Chapter 162. Doctor Who – Rose (2018)

Synopsis: Rose Tyler works in a department store. Exploring the basement one evening after hours, her life changes forever as she meets a man who saves her life by telling her to ‘run!’ He tells her to forget him too, but she begins to investigate and learns that this man has appeared throughout history. He’s called the Doctor – and right now, he’s trying to protect Earth from an alien intelligence with a deadly control of anything plastic…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Descent into Terror
  • 2. Enter the Doctor
  • 3. Life at No.143
  • 4. Plastic Attack
  • 5. The Turn of the Earth
  • 6. Life at No.90
  • 7. The Mysteries of Juke Street
  • 8. Shed of Secrets
  • 9. The Pizza Surprise
  • 10. Inside the Box
  • 11 War Stories
  • 12. The Living Statues
  • 13. The Lair of the Beast
  • 14. The Never-Ending War
  • 15. The Army Awakes
  • 16. The Battle of London
  • 17. Rose Says No
  • 18. Death Throes
  • 19. Aftermath
  • 20. The Journey Begins

Background: Russell T Davies adapts his own script from 2005.

Notes: The caretaker (not chief electrician) at Henrik’s Department Store is Bernie Wilson. He’s a short, creepy man who abuses his position to coordinate a mini-crime ring from the basement of the store. In recent years, he’s been running the lottery syndicate and pocketing the money. When a store employee wins the roll-over lottery, Bernie panics and decides to burn down the store to cover his tracks. He is killed by a shop window mannequin. Henrik’s is at ‘the western end of Oxford Street’, backing onto Cavendish Square (so it occupies the exact same space as the John Lewis department store in our world).

Rose Tyler looks back on the events of that day from the beach in another dimension [see Doomsday]. The story takes place between Friday 4th March (‘Chris Rea’s birthday’) and the early hours of Sunday 6th March. She attended Sweeney Street Comprehensive and when she was 16, she dumped her boyfriend Mickey, dropped out of sixth-form college and took up with Jimmy Stone, a flash lad (with a nice car) who turned out to be a disaster. She got back with Mickey and spent six months on the dole before finding work in the female clothing department of Henrik’s, which was a year ago. She remembers meeting a stranger on New Year’s Eve whose face she never saw and who had told her that 2005 was going to be ‘great’ [see The End of Time Part Two]. In the basement, Rose hears the voice of an Irish comedian on a radio somewhere (a beautiful reference to the accidental crashing of Graham Norton over the first TV broadcast of the episode). She thinks the man who rescues her looks like he’s tackling the situation with ‘glee’ and that the bomb he’s holding looks like something from the TV series 24:

He was about 40 years old, tough, hard as nails, she reckoned, lean and fit, with a brutal buzz-cut, dressed in a battered brown leather jacket, tight black clothes and big sturdy boots. And now he turned to face her, his blue eyes glistening with delight, strong cheekbones hollow in the steep fluorescent light, his head bracketed by two splendid ears.

Rose lives at flat 143 on the 14th floor of the ‘Enoch’ Tower on the Powell Estate. The estate was built in 1973 – two towers of 16 floors each with six flats per storey and looming over a selection of shops. ‘Enoch’ is a nickname for one of the towers, as residents wrongly assumed the estate was named after the Conservative MP Enoch Powell; in reality its name comes from the mother-in-law of the developer, who died in tragic circumstances.

Rose’s mum is introduced as ‘a little blonde missile’ in ‘double- denim’:

Jackie Tyler, 5 foot nothing, age not relevant, karaoke champion of the Spinning Wheel, life and soul of the party but a monumental lightning storm when angry, now sobbing and laughing and then, somehow, finding a reason to give Rose a punch on the arm.

On inspecting himself in the mirror, the Doctor is disappointed not to be ginger. Jackie walks in on her daughter straddling the Doctor and holding the (now inert and cracked) mannequin arm; misunderstanding the scene, she calls Rose a ‘tart’. When the Doctor leaves her for the second time, Rose hears a ‘grinding, heaving, aching sound, like some sort of ancient engine lurching into life’.

