I try to avoid fandom controversies. Even if I don't understand why people like the film version of Prince Caspian or ship Zuktara, I attempt to remain quiet. Yet I have my own preferences, especially when it comes to the Whoniverse, and two factors brought out my defensive side:
a BBCA America poll to determine the greatest woman of Who (Rose won 53-47) and this tumblr post:
To which I say:
Oddly enough, I was more upset about the BBCA poll than the Tumblr post. If someone said that Rory, Donna, or Romana was the best companion, I could see where they're coming from. If someone claimed Leela, Tegan, or Martha, I'd ask for an explanation. If it was Jack, Turlough, or Mel (classic series), I'd back away slowly before saying something I regretted. But the name "Rose Tyler" has me gearing up for a fight.
Just because Sarah Jane is my favorite companion doesn't mean I don't appreciate others. I love Amy and Rory (planning to bawl my eyes out during Angels Take Manhattan) and am looking forward to Jenna Louise-Coleman's debut at Christmas. And fresh off a Third Doctor marathon, I adore Jo Grant, even if she is a little flustered at time. Yet my favorite companion is and always will be Sarah Jane Smith. No companion is likely to match her record of bravery, persistance, amiability, curiosity, friendliness, courage, and spirit of adventure. And if some nineteen-year-old blonde dropout beats her in a poll, I will retaliate. (Interestingly, Sarah Jane Smith defeated Rose 61 to 39 in Britain, while the US went to Rose, 58-42.) I realize that some who voted might not have seen Sarah Jane in the classic series, but her episodes ARE available on DVD, even some on iTunes. If you can find NuWho, you can probably find the 3rd and 4th Doctor's era.
I have already stated my perspective on Rose Tyler here. But if you want to stay on site, I will analyze my dislike of her again. Only a small portion it is due to her actions. I'd say 20% her personality, 25% her clingy behavior, 30% post-season two reasons, and 15% shipping. When she first joins the Doctor, she enjoys the wonders of the universe, as anyone would, but doesn't seem to consider how her extended absence affected Mickey, much less her mum. This wouldn't be such an issue in the classic series, where families are rarely seen, let alone mentioned, but considering how much Jackie shows up, you'd think Rose would care about her more.
Secondly, she is extremely clingy. This is exemplified in her reaction to Sarah Jane in "School Reunion" and how she assumed she was the first companion he'd ever had. To be far, she can imagine herself in Sarah Jane's place sometime down the road, and hates the idea, but he tries to make it all about her.'
Third, post -season two reasons. These can be divided into two "r's"--reaction and return. The Doctor has had companions leave before: Jo Grant, Tegan, even his own granddaughter. He's had companions left in alternate universe(Romana), stolen (Peri) and die (Adric). But he reacts to Rose's departure as if he really did expect to spend forever with her. For all of season three, he keeps bringing her up, mopping over his lost and getting emotional every time her name was mentioned.
That could be excused if the writers hadn't brought her back. True, everyone came back for Stolen Earth/Journey's End, and the clips in other season four episodes are forgivable--I even enjoyed the clips of Ten's companion in Let's Kill Hitler. The scene in End of Time part two was gorgeous. The problem is that it ruins the final parting in Doomsday. If he burnt up a sun to say goodbye and couldn't come through because two universes would collapse, it strains credibility to have her return. Not to mention her reaction to Donna and Martha. Martha especially--at one point, she explicitly says "I was there first!"And she got a Meta-crisis, a clone with no real foreshadowing or plot-necessity, to stay with her. If that's a not a bone to shippers, I don't know what would be.
And that leads to the final reason: the shippers. Rassilon, the shippers. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the ship Doctor/Rose--primarily 9/10, but I've seen Rose/Eleven (which makes me sick), and even Rose/One (which is just odd). In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Eleven/River shipper with a taste for Doctor/TARDIS as of season six, but even before season six, I did not think Doctor/Rose a healthy relationship. And yet so many people insist she's his twu wuve, his only twu luve, and are rabidly critical of any threat, real or imagined. I know that not every Doctor/Rose shipper is rabid, but the plethora of them turn me off.
