For Doctor Who fans, seeing David Tennant back on our screens is always a thrill. The added allure this time is the fact he is partnered with Jessica Hynes again. The stunning chemistry which made their relationship in Paul Cornell’s Human Nature adaptation so heartbreaking is back together again.
The story is based on the real-life experiences of the writer Shaun Pye, whose own daughter is severely disabled with a chromosomal disorder similar to the on-screen character of Rosie. Shaun Pye is well-known for his work on Have I Got News for You, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He had been documenting his family’s life on Facebook, commenting on the amusing things his daughter was doing in day to day life when his friends told him he should write a series about it. There She Goes is the result.
Episode 1 – One Day in the Life of Rosie Yates
Rosie Yates is a nine-year-old girl with a severe learning disability due to an undiagnosed chromosomal disorder, living with her dad Simon, mum Emily and brother Ben. It’s a typical Saturday for the family, starting with an attempt to get Rosie to the park for some fresh air. She refuses to cooperate, and afterwards, she’s similarly uncooperative with her dinner. As Simon and Emily are later distracted, Rosie causes carnage in the kitchen.
A Day in the Life of Rosie Yates begins normally with father, Simon (David Tennant), taking his two kids to the park. A normal household, it feels like it could be a comedy in the vein of something like Outnumbered. That is until it rapidly turns into a stressful situation as Rosie, brilliantly portrayed by Miley Locke, runs out into the road and then proceeds to lie down in the road, much to the exasperation of Simon. This is the Yates every day. Their normality. Their life. They crack jokes and cope. But there is always a sense of pending disaster that makes the series such an interesting prospect.
When Rosie pours milk over her head in the kitchen as Simon and Ben (Edan Hayhurst) try and stop her, do we laugh at the situation, or empathise with the stress as we realise this is a common occurrence? When Simon blames his son, Ben, for Rosie’s actions, do we laugh at the ridiculousness of his blame shifting? There are so many moments littered throughout the show like this that are both uncomfortable, truthful and humourous.
The flashback timeline is perhaps even more painful as this begins with the birth of Rosie and the first signs that something is wrong. It also reveals more about Tennant’s character. It is an understatement to say that Simon is a complex character. Even when with his friends at the pub he comes across as arrogant. When we realise he’s avoiding the circumstances at home and laying all the pressure on Hynes’ Emily we begin to think even less of him. The role requires an actor like Tennant to make the character likeable and not completely selfish.
Simon’s weaknesses are made even more unbearable by Jessica Hynes’ subtle, nuanced and warm performance as Emily, Rosie and Ben’s mother. She stands out as a beacon of sanity, stability and strength. In fact, There She Goes seems to be a love song to Shaun Pye’s wife who, from the script, it is obvious he believes is the core that holds his family together.
There is no doubt that it is superbly written and put together. And I haven’t mentioned the stand out performance by Miley Locke, who shows maturity beyond her years to portray a character with little way to communicate with the world. Edan Hayhurst, who plays Ben, Rosie’s older brother, is also outstanding. His part is less dramatic but the young actor delivers a nuanced performance as the ignored sibling.
A very honest, truthful piece of work based on writer Shaun Pye’s own experience as a parent of a child with learning difficulties, but it can be a tough watch. What will bring audiences back is the warmth in the central relationship between Hynes and Tennant, so maybe it wasn’t flippant to view this in regards to the Doctor’s relationship with Joan Redfern.
There She Goes can be seen on BBC Four from Tuesday 16th October at 10pm.