Review by J.T. Johnson
Welcome to my new “Doctor Who” review article! I’ve been wanting to write an article focusing on both old and new episodes of one of my favorite television shows for a long time. I’ve even tried a couple of times in the past, but considering that the latest episode, ‘Rosa’, is one of the best episodes in the show’s 55 year history, I figured why not start there.
The episode begins with the TARDIS traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. If you think that racism is terrible today, think about the fact that everything was segregated between “WHITE” and “BLACK” and pretty much any racism was condoned openly. One of the Doctor’s newest companions, Yaz, is a character with a Pakistani heritage that doesn’t even know where she would belong in this type of world.
In the episode, a time traveling racist has decided to go back in time and nudge things a bit to where Rosa Parks won’t make her historic stance on the bus that would help expand the civil rights movement. Due to having a neural inhibitor, the futuristic bigot known as Krasko can’t just kill Rosa, hence why he’s trying to change things just enough to completely change the future.
Episodes of “Doctor Who” focusing on historic events can sometimes be hit-or-miss. Often times, the Doctor just brushes with history or if the character interferes directly, it’s usually implied that the Doctor had more than a helping hand in the event. Here, though, writer Malorie Blackman does a fantastic job with having a story where the Doctor and the Companions must simply preserve history and let it play out the way it was intended.
The final scene is one of the best in the entire history of the show and not just in this episode. Vinette Robinson plays Rosa Parks and she absolutely knocks it out of the park. So do the Doctor’s three companions, Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill). Cole and Gill, in particular, have a fantastic scene where they’re forced to hid behind a dumpster and while they admit that things do get better thanks to Rosa, these two kids themselves still have their own battles in the present day.
Then there is Jodie Whitaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. Within about two seconds of meeting her in the premiere, I absolutely loved the new Doctor. Whitaker has done nothing but up her game since then and in episode three, she turns in what has to be her most focused performance yet as she is settling in the role quite comfortably.
This episode works more on the emotional level than on acton alone. Krasko is just there to set up the Doctor and her companions’ real villain: racism. This episode hits the subject head on, but it never feels like it’s being preachy while not holding back which is a delicate balance to achieve with any serious topic.
‘Rosa’ is a stunning episode and I predict that it will go down as one of the show’s best episodes. While the Doctor and the Companions are fantastic, though, the episode truly belongs to Robinson for her amazing portrayal and to writer Malorie Blackman for bringing all the right emotions to the table.