***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Who through Series 11, Episode 3 follow. Spoilers***
If a tear didn’t involuntarily roll from your eye toward the end of this week’s episode, the strains of Andra Day’s Rise Up practically daring viewers to fight a good cry, well … good on you. And, maybe you should go sit through that moment again, because as Ryan and Yas quietly remind, equality is still on the table and racism is yet to be banished.
Drawn to a convergence of Artron energy in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama — twelve years after Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) first stirs to her destiny — the T.A.R.D.I.S. materializes on Earth, much to the Doctor’s not-chagrin (“Sheffield?” “Nearly … Almost. Really close.”) Appropriately confused by their time and status — “Elvis? Could we see Elvis” — it’s not but a moment before the Companions are shocked into their new reality when Ryan is punched for trying to return a white woman’s dropped hankie. Quickly stepping in to calm the turbulent situation, Parks distracts an angry husband, afterwards scolding the group of wayward travelers with a reminder of Emmett Till‘s recent Mississippi lynching.
While the Doctor follows the energy trail, lessons abound — not a bad idea for a young’un like Ryan, who thinks Rosa Parks was maybe the first black woman to drive a bus (“Your Nan would have a fit right now”). Back at the T.A.R.D.I.S.’ landing spot, another time traveler attempts a break-in, circling back to the padlocked warehouse where Thirteen discovers his hidden box-o-tricks. She quickly figures out, Krasko (Josh Bowman) is a recently released (neurally restrained) from “Stormcage” criminal with a nasty desire to change history’s course. Racing to right what Krasko attempts to set wrong, the Doctor splits the group with specific tasks to ensure Rosa Parks carries through with her December 1, 1955 stand.
Suffering through her sobering reality alongside Rosa, and marked by a momentous meeting with civil rights attorney Fred Gray (Aki Omoshaybi) and Martin Luther King (Ray Sesay), Ryan gains new appreciation for those who came before him; Yas takes pride in her own (and the world’s) advances. Krasko easily banished, history in order, and with a wave to Asteroid 284996 (“Also known as Rosa Parks”), Thirteen and Co(mpanions) take off towards a better future.
Cheers to Vinette Robinson, who hit the perfect notes as Rosa Parks. It was her performance that carried this hour.
As grand as all the actors are, there’s still something off for me with this new iteration — it’s down to the writing and pace. There’s something a little too simplistic about the episode plots thus far and while not unpleasant, I’m finding the hours slow — not always engaging. “Rosa” felt a little too on the nose and heavy-handed; at the same time, its ending was undeniably powerful. Here’s hoping things pick up as the season goes on.
That said, the dialogue is pretty snappy.
Good on Ryan for refusing the Doctor’s idea for the Companions to hide away because the whole situation was volatile. If Rosa could handle it every day, he could stay for a few hours.
What was with the final bus trip, and the Doctor speaking to the Companions about what they were doing as if the rest of the people on the bus couldn’t hear? It’s as if the writers were playing with an idea that no one could see them unless they wanted to be seen, and that’s not how it works.
Jodie Whittaker has mentioned that her coat will gain its history throughout the course of her first series, and we saw that with Parks sewing it up this hour.
Revenge fans will recognize Krasko’s Josh Bowman as Daniel Grayson.
Is anyone excited, because I’m really excited?
Cheap and nasty time travel.
(You’re not Banksy.) Or am I?
Banksy doesn’t have one of those … Or do I?
They don’t win, those people. In fifty-three years, we’ll have a black president.
You’re living in the past, so why don’t you stay there.