After reuniting with the TARDIS on the planet Desolation, the Doctor and her friends arrive in Alabama, 1955 – a grim time of racial segregation.
They encounter Rosa Parks, a black civil rights campaigner who is about to make history, but the Doctor, Yasmin, Ryan and Graham discover a threat intent on changing the course of that history.
Before series 11 began there was a rumour going round that Chris Chibnall was going to take Doctor Who back to its 1960’s roots where the historical episodes educate the younger audiences on history, and this episode appears to confirm that rumour to be true.
This episode really excelled with its educational elements, if you were to ignore the moments of sci-fi, then I can definitely see ‘Rosa’ working as a presentation in a history class.
I think this is one of the strongest and boldest episodes ‘Doctor Who’ has ever produced. And I salute it with great respect.
This episode was written by Malorie Blackman (author of the ‘Naughts & Crosses’ novels) and Chris Chibnall (the series Head Writer) and together they have delivered an emotionally compelling script that tackles some weighty issues, and shows the sheer importance of Rosa Parks’ act in not giving up her seat on the bus.
When it comes to racism in ‘Doctor Who’, the show has only subtly touched on the subject (no knock against those past episodes, they did do well), but ‘Rosa’ does not shy away at all, it takes the subject head on, giving us a real sense of the horrible era Earth was living in during the early 20th century. There are a lot of scenes that will turn peoples stomachs, and the script does well to make sure that the hard-hitting stuff is consistent and is never ruined by a silly joke that’ll only kill the moment.
Having said that though, despite being a really dark story, ‘Rosa’ does have a lot of funny moments here and there to keep the family entertained, and it gives beautiful moments for our main characters to grow and develop their relationships.
Jodie Whittaker is now making the role of the Doctor her own, even though this is her third episode I feel like she’s been the Doctor for years.
Jodie nails every line of dialogue and she has a great commanding presence on screen. My favourite 13th Doctor moments have to be the scenes where she turns on ‘teacher-mode’, giving her mates the full details of 1950’s America and how Rosa’s act started a chain of events that changed the world. And I must give an honourable mention to the scene where the Doctor faces Krasko in a warehouse which got a bit tense and had me on edge.
Tosin Cole continues to impress as his character Ryan, who is subjected to verbal and physical abuse. What I loved about Ryan was how he was able to use his grief (for his Nan) to prevent him from physically fighting back, and the emotional moments where Ryan wants to do good for his Nan are the moments where Tosin shines.
Mandip Gill is still giving us a great performance as Yasmin Khan, and I think this is her best episode so far. I really like how Yasmin uses her police skills to assist the Doctor in order to make sure Rosa and the bus are in the right place at the right time.
Bradley Walsh is fantastic as ever, and I love the developing relationship between Graham and Ryan, and there is a fantastic scene between Graham and the Doctor in a motel which got a good-old belly laugh from me.
The guest stars are also terrific. Rosa Parks is played by Vinette Robinson, and Vinette is absolutely the star in this episode, delivering a cracking performance for what must have been a tough role to portray.
We also have Josh Bowman who gives a really good performance as this week’s villain, Krasko. His character might come across as a bit one-note, but I found it really interesting that the threat wasn’t a CGI monster or a big green alien, instead we have a racist from the future with alien technology, and that to me is a really compelling villain.
Why should the episode have a really scary monster when we have plenty of monsters within humanity itself?
Mark Tonderai (director of last week’s ‘The Ghost Monument’) gives us a stunning piece of work. This episode was a sight of beauty for my eyes.
The overseas filming in South Africa was a really good choice for ‘Rosa’, it really added a whole layer to the fantastic work that the ‘Doctor Who’ production team have done in bringing history to life.
I love the attention to detail in the setting with the many 1950’s vehicles dotted around, and the costumes were all brilliant.
The music by Segun Akinola serves all the scenes very well, I think this is Segun’s best soundtrack for the series so far. And I love the little bit of 50’s pop we got at the beginning.
As you can probably tell, this is my favourite episode of series 11 so far.
Educational, bravely written, exhilarating, emotionally compelling, I personally think that this is a ‘Doctor Who’ episode that’ll be remembered in the show’s history for years to come.
‘DOCTOR WHO: Rosa’ result = 10/10