In 2005, Billie Piper became the Doctor's first companion of the new Doctor Who era, Rose Tyler, acting opposite Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and, later, David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. After two seasons, Piper left the show, though she returned as a guest star in its fourth season and again for the 50th-anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor." On BBC radio's Desert Island Discs, Piper explained why she exited the sci-fi series. "As much as I love that show, I love Rose Tyler, Russell T Davies and all the people that I continue to have a relationship with, I wanted to do different stuff. I didn't like the responsibility of being a sort of role model," she says.
There were also personal reasons. Piper was going through a divorce with Chris Evans (the British entertainer, not Marvel's former Captain America star) and struggling with her image in the press.
'"It was great in many ways because I was doing what I felt I was born to do on some level," she explains. "It was a very exciting and satisfying time because it was hard to get an acting job with my history as first, a pop star, and then this sort of burnt-out child star which is how I think I was painted – certainly through the years I was with Chris. And actually, I've had to do that until quite recently, to sort of shift people's perception which is really annoying and completely unhelpful but anyway, we're almost there now, 20 years later."
While some of her co-stars have returned to Doctor Who in recent years, including John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, Piper said in February that's something she won't do. "I wouldn't go back," Piper told The Guardian. "It's a great role, but you're away from your kids for so long. My experience was that you were in Wales for nine months solid. And as a job it dominates your life. It's mainstream family viewing so you can't really escape it. It feels like it makes you very, very famous."
That applies to the Doctor Who television series. Piper returned as Rose for Big Finish's Doctor Who audio stories, which are considerably less taxing on the star's time.
"I love how normal Rose is, and yet really extraordinary," Piper said in a statement from Big Finish when the company announced its Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon serial. "She lived a normal average life but she is incredibly curious and has an enormous capacity for love and empathy and is really spirited. She is extraordinary… That's the great thing about Doctor Who. It challenges new-thinking. It's progressive and it can be political in amongst these human emotions and relationships. I think that's its greatest appeal."
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