The Doctor and her friends find themselves in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, where they meet a seamstress, Rosa Parks. But is someone attempting to tamper with history?
I had concerns about this episode when it was announced, as I feel that this episode is dealing with difficult subject matter and was worried that it would be trivialised by the idea of alien intervention. Happily, however, my fears were proved to be unfounded as Rosa is a fantastically strong episode. I will make a small note about the music, however, which here seems to be more reminiscent of Murray Gold’s more bombastic scores of the past series. I like Murray Gold’s music but a return to that style is a bit jarring after we have had a more subtle approach in recent weeks.
The one downside of this story is perhaps a necessary one, in the shape of the villain. So far we haven’t had an overly memorable one, besides potentially “Tim Shaw” in The Woman Who Fell To Earth. Krasko seems like a cross between River Song and Jack Harkness, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have the charisma of John Barrowman or Alex Kingston to make him truly memorable. I really do like the idea of the neural restrictor though as a reason why there isn’t a simple way to affect the timeline. However, this is a minor quibble, as I believe that the story doesn’t give him a lot to do, which I feel is part of the strength of the episode – if he had too much to do, I feel it would have damaged the story.
The main strength of this episode is that the alien intervention is basically made up of little events which contribute to an alteration of history, rather than being a big event. For instance, Krasko changing the bus driver or putting up signs cancelling the bus service are relatively minor events individually but would have prevented the incident depicted here from happening. I was worried about the story being about a larger alien plot, but the fact that the story is more about small changes helped to overcome any misgivings that I had. The story of Rosa Parks on the bus is an important event and
I feel that the main cast is well utilised here, as everyone has a role to play in ‘Operation Rosa Parks’, ensuring that the events of December 1st 1955 are kept safe. Whether this is Graham using his knowledge and experience on the bus or Yaz researching Rosa Park’s daily routine, this larger than usual TARDIS team really works in this episode. One of my favourite moments in the episode was the conversation between Yaz and Ryan behind the bin at the motel. This is the first time I remember companions having a similar conversation, and I really liked the fact that both Ryan and Yaz are enthused by the idea of having gone back in time and living through history, but when they realise the reality of being in Montgomery in 1955, they are less keen. There are also some nice moments of levity in an episode which has quite a serious subject matter, such the majority of events once they arrive at the motel. I’ve not been so keen on Ryan in the first two episodes, however, I liked him much more in this one, with moments like the scene at Rosa’s house when he meets Martin Luther King really endearing him to me. Graham’s much better here too, and I particularly like him complaining about the infrequent nature of meals whilst time travelling. Vinette Robinson also gives a good performance as Rosa Parks, and the penultimate scene where she is led off the bus as the TARDIS crew watch on is really fantastically moving.
Banksy doesn’t have one of those. Or do I?Thirteenth Doctor
Vinette Robinson also gives a good performance as Rosa Parks, and the penultimate scene where she is led off the bus as the TARDIS crew watch on is really fantastically moving. We’re so used to the Doctor and companions interfering in past events to change them, to see them stand by powerlessly is really moving. There is also the aspect that Graham standing up on the bus directly leads to the protest and thus the police being called, which is especially powerful as we hear earlier how Grace revered Rosa.
Verdict: A pleasant surprise of an episode with some great moving moments, focusing in on an important part of history. 10/10
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yazmin Khan), Vinette Robinson (Rosa Parks), Joshua Bowman (Krasko), Trevor White (James Blake), Richard Lothian (Mr Steele), Jessica Claire Preddy (Waitress), Gareth Marks (Police Officer Mason), David Rubin (Raymond Parks), Ray Sesay (Martin Luther King), Aki Omoshaybi (Fred Gray), David Dukas (Elias Griffin Jr.), Morgan Deere (Arthur)
Writers: Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall
Director: Mark Tonderai
Behind the Scenes
- Although this is the first episode Malorie Blackman has written, she previously wrote The Ripple Effect, a Seventh Doctor story published as an ebook in 2013 as part of the anniversary celebrations.
- Vinette Robinson previously appeared in another Chibnall written episode of Doctor Who, 42. Additionally to this, she appeared in Sherlock in the recurring role of Sally Donovan.
- This is the second and final episode of this series to be filmed in South Africa.
- The first story since The Day of the Doctor to feature historical figures.
- Malorie Blackman is the first woman of colour to receive a credit for writing a script. Mark Tonderai is the first black director – the first person of colour to direct was Waris Hussein, who directed An Unearthly Child.
- This episode closes with the song Rise Up by Andra Day in place of the Doctor Who theme, making it the second episode not to feature the usual title music after Part 4 of Earthshock.
- Vinette Robinson previously appeared in the Chris Chibnall penned story 42 and played Cynthia Quick in Dead to the World.
- Morgan Deare had previously played Hawk in Seventh Doctor story in Delta and the Bannermen.
Ryan being absolutely star-struck by meeting Martin Luther King at Rosa Park’s house and his reaction when Rosa asks him to make coffee.
I did not warm to him.Thirteenth Doctor
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