Hello my TV Geeks!
This week’s episode of Doctor Who, ‘Rosa’ shows the clever and sympathetic writing that this show is good at. The subject matter is something that surprisingly is quite prominent today. Even now there will be a subsection of society that will deride and complain about the episode. But, the result is something that will hopefully resonate with the youngest fans of the show.
The TARDIS accidentally lands in Montgomery. Alabama, a few days from Rosa Parks’ iconic bus protest. First off, the episode doesn’t hold back when showing the racism of 50’s America. Opening with Parks’ first run in with James Blake the bus driver in 1943, we get violence and aggression from the outset.
For a show that is broadcast well before the watershed, it hasn’t been watered down for the younger audience. Secondly, it keeps the Doctor’s interactions with Rosa down to a minimum. Emphasising the idea to take a stand or a seat wasn’t planted by some otherworldly being; it was the reaction of years of abuse.
The episode gives us a bad guy, who for all intense and purposes is a future bigot. Krasko believes if the bus protest is stopped, it will continue the subjugation of black people well into the future. We are shown from Ryan and Yaz’s point of view how severe the intolerance and ignorance was when Yaz is referred to as a Mexican and Ryan is punched for helping a white couple. It’s uncomfortable, but a story like this needs to be able to get the message across. This certainly resonates with attitudes emerging today.
After being forced out of a café, and followed to a hotel by the police. We get a moment between Yaz and Ryan as they discuss how they both still receive abuse, one as a police officer, and the other from the police. It’s a nice moment that shows both how far we’ve come and yet how ignorant people still are.
I felt this episode is a perfect example to introduce children to not only history but to civil rights history. We were asked several questions through the episode from my 9 and 5-year-olds. It’s unfortunate that at school, I wasn’t ever taught this history, and instead had to learn about the American West, when civil rights are a lot more relevant today.
The main antagonist is there just to put a face to the threat. He is taken out quickly by Ryan and all that’s left to do is to clean up the mess he created. Krasko is an ex-Storm Cage resident, who has been chemically neutered to stop him being violent to anyone. This means he has to change history by making small nudges to push history off course. He has a Captain Jack style Vortex Manipulator, which is also quickly dispatched. It’s almost as if he is the secondary villain, after the racism, which is not a bad thing.
It also means that by the end of the episode, there are three positions needing to be filled, and the only ones to do it are the Doctor and her friends. Graham doesn’t want to be part of it, and the Doctor looks uncomfortable throughout Rosa’s arrest. It is a bittersweet win for the Doctor, and even as they reconvene on the TARDIS, Rosa’s life is summed up as being a difficult one.
This episode goes out of its way to be respectful to the subject matter. The episode doesn’t sugarcoat the violence and racism toward the black community. It also shows how much, or how little the world has changed. My two sons, as well as me, were entertained, and even gave them something to ask about during and after the show.
I did find, myself thinking of the episode ‘Tikka to Ride’ one of Red Dwarf’s best episodes. This episode sees our heroes trying to change history, in this case, the assassination of JFK, in the smallest possible ways. It is an excellent episode that almost doesn’t need the sci-fi element included.
If I have any complaints they’re minor ones, such as the music used (Andra Ray’s Rise Up) during the arrest scene. Meant to be uplifting, and it most likely was, but it felt slightly forced for me. I’d much prefer to hear an orchestral theme, not everything needs to be a pop song. But like I said, this is only minor, and everything else in the episode goes to make it an entertaining and important one.
You can find last week’s ‘The Ghost Monument‘ review here.