Like Steven Moffat’s “The Day of the Doctor” novel, Russell T. Davies’ “Rose” isn’t really best characterised as a novelisation. It’s too different, too transformative for that. Davies didn’t rewatch the episode before writing the book, quickly discarded the script, and intentionally altered a lot of the lines he did remember precisely, in the interest of fulfilling his own creative potential and giving readers a new experience instead of just replicating an old one. It’s a much quieter work than Moffat’s phenomenal masterwork of a first novel, but in many ways one just as accomplished.
The prologue is brilliant, an entire short story unto itself born out of the most minor of minor plot points of the episode. Evocative and rooted in excellent characterisation that Davies pulls off so effortlessly, it sets a great template for the bulk of the book that follows.
Elements of later episodes of Doctor Who are incorporated, some arguably rather substantially, but for the most part this is a very character-focused look at the titular figure and what prompted her to join the Doctor. The novel is told (almost) entirely from her point of view and while there are moments of fandom pleasure (Clive the conspiracy theorist’s scene is a goldmine, outrageously in-depth compared to the televised version), the novel does an admirable job of singular focus upon Rose and her development.
I think the episode is unfairly maligned, viewed with an abundance of retrospect that do its colossal accomplishments no favours, but this novel – taken in a complete vacuum – is definitely a better, wider, deeper story. Four wheelie bins and a lottery ticket.