DW: Rosa Review

DW Rosa

Rosa is a hard episode to review. As a Doctor Who episode it was alright, the lead villain was bit pants but on the upside Jodie Whittaker felt much more funny and interesting this time round. As an episode made to highlight both how horrible racism is and as a history lesson to show how one lady refusing to give up her seat on a bus lead to such a big change, it was good. I guess it all comes down to what you want out of the episode, but let’s have a look one way or another…

Synopsis:

Attempting to return home to Sheffield, the TARDIS instead drops the Thirteenth Doctor and friends in 1955 Alabama, where somebody is planning on meddling with time. Meeting seamstress Rosa Parks, the Doctor and her friends must work together to correct the flow of time and keep events in order before things go horribly wrong.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW Rosa 1

“Whites only? Right… I’m a woman now, but still white, right? Oh, let’s just sneak in!”

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – The Doctor is doing her best to get Ryan, Yas and Graham back to Sheffield in 2018, but the TARDIS is up to her usual tricks of landing somewhere else thanks to a problem that needs solving…

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) – Ryan never really thought about time travel, I mean, obviously, but when he reaches 1955 Alabama, he soon wishes he never even heard of it…

Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill) – Yas is of course appalled by 50s America, but meeting one of her historical heroes is at least a bonus, I guess!

Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) – Graham just wants to get home with his grandson safe, so arriving in the middle of 50s Alabama is not what he had in mind for the latter…

Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) – Rosa is a regular seamstress who, unknown to her at this time, will spark a revolution…

Krasko (Joshua Bowman) – Krasko is a murdering racist from the far future who wants to ruin racial rites before they get started… nice bloke!

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Rosa 2

“I say, that’s one arrogant smirk you have, sir…”

Well, say what you want about how sometimes heavy-handed this episode was with the message of racism, but it is a good talking point and certainly enforcing how stupid and awful it is to any children watching is a good thing. The southern racism seems over-exaggerated, but from accounts of the time it’s, sadly, probably entirely accurate. Ryan and Yas, who do mention racist policemen or just general racists in our time being a thing still, getting a culture shock of just how much worse it was in 50s America was a good way of presenting how it’s still a problem, but it has gotten better. That message is a little skewed thanks to our lead antagonist being a racist from the far future, meaning they’re saying it’s getting better every day and then saying it’ll still be around far into the future at the same time…

The Doctor was a lot more fun and unique this time round. Her and Graham having to cover for Ryan and Yas as a policemen started checking their hotel room was funny, The Doctor not used to being called Ma’am, Graham pulling the name “Steve Jobs” out of his head and claiming to be here with the Doctor to pitch a computer-like device were all good fun (while also being about hiding people of different colour from the police, but hey-ho.) At one point The Doctor is jokingly accused of being Banksy by Graham, which leads her to do a “I’m not Banksy, or am I?” with a weird stare afterwards, and repeats the joke a minute or two later, and both instances made me smirk. The Doctor and Graham make an amusing pair, and this slightly weirder performance from Jodie stood out as unique and definitely fun.

Ryan and Yas also continue to play off of each other well, and also work well apart. Ryan follows Rosa home and ends up meeting her friends, which includes Martin Luther King, and his reactions to it are great fun. Yas had less interesting things to do, but at least she actually had things to do, unique a lot of companions during the Fifth Doctor’s three companion era…

The final fifteen minutes are our racist from the future trying to stop Rosa’s famous sit-in, but thanks to a stay in prison and a very Blake’s 7-style neuron chip in his brain, he’s unable to harm or kill another person, so he instead tries to stop the bus, stop the bus driver, that kind of thing, and The Doctor and her gang have to constantly undo his meddling. In the end, in order for there to be no room on the bus, The Doctor, Graham and Yas (who thanks to not having properly dark skin is treated differently…) have to stay where they are, and it led to a great scene where Graham ended up being the last person standing and looks at the Doctor, almost teary eyed, saying he doesn’t want to be apart of this. The Doctor flatly says he had to and they have to do nothing to help her. It was a great scene, especially for Graham, who seems to be getting far more character development and interesting scenes than the two younger members of the TARDIS team.

The Bad:

DW Rosa 3

“So… you like to smirk arrogantly I see. Do anything else, or…?”

Krasko, our man from the future, was very flat. He rarely said anything, and instead just looked slightly arrogant via an obnoxious smirk and fiddled with a toothpick. Even when The Doctor was delivering some exposition about his time in prison and why he can’t hurt her or anyone else directly, he just gave very brief “Yeah, maybe” answers with the same expression. I know he was just a means to an end, but he could have also been a good actor…

In the end, Krasko is sent back “further in time” by Ryan using his own “Time Displacer” against him, something was super-clearly sign-posted by The Doctor showing Ryan how the device works in detail, before telling him not to use it earlier in the show. It made me laugh that there was no drama in it, Krasko just gave an arrogant smirk (of course!) as he was zapped to the past silently. That really was all his character was, just a guy looking slightly arrogant…

The Continuity:

DW Rosa 4

This is a… not particualrly interesting wide shot. Stupid BBC official photos…

Apart from The Doctor trying to get everyone home following on from “The Ghost Monument”, there are only really a couple of references, specifically Krasko having been previously incarcerated in the Stormcage facility, the same prison that housed River Song for a good chunk of her time on the show, and his having a Vortex Manipulator, the same type of time travel used by Time Agents like Jack Harkness, and used several times by other people. Nothing really tying it to a specific episode.

Overall Thoughts:

Rosa was a lot of things, it was a tale about a real period of history, complete with nasty white people and illusions to how some of those people are still around, and it was also a Doctor Who story about a crooked time traveller trying to screw up history, and The Doctor’s attempts to stop him. It’s does the first part really well, but the second part is ruined a tad by having such an un-compelling villain to chase. Still, more good than bad, that’s for sure, and while I wouldn’t want all of my Doctor Who this blatantly educational, it was fine for a rare example.

4 Star Watch

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