Doctor Who Companion Rumours: EastEnders’ Rose Ayling-Ellis Would Make History

It’s only a fan rumour, but now that Rose Ayling-Ellis has left EastEnders, it’d be great to see her join the TARDIS as Doctor Who's first deaf companion.

Rose Ayling-Ellis Signs for Change (w/t)
Photo: BBC/Rogan Productions/Louise Haywood-Schiefer

First, the facts: there is, at the time of writing, no hard evidence to suggest that actor Rose Ayling-Ellis has joined the cast of Doctor Who. The BBC has made no announcement. Actor and deaf campaigner Ayling-Ellis has not publicly responded to the suggestion that her recent exit from EastEnders will be followed up by a trip in the TARDIS, as the new companion to Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor.

The rumour emerged on Monday the 22nd of August after Doctor Who fan Owen (@WhovianLife) Tweeted “I wonder if this could be for #DoctorWho?” alongside a quote from Ayling-Ellis saying that she was currently banned from talking about her next job. Speaking to The Mirror about what she had lined up after leaving EastEnders, Ayling-Ellis said “You will find out more at the end of this month. I’m not allowed to say anything!”

The end of this month – August 2022 – is fast approaching, so either way, Doctor Who fans shouldn’t have long to wait to see if they’ve sniffed out a scoop.

It’s been pointed out as of potential significance that Ayling-Ellis recently began following both the new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa and Doctor Who casting director Andy Pryor on Instagram. She and Pryor are already known to each other, as noted by Twitter user @iMagicTony and illustrated by this exchange from back in March 2022:

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If the TARDIS is to welcome yet another Rose, here’s why this one would be great news for the show:

She Can Handle Whatever Drama the TARDIS Would Throw At Her

27-year-old Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first deaf actor to play a deaf character on EastEnders. She joined the BBC soap in 2020 in the role of Frankie Lewis, whose storylines have been full-on from the start. Frankie was revealed to be the secret daughter of Danny Dyer’s Mick Carter, a product of his childhood sexual abuse by his former care worker, Frankie’s mother. Frankie had to integrate into Mick’s volatile and often hostile family, cope with her mother’s abusive history and subsequent trial and imprisonment, all while pulling pints at the Queen Vic. Ayling-Ellis dealt with the high-drama in style, creating a memorable and likeable character in the midst of all the chaos. She can act, she can dance, and if she can handle Shirley Carter, then she can definitely deal with Skaro’s finest.

She’s a Fearless Adrenalin Junkie

If you want to see guts, look at some of the dance lifts Rose Ayling-Ellis took on during her time on Strictly Come Dancing 2021. Often against the better judgement of her professional partner Giovanni Pernice, Ayling-Ellis regularly asked for increasingly difficult lifts in their routines. Time and time again, she launched herself into thin air, trusting that she’d find her mark… and did. Her approach to the whole competition was infectiously joyful, enthusiastic and funny, and while totally dedicated, she never fell into the trap of taking herself or the show too seriously – a must for Doctor Who. If the new companion has stunts to do, Ayling-Ellis will be ready for them.

She’s Changing the World

It’s impossible to overstate the significance of proper representation in popular culture for people in under-represented groups, and also for anyone outside those groups with uninformed preconceptions about others’ lives, abilities and limitations. When Rose Ayling-Ellis was announced last year as Strictly Come Dancing’s first deaf contestant, the news was greeted with scepticism from some corners who asked how that was going to work. How it worked is that Ayling-Ellis won the whole competition by dancing up a storm, loving every minute and forming a partnership that felt like a genuine and significant exchange. Giovanni Pernice taught her how to dance, and with humour and openness, Rose Ayling-Ellis taught him and everybody watching about her experiences as a deaf person by being there and being herself.

She’s Not Afraid to Speak Up

Ayling-Ellis is set to deliver the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the 2022 Edinburgh TV Festival, following in the footsteps of Armando Iannucci, Charlie Brooker, Sharon Horgan, Jameela Jamil and London Hughes. She’ll use the opportunity to continue her work raising awareness and understanding of the deaf community. She regularly uses her social media profiles to highlight injustices to deaf and disabled communities and areas in which government policy is lacking, and stood against ableist online abuse of 2022 Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri, who has a cochlear implant. In Doctor Who, she would be the first deaf companion, following in the footsteps of actor Sophie Stone, who played Cass in 2015 Capaldi-era episode ‘Under the Lake.’

She’s an Inspiration, Especially to Young People

During her time on Strictly, UK Google searches for British Sign Language increased by 488% and course registrations went through the roof. Ayling-Ellis used her platform on the show to successfully campaign for British Sign Language to be recognised as an official language of the UK. She’s been an outspoken critic of the lack of BSL interpreters in government Covid-19 briefings and in general. She recently worked with Mattel on the release of a behind-the-ear hearing aid-wearing Barbie, and for her CBeebies Bedtime Story, she signed with subtitles Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Doctor Who should always be thrilling and inspiring to its young audience, and Ayling-Ellis has proved that she can be that both on and off-screen.

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She’s Already Created One TV Moment of the Year

So why not more alongside Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor in Russell T. Davies’ returning series? As voted at the 2022 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards, Rose and Giovanni’s Couple’s Choice dance to ‘Symphony’ by Clean Bandit was last year’s Must-See Moment. Watch it here to see why: