members of the production team wanted it to be more dramatic, but the scene was never reshot. Davies remarked that it reflects Rose's point of view, whereas a more dramatic entrance would reflect the audience's excitement at the Doctor coming back. The scene in which the Auton arm attacks in the Tyler's flat was originally much longer, but was revised. The episode originally underran by several minutes, and a scene with the Doctor and Rose walking was added a month or so later.
Davies wanted the Doctor to realise that Rose has something to offer to his cause. Their holding hands while running was meant to signify that they were a team, despite him not asking her yet, and they were not to question their relationship. The episode was intended to be presented from Rose's point-of-view. For audience identification purposes, Davies wanted the alien menace to be easily mistaken as human, so that it was possible for Rose to mistake the aliens for humans. Davies felt that there was no need to create a new monster, as the Autons met these criteria. The Auton sequences were difficult to film because the costumes were uncomfortable for the actors; which meant that frequent breaks from filming were needed. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) was used in post-production to cover up the zipper on the back of the necks of the Auton costumes. Davies wanted to recreate the scene of the Autons breaking out of shop windows from their first appearance in Spearhead from Space, although he had the budget to actually smash the glass instead of just cutting around it like in Spearhead.
The episode was storyboarded by artist Anthony Williams. Davies offered Edgar Wright the opportunity to direct the episode, but Wright was forced to decline, as he was still working on Shaun of the Dead. Instead, the episode was directed by Keith Boak. "Rose" began filming in July 2004, as part of the first production block alongside episodes four and five. The first five days were spent filming in London, while the rest was filmed in Cardiff. The production team was given permission to add more lights to the London Eye. For the scene in which the Doctor and Rose are running through London, careful timing was undertaken by the production team because they wanted a London bus to travel behind them, but this had to be accomplished by waiting for a bus to come. In other scenes filmed in Cardiff, a London bus and a van of the London Evening Standard drove by to give the illusion of London. The exterior of Rose's council estate was filmed at a London estate as well as a Cardiff one in other scenes. Mickey's flat is the same set as the Tyler's, just redecorated. The production team sought to film the Cardiff scenes in secrecy, but the day before they began the Cardiff Council issued a press release naming the streets where they would be filming. The Autons' attack during the climax was filmed on Working Street, Cardiff from 20 to 22 July 2004. with scenes set around major London landmarks like the London Eye being the exception. Henrik's, where Rose works, is actually the department store Howells, and the pizza restaurant is La Fosse. It took the production team a while to find a restaurant that would require minimal set dressing but would be willing to close for a day. The street where Rose joins the Doctor is St David's Market, while service tunnels in the basement of a hospital in Cardiff were used for the basement of Henrik's where Rose is menaced by Autons. Studio filming mainly took place from August to October 2004.
The area underneath the London Eye where the Doctor and Rose confront the Nestene Consciousness was filmed in an unused paper mill in Grangetown, Cardiff. It underwent steam cleaning because there were such high health and safety concerns. They were only permitted to film for three days, which required that some of the sequence be cut: originally, there was to be another Auton Mickey involved. Special effects producer Mike Tucker was reminded of the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun when reading the scene in which the Nestene's lair is blown up, and sought to display it as a major effect. The production team built a one-sixth scale model of the warehouse where the explosions were filmed. Tucker did a model explosion for the destruction of Henrik's as well, although that was only for the roof; the rest was done by CGI. The production team considered doing the explosion practically, but that would have been too expensive. In the original script, Rose's first experience of seeing the TARDIS interior was shared with the audience. Director Keith Boak, however, wanted her to exit and run around the TARDIS before entering again, at which point the interior would be revealed to the audience. This change was eventually embraced by the executive producers. Davies remarked that he originally wanted to take Rose and the audience inside the TARDIS in all one shot, but this was not a feasible with the budget. This effect would later be accomplished in the 2012 Christmas special, "The Snowmen".
On 8 March 2005, Reuters reported that a copy of the episode had been leaked onto the Internet, and was being widely traded via the BitTorrent file sharing protocol. The leaked episode did not contain the new arrangement of the theme tune by Murray Gold. The leak was ultimately traced to a third party company in Canada which had a legitimate preview copy. The employee responsible was fired by the company and the BBC considered further legal action.
