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TV REVIEWS: FTN Reviews Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 3: Rosa

October 22nd, 2018 by Todd Black Comments

If we’re really going to boil it down, Doctor Who episodes usually fall into certain tropes. There’s the “Where the heck are we?” episodes (which last week was). Alien invasion episodes. Secret danger ones. And then, there’s the “meet historical figure”. Ironically, the third episode of Capaldi’s run had him meet Robin Hood…and I didn’t really like it. But for Whittaker, she got to meet Rosa Parks, and this is an episode that might go down as one of the most important Doctor Who episodes ever.

Granted, many TV episodes across the spectrum, both American, British, and other nationalities, have had episodes that dealt with the concept of racism, and even the importance of people like Rosa Parks. But here, with Doctor Who, they really did tackle racism head-on in a way that wasn’t alien related (which they have done in the past). Here, we dealt with our own history, our own darkness, and got to see it brutally retold.

Such as Ryan getting slapped just because he “touched a white lady”. Or having that guy all but say that he was going to get a possie and lynch Ryan for what he did. We got to see how the police protected “upstanding citizens”, and all the various names that non-white people were called. Again, shows have done this in the past, movies too, like Salem. But for Doctor Who to do this? To show racism on a level like this where kids are watching? That’s something else entirely. And it meant something. Especially because of Ryan and Yaz.

That’s something else I loved about “Rosa”, not only did they show how Ryan was affected by all this, but Yaz too. The people of Alabama looked at her skin and thought she was Mexican, not Pakistani. And while I can’t say they DID do that, I would bet that they would have if given the chance. Going back to Ryan, hearing him talk about how his Nan (who would’ve totally caused a riot if she was still alive…and I would’ve loved to see it!) taught him how to “never give them the advantage”, because that’s how he needed to be raised. It was also a bit painful (in the emotional sense) to hear him talk about how despite it being 60+ years since Rosa Parks…we’re not over racism. Here in the US (where I live), it’s still very bad. Especially right now. But as Yaz says, it does get better, we’ve gotten better, people like those in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 didn’t win.

But enough about the Doctor and company, let’s talk about Rosa Parks. Actress Vinette Robinson did a wonderful job of portraying Rosa. This is a woman who knows that something is very wrong in the world, but at the beginning of the episode (Which was powerful in its own right), she didn’t know what to do. But she would eventually. Seeing her be calm, rational, not raising her voice to others when she was angry, and talking with Yaz about what kept her going was wonderful. And of course, the ending scene, where we actually got to see her sit down and not get up until she was arrested was amazing. It was masterfully shot, and then hearing the song at the end after history had been cemented was wonderfully timed.

Rosa really was the star of the episode, and I almost wish we could have her stay with the Doctor and see what happened as she traveled the stars. But it’s not to be.

Now, while I did love most things about the episode, including the struggle to “nudge” time back into place, there were some oddities. Like our villain-of-the-week. While I liked the idea of him “nudging” time to change history…it wasn’t clear why he did it. They noted with his confrontation with Ryan that he didn’t like “his kind”…but was this all a racism play? Why? It honestly didn’t make sense. Also, while I loved the history lesson at the end, I’m a bit confused as to why there’s an asteroid named Rosa Parks.

Still, those aside, “Rosa” was a very powerful episode, and easily a highlight of not just this season, but of the last few generations (regenerations) of Doctor Who. Based on the preview for next week, we won’t get as powerful an episode next time, and that’s fine. I just hope that many people had their views changed or solidified because of this episode. The world still needs changing, and it we don’t want to do it for us, or for the next generations, do it for Rosa.

She changed the world…now it’s our turn.

4.5 out of 5 nerds

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Todd Black is reader of comics, a watch of TV (a LOT of TV), and a writer of many different mediums. He's written teleplays, fan-fictions, and currently writes a comic book called Guardians (guardians-comic.com). He dreams of working at Nintendo, writing a SHAZAM! TV series, and working on Guardians for a very long time!