Monday, November 19, 2018

Doctor Who 11.03: “Rosa”

“If she can live here her whole life, a couple of hours ain’t gonna kill me. It ain’t gonna kill me, right?”
= Ryan

I have to admit, I was very pleased with this episode of “Doctor Who”. Jodie is coming into her own as the Doctor. She’s sticking up for people and I really like her energy. I will admit there was a scene in the episode where she could have easily dropped a line referencing River Song. That’s really the main gripe about the new season: not enough overt references to prior iterations and companions. I understand the showrunner and writers want to make this season as accessible for non-Whovians as possible but come on, give us a little love!

Since their jaunt to the future to find the TARDIS, the Doctor has been trying to get Ryan, Yaz and Graham home. There’s a bit of arguing of whether when they land this time, it’s time nine or fourteen. Either way, they land in 1950s Alabama. Not a very friendly time for folks with Ryan and Yaz’s skin color (then again, if we’re being honest, is 2018 really much better?). As is often the case, the TARDIS has likely brought our gang to this place and time for a reason. That reason bumps into them not long after they arrive: Rosa Parks. She intervenes when Ryan tries to return a dropped article of clothing to w a white woman. He gets a smack across the face from the woman’s’ husband. Thankfully, Rosa is able to deescalate the situation to some extent before going on her way.

Before long, the Doctor and her companions run into a man from the future whose energy matches the TARDIS. He’s not going to be good news, we know that from the start. Not when he’s got fancy future weaponry. Naturally, the Doctor is intrigued and traces the energy to his hiding spot. After some rambling banter by the Doctor, we learn that the man, Krasko, was a prisoner in the future at Storm Cage. He’s a killer and he’s used a vortex manipulator to come back to the past to kill Rosa to affect the future. Goodie, racists exist at any point in the timeline. This is the spot where they could have dropped a little nod to River, even with just the Doctor mentioning “oh, my wife was in Storm Cage”.

Of course, this now means that the Doctor and her gang are going to have to keep Rosa from getting killed and make sure she’s on the bus to refuse to give up her seat and get arrested. Trying to plan this whole thing in an era where white people and people of color couldn’t dine together is difficult. They first try to grab some food but the waitress refuses to serve them because they don’t’ serve “Negroes and Mexicans”. Yaz is rather offended at being called Mexican but there’s not much she can do about it. She does learn that there are different definitions of race in the South at this time. She may not be white but she also doesn’t count as “colored” so she can sit with the whites on the bus. The Doctor devises a plan to get Rosa onto the bus. They are going to ensure they fill up the bus so she will have to be asked to move. And it’s on Graham to make sure the bus driver is one doing the driving. That’s going to be a little hard since he’s called out to go on vacation. So, the Doctor uses her connections in the past (a sneakily distributed cell phone) to get the man who was going to cover for the driver on a trip to Las Vegas.

The other problem is going to be keeping Krasko away from Rosa (and making sure Rosa leaves on time to catch the bus). Ryan is put on Rosa’s tail but he’s not very good at it because she catches him like two seconds after he starts following her. He’s kind of in awe of her, but more so when he gets to meet Martin Luther King Jr. (whom he knows a lot more about). Ryan also thinks he’s done a good thing when he uses Krasko’s vortex manipulator to send him as far back as the device will go. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him. In the end though, the gang manages to get the bus filled and the driver to tell Rosa to move. She refuses, gets arrested and history is safe. The Doctor isn’t super happy about Ryan sending Krasko to the past though. Still, he was only trying to help and he was a bit jazzed up by seeing the beginning of the Civil Rights movement taking shape. I really appreciated how they addressed the issues of racism especially between Ryan and Yaz.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. I thought it touched on important issues that are still relevant today (sadly) and it showcased the Thirteenth Doctor’s skills and personality. She’s very caring and I like that. Not to say prior regenerations weren’t, but I’m not sure this story would have worked with her predecessors. I also appreciated that there were writers of color and women involved in writing this script. My hats off to Chibnall for trying to diversify the staff and tell more stories like this. I also have to say, I missed the adventure of the week format we had in the early days of modern Who. Don’t get me wrong, I like a season long arc too, but when giving us a new Doctor and companions, I think just sending them on wild adventures in the past and the future is a good idea. I also have to admit, I like how the companions are fitting together. I like that they sort of knew each other before the Doctor so they’ve got history that binds them together. If the season continues in this vein, I will be a happy camper.

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