“Rosa” is the third episode in the eleventh series of the revived Doctor Who and is written by Chris Chibnall and Malorie Blackman. Jodie Whittaker is still playing the Thirteenth Doctor and manages to have a feel interesting moments. I really still see what seems to be somewhat imitative of some her recent predecessors in the role. I have read some criticism of her acting that I think is a little unfair. Whittaker still isn’t my first choice for a Doctor nor have I bought into the notion that changing the Doctor’s gender was the necessity that was presented by Chris Chibnall and other producers of the show, but I don’t really find her acting to be that bad.
This episode has the Doctor and her friends meeting Rosa Parks in Alabama 1955 the day before her bold decision to not give up her seat on a bus. It’s Doctor Who, so of course some extraterrestrial presence is trying to alter history enough to derail the Civil Rights movement.
I was a bit disappointed that the villain was some racist from the future who had been released from prison and still just didn’t black people. I would have preferred a much more interesting motive behind his shenanigans. I did like that he had some limitations imposed where he could not just kill Rosa Parks which would have been more straight forward method of accomplishing his task. This character known as Krasko, played by Joshua Bowman, figured he could cause a derailment of established history by making subtle changes to the circumstances surrounding Rosa’s infamous arrest. I thought that was a rather creative direction to take other than having some brute blundering around intent on just blowing away his obstacles. Even the Doctor had to acknowledge Krasko’s cleverness for the subtleness of his schemes.
Another interesting result of my viewing of this episode is that I took a look at Rosa Parks’ Wikipedia page and noticed that she ended up being involved in other significant aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. She apparently was very active in the movement even before her unfortunate encounter with bus driver, James Blake. Vinette Robinson was the actress who took on the role in this story, and there is not much to say other than she did a good job. It was kind of amusing to watch her not knowing what to make of the Doctor’s very unusually diverse crew. By that, I mean I am sure there were not many parties of four wandering around 1950’s Alabama with a young black man, a woman of Pakistani descent, and an older man with British accents taking direction from an attractive blonde in a peculiar ensemble of clothing.
There were parts I thought were a little cliché in its dealing with this unfortunate aspect of American history, and I think there were some missed opportunities to make this episode a bit more interesting. Saying that, it did pique my interest to read a more accurate account of Rosa Parks’ part in that history, and she is considerably more impressive than merely having a stubborn moment of defiance on a bus. I found it interesting that a British television institution like Doctor Who would pay such a tribute to a woman whose impact is far more significant to American culture.
The new Doctor still seems to be finding her way, and the writers are still struggling with to utilize three companions effectively. I am surprised how fond I am becoming of Bradley Walsh’s character, Graham O’Brien. I like the conflicting relationship he has with Ryan Sinclair, played by Tosin Cole. Ryan is the grandson of Graham’s recently deceased wife. I hope there is a more consistent affection that develops between the two characters. Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, is pretty and generally likeable, but there just still doesn’t seem to be enough for her to do in the story. I hope the writers start to figure out how to make her more relevant if she stays in the show as it progresses this year.
Anyway, the episode is a bit more interesting than I expected, but I think there were potential directions in the story that were overlooked that could have made it even more compelling.