I realize that some of my criticisms could be aimed at Sarah Jane, particularly regarding returns, but there are several differences between Sarah Jane's return and Rose's. First of all, when Sarah Jane was dropped off, it was because the Doctor couldn't take her to Gallifrey. He might have planned to pick her up afterwards--we can't say--but there was no heartbreaking, forever goodbye. As far as viewers knew, she was back in Croydon, safe and sound.
Secondly, Sarah's first return, in The Five Doctors, had her reuniting with the Third Doctor via Time Scoop, and it is debatable whether she even remembers it. The nature of the event left her unable to resolve any unfinished business. Her second reappearance, around thirty years later, was by accident--she was investigating a UFO sighting, with no expectations of meeting him again. When they did, the sheer amount of time made it clear things had changed between them, and they needed to address those changes. As for Journey's End, it was another day on the job for her. (The Doctor's appearance on Sarah Jane Adventures will be addressed later).
While some people may imagine the classic companions as screaming women, nothing could be further from the truth. Leela had her Janis thorns, Vicki poisoned Nero (accidentally) and Romana was a Time Lord. As for Sarah Jane herself, she attempts to capture the Doctor in her first story , believing him to be a villain. In The Brain Morbious, she, while temporarily blinded, attempts to find the Doctor and warn him of treachery. She faced down giant robots and Davros with steely resolve, refusing to give in. Far from blindly following his orders, she frequently bantered with him:
Sarah Jane: So providing we don’t burn up on re-entry and aren’t suffocated on the way down, we’ll probably be smashed to a pulp when we land.
The Doctor: Exactly! Sarah, you’ve put your finger on the one tiny flaw in our plan.
Sarah Jane: Our plan? It’s your plan!
The Doctor returns the favor, referring to her as "my best friend" in "Seeds of Death." The only other characters I know of to be referred to this way are Donna Noble and Malcom Taylor. And Malcom was an incredible in-universe fanboy--it was the best way to get him to shut up.
Her reappearance in NuWho further employed the stellar acting talent of Lis Sladen, who managed such wonderful moments as Sarah's reunion with the Tenth Doctor, her terror at the Daleks' return, and her reaction to his impending regeneration. Furthermore, her return sparked the CBBC series "Sarah Jane Adventures," which received numerous awards and set viewing records for the channel. The slow character development from the "ice woman" of Invasion of the Bane to the mumsy, caring figure of later episodes is a beautiful thing to see. Her relationship with adopted son Luke (and his friends) is one of the most wonderful mother-son pairs I've seen in media, especially notable because sci-fi is not known for family connections.
The "crossover" episodes, where the Doctor appears in Sarah Jane Adventures, are brilliant. The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith is a tearjerker of the highest quality, and Death of the Doctor offers the return of Jo Grant as well as Matt Smith's only appearance alongside Elisabeth Sladen. Other five star episodes include The Lost Boy; The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith; Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith; The Curse of Clyde Langer; and The Eternity Trap. Even though it's a "children's show," the Sarah Jane Adventures tackled topics such as Alzheimer's, divorce, homelessness, and child soldiers in its four and a half season run before the death of Elisabeth Sladen.
Another difference between Rose and Sarah Jane comes in their reaction to other companions. While one could compare their reactions in School Reunion, a more reasonable example comes from Jo Grant's appearance in Sarah Jane Adventures. Sarah Jane is delighted, and the two immediately begin discussing Peladon and other planets. Sarah even steps back to allow Jo some time to clear matters up with the Doctor when he appears.
Two quotes that summarize this difference are below:
The first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened. Nothing at all, not ever. And then I met a man called the Doctor--Rose Tyler, "Army of Ghosts"
- I saw amazing things, out there in space--but there is strangeness to be found, wherever you turn. Life on Earth can be an adventure too... you just need to know where to look!
- --Sarah Jane Smith, "Invasion of the Bane"
- Rose sums up her life before the Doctor as "nothing," but Sarah, even after her adventures in outer space, affirms that life on Earth can be wonderful and exciting. That is one of the things I like best about the Sarah Jane Adventures; it reminds me that I can do exciting things on this planet too.
- But I have been rambling, and I appreciate you for sticking with me this far, especially if you're a Rose fan. Feel free to comment--I will reply respectfully.