"Rose" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on 26 March 2005 on BBC One, and was the first Doctor Who episode to air since the Doctor Who television film in 1996. Unofficial overnight viewing figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board showed that the episode attracted an average of 9.9 million viewers — 43.2% of the available television audience — over the course of the evening. At its peak, it had 10.5 million viewers, a 44.3% share. The final figure for the episode, including video recordings watched within a week of transmission, was 10.81 million, third for BBC One that week and seventh across all channels. In some regions, the first few minutes of the original BBC broadcast of this episode on 26 March were marred by the accidental mixing of a few seconds of sound from Graham Norton hosting Strictly Dance Fever.
Internationally, "Rose" was first transmitted on CBC in Canada on 5 April 2005, debuting to strong ratings of 986,000 viewers. In Australia, it was broadcast on 21 May 2005 on ABC to 1.11 million viewers. "Rose" was first broadcast in the United States on the Sci-Fi Channel on 17 March 2006. It was aired back-to-back with the following episode "The End of the World"; Davies had originally wanted to air the first two episodes together in the UK, but the request was given to the BBC too close to transmission. The US premiere was watched by 1.58 million viewers.
On 30 March, four days after the episode was originally broadcast in the UK, the BBC announced that another full series had been commissioned. On the same day, the BBC released a statement, apparently from Eccleston, saying that he would be leaving the role at Christmas, for fear of being typecast. The BBC later revealed this was not an official statement from Eccleston, whom they had failed to contact before responding to press questions after the story broke; the mis-quote was re-used in other media. Eccleston later said, "They handled it very badly, but they issued an apology and I dropped it" in an 2010 interview. David Tennant was called a "hot favourite" to replace Eccleston, when it was announced that Eccleston was leaving, BBC said that they were in talks with Tennant; the bookmakers' odds were at 1/10, with William Hill refusing to take any bets on who would act a new Doctor. A BBC spokesman said that they had "hoped, rather than expected" that Eccleston would continue in the role.
"Rose" received positive reviews and was seen as a successful relaunch to the programme. Harry Venning of The Stage praised Davies' script, particularly for taking it seriously and making it scary. He was pleased with Piper's acting and Rose, who proved to be more independent than her predecessors. However, he felt that Eccleston was "the show's biggest disappointment" as he seemed unsuited to a fantasy role. Digital Spy's Dek Hogan stated that production values had increased from the classic series, and praised the acting and characters of Eccleston, Piper, and Clarke. However, he felt that some of the humour — such as the wheelie bin burping after it consumes Mickey — was not as enjoyable as an adult. The Sydney Morning Herald reviewer Robin Oliver praised Davies for "[taking] an adult approach to one of television's most famous characters" and "[overriding] the cash-strapped production values of the past to make his new doctor competitive in a high-tech market". Kay McFadden of The Seattle Times described the revival as "superb" and "intelligent and well-done". Daily Mail writer Michael Hanlon said that "As a fan I really hope this new series succeeds. It's lively, well filmed and the special effects are up to scratch. There is humour, a vital ingredient if the new series is to be a success." He also felt that everything necessary for Doctor Who was present in "Rose". However, Stephen Brook of The Guardian said that it was "pitched at its youngest ever audience", and also felt that the episode had an "overdose on humour".
Retrospective reviews have also been positive. Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times gave "Rose" four out of five stars in 2013, particularly praising Rose's fleshed-out life and how it welcomed in new viewers. While he noted "minor gripes" and felt the Autons' destruction was toned-down, he praised the direction and the performances and called it "a blinding success". The A.V. Club reviewer Alasdair Wilkins gave the episode a grade of a B, also noting how important it was that Rose's world was shown first. He felt that some effects already seemed dated in 2013 and Jackie and Mickey were one-dimensional, but the episode succeeded above all else, especially in developing Rose and the Doctor's relationship and pointing out that Doctor Who is dangerous. In 2013, Ben Lawrence of The Daily Telegraph named "Rose" as one of the top ten Doctor Who stories set in the contemporary time.