Landing in Montgomery, where Rosa Parks refused to stand for a white passenger on a bus, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) discovers signals around Rosa (Vinette Robinson) that lead to a racist, time-warping criminal (Josh Bowman). He’s trying to change the course of history, one little piece at a time, and stop Rosa from fulfilling her famous protest.
It’s a hard but necessary lesson to teach children, particularly in the furious age of Trump and Brexit, and writers Malorie Blackman (author of Noughts and Crosses) and Chris Chibnall don’t pull any sensitive punches. Within the first ten minutes of being in 1955, our companion hero Ryan (Tosin Cole) is threatened with a lynching by an angry white man. He and Yasmin (Mandip Gill) have to face the N-word, Whites Only motels, ‘Coloured’ seating on buses – and although they’ve had to endure racism in their own time, nothing compares to this. The racist characters are drawn like cartoon monsters – a representation thoroughly deserved.
Vinette Robinson as Rosa Parks in Doctor Who
Doctor Who, since its revival in 2005, has aimed toward the progressive. And this episode, 13 years later, is the most poignant and powerful example of that aim – being one of the best written episodes of all 11 series (so far).
It’s also a relief that the numerous companions, who’ve been barely relevant in the past two episodes, have far much more to do in episode 3. They’re actually a functioning gang now, and it’s fun to watch them roll.
It might rub people up the wrong way, with something so fantastical colliding like a spaceship crash into something so real and important and integral to world history. But Blackman and Chibnall execute it so beautifully, making people realise how bad it was and still is. It couldn’t have come at a better time. This is a landmark episode for Doctor Who.
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On 21 Oct 18, 6:55 PM – 7:55 PM