Hello everyone! 🙂
Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!
I was away last weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to watch the latest ‘Doctor Who’ episode on TV on Sunday evening. But thankfully my parents and I caught up on watching the episode the following day via BBC iPlayer. And what an amazing episode I’ve seen recently since it is now time for history!
This episode is by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall. Malorie Blackman has done a ‘Doctor Who’ story before, though not for the TV series. She wrote the Puffin short story, ‘The Ripple Effect’, featuring the Seventh Doctor, Ace and the Daleks which celebrated the TV show’s 50th anniversary.
Malorie Blackman is also a black woman. You may wonder why I raise this point in the review, but that is rather the subject for this particular ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode. The episode focuses on racism and segregation issues in the United States of America between white and black people in the 1950s.
The episode is set in Alabama, 1955. The title character of this episode is Rosa Parks, who was an influential figure in history for the civil rights movements in America during the 1950s. The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz help to save the human race in order to preserve Rosa Parks’ place in history.
Now the thing is; I know about racial segregation that happened in America in that time. I studied it in GCSE History lessons with the division of white and black people in the 1950s as well as Martin Luther King who makes a brief appearance in the episode. I’m not so much familiar with Rosa Parks.
Thanks to this episode, I know who Rosa Parks is and that’s the great thing about it. This is a ‘Doctor Who’ episode that feels like a proper historical, educational drama. It’s something that I’ve rarely seen in ‘Doctor Who’ for a while. Previous episodes that went into history weren’t as serious as that.
It’s also something that wasn’t afraid to go into deeper territory. The 1950s time of America was not an altogether good time. There was a lot of horrible stuff going on and racial prejudice is one of them. I found it shocking how whites mistreated blacks harshly simply because they were different.
It was amazing to see that put forward to the screen as this is a family TV show and you wouldn’t think it would be appropriate to do that. But this episode does that subject matter very honestly without any compromises. We see what had occurred in the 1950s and how harsh those times were.
The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz are in a dangerous situation where they’re a bunch of interracial friends and nobody in 1950s Alabama likes them or wants them around. It wants me to scream at those people to leave them alone and accept them for who they are rather than be very prejudiced.
Rosa Parks changed things around in 1950s America by refusing to give up her seat on a bus when a white bus driver told her to. It was amazing to learn how her place in history has changed the way we humans behave and how we are a lot better in treating others as equals compared to back then.
Vinette Robinson is brilliant as the title character, Rosa Parks. She brings across who Rosa is convincingly. You like her for who she is and you sympathise for the struggle she’s going through in order for coloured people to have equal rights as whites. It must have been a hard struggle for Rosa.
Anyway, the episode has the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz trying to stop a time-travelling criminal, Joshua Bowman as Krasko, from trying to change history with Rosa refusing to give up her seat on the bus during the Montgomery Bus Incident. And he’s doing this because…he’s a racist man as well?
I raise that question since Krasko comes from the 79th century and I would’ve thought racism would’ve been abolished by that time. I suppose not. He also comes from the Stormcage Containment Facility, which is the same place River Song had come from when she was locked away.
Trevor White guest stars as James Blake, the bus driver whom Rosa Parks defied when she refused to give up her seat in the Montgomery Bus Incident. It was shocking to see James Black as one of the white people who hated blacks and he actually phoned the police to take Rosa away to get arrested.
And it’s not just Rosa that James Blake had a problem with. In the episode, he had a problem with Ryan when he and Graham turned up during his fishing spot. You can see how much he wanted to get away from Ryan whilst he and Graham were having a laugh and trying to get him back on his bus.
The dynamic of the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz has been excellent in the episode. You can clearly see them working as a team in the episode, especially as they make sure history is back on track and that Rosa Parks’ boycotting of the Montgomery Bus is ensured without Krasko interfering.
Jodie Whittaker excels again as the Doctor in this episode. I really love how she defied Krasko in his time-traveling crimes. That scene where she stamps Krasko’s time vortex manipulator and he almost strangles her in anger and he can’t kill her since he’s got a chip in his head stopping him was brilliant.
For me, Jodie’s Doctor gets better and better in the first three episodes I’ve seen of her so far. I love how she’s righting wrongs; saving humanity; works things out and how she has her friends Graham, Ryan and Yaz helping her to save history and making sure Rosa Park’s place in history get preserved.
Bradley Walsh is equally excellent as Graham in the episode. He has his cautious moments in the episode, but I like how willing he is to help with keeping history on track with Rosa Parks. He especially seems to know about Rosa Parks in history, as he learned of her from his dear wife Grace.
He also uses his bus driver experience to see to that James Blake gets on the bus to drive it with Rosa Parks on board. Graham also drives the bus for James Blake to take over and helps the Doctor in a distraction whilst Ryan and Yaz are hiding away. He’s also protective of Ryan when he is mistreated.
Speaking of which, Tosin Cole is brilliant as Ryan in the episode. Ryan gets the hardest time when walking around 1950s Alabama with the Doctor, Graham and Yaz because…you know…he’s a black guy. Ryan gets struck on the face by a white guy with his wife, just when he was trying to be helpful.
It was nice to see the scene between Ryan and Yaz where they discover how things have changed since the bad days of racial prejudice of 1950s America compared to today. Ryan even has some nice scenes with Rosa Parks when he follows her and helps her out with a committee, serving the coffee.
Mandip Gill is very good as Yaz in the episode. Again, I don’t think her character hasn’t been fleshed out properly so far, but hopefully that will be savoured for the next episode. It was nice to see her helping out; hear references to her family and seeing her doing some research in a library, I believe.
It’s hard to tell how Yaz fits in with how 1950s Americans see her, even though she’s described as being ‘Mexican’ whereas in fact she’s of Pakistani descent. She could’ve just easily have been sent off with Ryan to sit on the ‘coloured’ chairs aboard a bus. She could have given Ryan some company.
The climactic scene where Rosa Parks gets taken away and is arrested by police is very effective and gut-wrenching to watch. If there is one criticism I would have for this scene is that the pop song at the end slightly ruined it for me. It would’ve been better if there was really sad incidental music at the end.
Apart from that, the episode was great. ‘Rosa’ is definitely a ‘Doctor Who’ that deserves its high praise. I found it a great historical story for the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team that had them saving history from a racist time-travelling criminal. It’s definitely an episode that works on all levels for me.
The writing’s got better; the characters are well thought-out so far and the tone of the show has improved greatly. Jodie Whittaker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ has pleased me to no end and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her adventures with Graham, Ryan and Yaz time-travelling in the TARDIS.
Next week’s episode is called ‘Arachnids in the UK’ by Chris Chibnall.
Thanks for reading!
Bye for now!