Mickey is three years older than Rose. His mother, Odessa, took her own life when he was five. His father, Jackson Moseley Smith, was an engineer and part-time singer who went away to sea, leaving Mickey with his Gran, Rita-Ann – and Jackson never returned. Once Mickey turned 18, his Gran arranged for him to rent a flat back on the Powell Estate; she died a few months after Mickey left [as explained in Age of Steel]. Though Mickey’s parents and Gran are now dead, Rose later remembers there’s still an uncle Cliff on the scene. Mickey now lives at flat 90 in the Powell Tower. His one-bedroom flat is a meeting place for his gang – Mook, Patrice and Sally – who have all taken turns sleeping in the living room. They are trying to form a band and are in the process of choosing a name when Sally suggests ‘Bad Wolf’. Later, Sally recalls that the phrase ‘Bad Wolf’ appears in the Jordan Street car park, the graffiti tag of some gang or other.

Clive Finch is an estate agent living on Juke Street, Stoke Newington, North London. He is married to Caroline and they have two sons, Michael and Ben. His website shows photos of people he identifies as ‘the Doctor’, including the one Rose has met and a ‘curly-haired man in a long scarf’. In Clive’s shed, Rose sees his files on UNIT and what she thinks says  ‘Touchwood’. Clive describes the Doctor as ‘he – or she’. There’s ‘an old man with white hair and a black cape’ standing in the street in front of a War Machine; ‘a little man with a Beatles mop of hair’ outside an antiques shop [possibly from Evil of the Daleks]; ‘a man with a fabulous grey bouffant standing next to a small silver hovercraft’; ‘that man in the long scarf again’, dwarfed by an unconvincing monster emerging out of the Thames [see Terror of the Zygons]; ‘a rather hot blond man at Heathrow Airport’ [Time-Flight]; ‘a curly-haired man clearly on his way to a fancy-dress party dressed as a picnic’; a photo from World War II of ‘a short man with an umbrella’ running with some soldiers [The Curse of Fenric perhaps]; ‘a dashing, Byronic man’ at the opening of an atomic clock [the TV Movie]; from a box-file labelled ’09’ comes an old photo of ‘her’ Doctor, shown wrestling with a pterodactyl and visible bruising that she saw him receive only that morning from the plastic hand; a man with two suits, ‘brown and blue’; ‘a man with a fantastic jaw, dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie’; ‘an older, angry man in a brown caretaker’s coat, holding a mop’ [The Caretaker]; ‘a blonde woman in braces running away from a giant frog in front of Buckingham Palace’ [an unseen adventure]; as well as ‘a tall, bald black woman wielding a flaming sword’ and ‘a young girl or boy in a hi-tech wheelchair with what looked like a robot dog at their side’.

Clive has no idea what the ‘blue box’ is, though it appears in many photos. His father – Second Lieutenant Gary Jonathan Finch – was a soldier who died while on manoeuvres ‘in Shoreditch’ [see Remembrance of the Daleks]. One of Clive’s most treasured photos shows a small tank-like machine, ‘a one-man vessel made of white and gold metal, its lower half studded with balls, odd prongs sticking out of its body’ – which Clive believes was responsible for his father’s death. Rose notices one photo of a ‘giant big tentacled thing’ wrapped around Westminster Abbey [probably a reference to the pioneering 1950s sci-fi drama TV The Quatermass Experiment, which you can’t see as it was never telerecorded, or The Quatermass Xperiment, the movie adaptation of the TV serial], while Clive mentions a theory about ‘a crack in time’ [see The Eleventh Hour and many more]. Desperate to meet the Doctor himself, Clive bursts into tears as Rose leaves.

