The announcement that Heartstopper‘s Yasmin Finney will be playing Rose in Doctor Who season 14 has led many to believe that she’ll be playing the same character immortalized by Billie Piper. Speaking of Finney’s casting in a press release, showrunner Russell T Davies said that “Life on ‘Doctor Who’ gets brighter and wilder, how can there be another Rose?” before promising that viewers would find out in 2023. Finney joins the returning David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Doctor and Donna for the show’s 60th anniversary special next year. As yet, it’s not confirmed whether this new Rose will join Ncuti Gatwa as the Fourteenth Doctor’s companion.
Doctor Who’s original Rose, Rose Tyler, was the companion of both the 9th and 10th Doctors, played by Billie Piper during the first two seasons of Doctor Who’s 2005 revival. Piper has returned in a number of episodes following her departure in 2006, including as the Bad Wolf in the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”. Whether Billie Piper will reprise her role as Rose Tyler in the 60th anniversary special is not yet clear, but the name of Yasmin Finney’s character, and talk of a potential Doctor Who multiverse have led fans to speculate that she may have been replaced.
The key thing about Yasmin Finney’s casting announcement as Rose is that her character’s surname has not yet been revealed. If Billie Piper was to be recast, revealing the Tyler surname would surely give Finney’s casting even more buzz. Instead, her family name hasn’t yet been revealed, suggesting that the surname is a potential plot spoiler. All that’s been revealed so far about the plot of Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special is that David Tennant’s Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna are brought back together. This suggests that the 60th anniversary will take place after the Doctor and Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) defeated the Master (John Simm) and Rassilon (Timothy Dalton) in “The End of Time”, and after Donna married her fiancee Shaun Temple (Karl Collins). Given that over a decade has passed since they married, it’s more likely that Yasmin Finney will be playing Donna and Shaun’s daughter, rather than Rose Tyler.
While Donna had her memories of her adventures with the Doctor wiped from her mind, “The End of Time” showed that the memories could occasionally come to the surface. When everyone on the Doctor’s beloved Earth is turned into the Master, Donna experiences flashes of her time with the Doctor. It’s therefore not much of a stretch to suggest that the name Rose is often on her mind. Donna was there for the Tenth Doctor when he was separated from Rose, met her in a parallel world where Rose Tyler shepherded Donna back to her own reality and witnessed the Tenth Doctor and Rose’s emotional reunion in season 4, episode 12 “The Stolen Earth.”
In the press release that accompanied her casting, Yasmin Finney spoke of being seen as a trans actress by Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies. This suggests that the character of Rose will be a trans woman, and perhaps Donna regaled her child with hazy memories of her adventures in the TARDIS, leading them to choose Rose as their preferred name during their transition. If so, naming Doctor Who‘s first on-screen trans companion Rose would be an affectionate nod to the modern direction that Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler first steered in 2005. It’s clear that, in casting Yasmin Finney and Ncuti Gatwa, that RTD is once more pushing the show in a bold, contemporary direction.
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