The new illustrated edition of Russell T Davies’ adaptation of his own episode adds even more layers of energy and drama
The second of BBC Books’ new range of illustrated hardbacks has arrived and is suitably gorgeous, inside and out. Following on from the treatment given to David Whitaker’s classic novelisation of The Daleks, Doctor Who: Rose – The Illustrated Edition features yet more fantastic art from Robert Hack. This time he’s worked his magic on Russell T Davies’ 2018 adaptation of his own script for Rose.
It’s an appropriate choice. Rose was the episode that that resurrected Doctor Who in a vibrant blast of 21st century energy. Then Davies’ novelisation was the spearhead for the Target Books brand’s revival; the first adaptation of a modern episode. More than that, Davies taking up his keyboard to adapt it himself signaled that this was a serious venture. Especially as he attacked the task with the imagination and wordplay as Terrance Dicks at the very height of his powers.
Davies fleshes out his world with fantastic expansions, from life at number 90, to new threats along the banks of the Thames and in the ocean depths
The new edition faithfully presented the same text that Blogtor Who previously reviewed. Six years on, it’s still a remarkable piece of work. It seizes with both hands that patented Target approach of deepening and widening the action seen on screen. All of the essentials of the familiar story are here, of course. Rose Tyler being set upon by animated shop store dummies one night in a department store basement. A mysterious man in a beaten up leather jacket saving her with one word: “Run!” An alien menace hidden under the London Eye, ready to unleash its power to control anything plastic in order to conquer the world. The discovery on the secrets inside her new friend’s Police Box, and the offer of a trip of a lifetime.
Wilson the electrician, unseen on television, receives a whole sordid plot of his own worthy of the EastEnders writers’ room. Though it’s not long before it’s rudely interrupted by death dealing mannequins.
Meanwhile, it departs from the original script emphasising all Mickey’s worst qualities. A necessary move in 2005 to make him someone worth running from and into the arms of the Doctor. But the novelisation softens that first impression considerably, making him a thoroughly decent LGBT ally, whose flat is the central hub for local trans and gay young people disowned by their parents. His backstory of how he came to be an orphan at 16 adds more sympathy too. It makes clear that while he might not be a Time Lord with a bigger-on-the-inside miracle, he’s worked hard to build this life. Suddenly his hurt and confusion that sharing it with him is not enough for Rose has a new perspective.
The new edition not only reprints the original 2018 text but includes the originally online exclusive coda Revenge of the Nestene
But perhaps Davies, and the reader, has the most fun with all the little nods and homages not possible in 2005. Some of them would have been avoided for fear of scaring off a new audience. Others because the things they reference simply didn’t exist yet. So Clive has much more material in his conspiracy shed, including what are clearly photos of the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors, Imperial Daleks in Shoreditch, and Doctors we haven’t even met yet. Meanwhile, there’s some updating of the ecological concerns about a world filled with plastic. The great plastic ocean gyres, as seen in Praxeus, awaken to form Godzilla-esque giants. While the Nestene Consciousness exploits all that microplastic infesting human bodies to make the limbs of those trying to escape its Autons feel tired and heavy.
That that’s merely a fraction of the innovations and expansions in the text is testament to just how much imagination Davies brings to us. But the Illustrated Edition does alter that text in one significant way. The coda, Revenge of the Nestene, was originally available online as part of the Doctor Who Lockdown content. Now it’s finally added to the book proper, and its sting in the tail of the last spark of Nestene Consciousness finding a new home, and a new plan to destroy the United Kingdom, is as cheeky and hilarious as ever.
Robert Hack creates page after page of dynamic, striking art to illustrate the story, while taking the opportunity to add even more sneaky homages
But there’s no doubt that the main selling point for this handsome new edition of Rose is the new set of illustrations by Robert Hack. The artist, famous for his reinvention of a classic comic book heroine in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, doesn’t disappoint. Hack has a gift for capturing the essential likeness of characters, without ever seeming to be assembling his scenes from collected reference photos. Instead he brings all the dynamism and flair of a comic book to Rose. That’s never more true than with the chapters concerning the Auton apocalypse. The novel already pushed the horror and variety of the Autons into new areas, but Hack’s collection of warped and knife handed monsters makes clear that these are definitely not men in rubber suits.
Hack also adds yet another layer of cheeky references on top of Davies’ own additions. Clive’s collection of photographs now has even more easter eggs for fans to spot. While a certain London pub, beloved of Doctor Who fans across the decades, also pops up for a background cameo. The artist’s vibrant drawings dominate every chapter, with 60 new illustrations across the 214 pages. They benefit from some superb design, too, with the exact right mix of spotlight illustrations, double page spreads, splash pages and more.
If you’re only familiar with Rose Tyler’s first meeting with the Doctor from the television episode, there’s no better way to dive deeper into the story. Even if you already have the Target paperback, this beautiful illustrated edition will be a striking expansion of your collection. And with every turn of the page, you’ll find a new joy.
Doctor Who: Rose – Illustrated Edition
“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”
In a lair somewhere beneath central London, a malevolent alien intelligence is plotting the end of humanity. Shop window dummies that can move – and kill – are taking up key positions, ready to strike.
Rose Tyler, an ordinary Londoner, is working her shift in a department store, unaware that this is the most important day of her life. She’s about to meet the only man who understands the true nature of the threat facing Earth, a stranger who will open her eyes to all the wonder and terror of the universe – a traveller in time and space known as the Doctor.
Rose is the story that brought Doctor Who back for the 21st century – and Russell T Davies’s novelisation, based on his script, set the standard for new-era Target novelisations. Now, with illustrations by acclaimed artist Robert Hack – this is Rose as you’ve never seen it before…
Doctor Who: Rose – Illustrated Edition is available now from all good booksellers