Rose deliberately doesn’t tell Mickey about the Doctor because she wants something exciting of her own, so she tells him Clive is helping her with an insurance claim. At the restaurant, Fake-Mickey’s eye pops out of his face and into his soup; Rose realises he’s made of plastic just as the replica demands she tells it everything about the Doctor and threatens to kill the other diners. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver once on fake-Mickey’s head, but claims he can’t use it again because the plastic has ‘recalibrated’. The head accuses ‘you lot’ of bringing ‘a war crashing down on our civilisation’ before falling inert. 

We see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, through Rose’s eyes:

She was standing on a metal ramp surrounded by curved walls arching upwards, studded with hexagons. What she’d thought was a dome was more of a sphere; she could look down, through the metal mesh at her feet, to see the curve completing far below in one vast circle. The whole interior was weathered, rusting, bruised, and yet humming with life, as though huge engines were brooding somewhere beyond the walls. The skin of the sphere was supported by weird buttresses, shaped like … coral? Yes, she could smell ozone, like the seaside, though this was a coral glowing with internal light.

The central console is ‘a coral mushroom out of which a glass pillar containing tubes of light soared up to the roof and down into the depths, like a linchpin holding the entire globe together’. 

Rose notices that the cut on the Doctor’s cheek from her mother’s table has healed since this morning, only for the Doctor to tell her that, for him, that was weeks ago. He briefly explains the ‘war’ between his people and ‘another kind’, a ‘filthy stinking war that changed reality itself, corrupting everything it touched. Ripping life inside out and making it obscene’. The Nestene Consciousness was once flesh and blood with an ‘affinity with plastic’, but the war rewrote its DNA, turning it into ‘an actual living plastic creature’. Rose compares the Doctor to the famous environmental protestor ‘Swampie’, who the Doctor claims to have met. He also identifies the Nestene Consciousness’s foot-soldiers as ‘Autons’ (on telly, they’re only named in the end credits). Some of the ‘living statue’ entertainers on the South Bank of the Thames are revealed to be Autons: One is dressed as a tramp holding a plastic daffodil [see Terror of the Autons]; another takes the form of a ballerina; and a third is a knight in a suit of armour. The Doctor realises the Auton trio has been steering them towards the Nestene lair, a chamber that the creature has clearly chewed its way into from beneath. A second Mickey duplicate tricks Rose into revealing the existence of the anti-plastic. Rose slowly becomes able to understand some of the Nestene Consciousness’s words, such as ‘Time… Lord’ and ‘Doc…tor’.. 

The shop-window Autons in the ‘Battle of London’ include a plastic dog and a boy made out of small plastic bricks, as well as display models from Soho’s adult shops, dressed in leather harnesses and speedos. Some of the Autons turn their hands into blades and hack their way through the crowd, while others morph their hands into gun barrels. Clive recalls stories of ‘monsters from Loch Ness, and wizards in Cornwall, and robots in the North Pole’ [neatly looping in Terror of the Zygons, The Tenth Planet and Russell’s CBBC TV show, Wizards Vs Aliens] before he pushes his family to safety and is killed. 

Rudi Henrik, heir to the Henrik family fortune, comes to inspect the damage to the Henrik’s store, accompanied by his wife and his boyfriend; all three are killed in the Auton massacre. A ‘posh boy’ is knocked over by one of the Auton Living Statues and he and his family are later caught in the Millennium Wheel when it tips over. Rose’s dodgy ex Jimmy Stone has recently moved in with a Ghanaian student, not for love but for her money; he decides to leave her, after stealing some of her valuables, and is hacked to pieces in the street by a gang of Autons. In Chiswick, Donna Noble has been nursing a hangover all day. Put to bed by her grandfather, she sleeps through the whole thing.

Cover: Anthony Dry’s cover shows the Doctor pointing his sonic screwdriver (its first ever appearance on a Target cover!) along with Rose and a pair of Autons.

Final Analysis: This is a perfect example of what a Target book should always be – telling the story we loved on TV, adding insights into the lives of the supporting characters that might not be possible to reveal within a TV schedule timeslot, add a few extra characters and background detail and throw in a couple of scenes too ambitious for even a generous TV budget. Russell is confident enough in the character of Rose to allow her to be selfish, demanding and aware of her own faults, because she’s also determined, brave and compassionate. All of these things made her such a strong, fully rounded woman on TV but here we get to understand more of who she was before we met her. 

This is only Russell’s third novel (he wrote Damaged Goods for the Virgin New Adventures and adapted his first CBBC serial, Dark Season, for BBC Books) and as we’d expect, he brings a more adult approach than we might have seen before in a Target adaptation – even though it’s entirely family friendly. So there are characters who are gay, one in transition, and even just the acknowledgement that people might be sexual beings feels like a brave new world. Jackie Tyler may have photos of her late husband and find herself still mourning him, but she still has ‘understandings’ with various friends around the estate. She’s grown up with nothing and isn’t afraid to take what she feels is owed to her, whether it’s a favour from Rodrigo or a premature spending spree in anticipation of her share of Rose’s compensation. There are a few mild swear words, a couple of uses of ‘bloody’, a ‘sod that’, plus something that wasn’t an issue for British viewers on transmission of the TV episode, but turned out to be controversial elsewhere. The phrase ‘leave the domestics outside’ is retained here. It’s a term commonly used by the police in the UK, meaning ‘domestic abuse’ – threatening or violent behaviour between partners or family members. Unfortunately, some North American viewers incorrectly interpreted this as ‘domestic servant’, suggesting a racially insensitive description of Mickey. This led to a few heated and (for British fans) rather baffling conversations at conventions in the year after Rose was first broadcast. 

I’ve cheated slightly in how I’ve ordered these final chapters as, officially, Rose entered the Target library before The Pirate Planet, the TV Movie, the two Saward Dalek stories and the two Fisher rewrites – but this is the right way to end. At the time of writing, Russell T Davies has not indicated that he’ll be writing any more Targets, happy to leave those adaptations to other writers. It’s a shame, because I’d love to see him tackle some more. But if you’re going to write just one Target book, let it be this one. Marvellous!

Thank you for following this quest to the very end. Although I’m not covering the rest of the 21st century stories, you can find a quick guide to them in this chapter. As a reward / punishment for sticking with me this far, come back on 17th November, when I’ll be releasing something new, one chapter a day, leading up to Doctor Who’s birthday.

3 thoughts on “Chapter 162. Doctor Who – Rose (2018)

  1. What a journey Jim. I’ve loved reading these insights, and they’ve inspired me to go back to some of the novels again. In a very real sense, I became a fan of Doctor Who through the Target books and it’s a joy for you to reconnect me with that experience. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, Clive has no pics of the War Doctor then even though he was probably the longest-lived incarnation beside Smith’s… (and presumably got around a lot in the War) – maybe his identity was erased from the record… I always hoped for a disabled Doctor, but it would be condemned as “woke” now, it is hard enough to get a disabled companion, but portraying disabled and disfigured people as villains or even “monsters” is apparently fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank *you*, Jim, for this marvellous journey through Space and Time! There’s something terribly fitting about closing out on a rebirth. Not just of the television series, but of the Target novelisations. A new era with new opportunities to tell and retell stories.

    For me, the novelisations started out as a mild curiosity in a secondhand bookshop and, while enjoyed on their own, I was never aware of the wider regard that the Targets had. Their ingenuity. Their endurance. These are stories that aren’t just remembered fondly, but quite often, utterly adored. They were the steady bedrock that kept the series alive in the imagination. Long after the television set’s hum had gone quiet. Sans budget, sans gaffes, sans limits. The Targets opened up an entirely new horizon in exploring “Doctor Who”.

    It’s been wonderful to (re)visit the range. A little sad that it’s over, but the exciting adventure that has been Escape to Danger’s Target tribute has been nothing short of fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

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