Thoughts on Doctor Who: Rosa

A story that could have gone all sorts of ways with this week’s episode of Doctor Who. Contains spoilers, obviously. Also me screaming at Rove McManus.

As always, I’m not a big fan of spoiling anything for anyone, so if you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Doctor Who, go and watch it. Back to my regular schedule of watching ABC in the evenings after last week’s BBC broadcast episode, too.

But just in case, here’s some spoiler space for you:

Why that clip? I have no idea.

Yeah, that’s entirely more appropriate.

So, in no particular order, my thoughts on Rosa:

  • Wow. Hell of an episode this one, but one that a series like Doctor Who needed to treat very, very carefully. It’s covering a period of history that I personally find fascinating and engaging and my perspective is that Rosa did so in a respectful way, and without becoming particularly preachy.
  • I’m a huge fan of Classic Doctor Who (obviously), but this wasn’t an episode that the classic series could have (or should have) attempted. That would have felt exploitative, although it’s interesting to think that it’s set just 8 years before a certain Police Box turns up in Totter’s Lane.
  • I’d complained in earlier notes that it felt like the writers weren’t giving the companions enough actual character, but I can happily erase that complaint right now. There was some great juxtaposition of 21st century British attitudes against 1950s American ones, but also a lot of great little character moments sprinkled throughout. I kind of want to go fishing with Ryan and Graham, and I don’t actually like fishing that much!
  • The cop who came to the hotel was stupid. Yeah, sure, racism is stupid, but (and it’s a tiny complaint in an episode I adored, to be clear) I kept waiting for him to reappear and bust them for the obvious gambit of hiding behind the bins. Likewise, when Ryan was facing off with the Time Agent (whose name I caught but is now eluding me as I type this, feel free to chime in below because I’m still jetlagged to hell), I was left wondering if he’d get a nasty lesson in the reality of appearing to threaten a white man in 1950s Alabama. I’m thankful that didn’t happen, but at the same time that felt to me like more of a menace than the actual foe. It perhaps could have played more into the plot.
  • I am left wondering what the payoff will be for Ryan using the time displacement gun. The Doctor noted that it was a “nasty weapon”, but Ryan used it without so much as a raised eyebrow from her that I observed (I may need to watch the scene again). Will the Doctor care? Will he reappear again? 
  • I’m seriously hoping he’s not meant to be either a)A proto-Master (unlikely) or b)An early Captain Jack (also, I’d hope, unlikely)
  • This series continues to be gloriously shot and lit. Yeah, they’re mostly sets, and obviously so, but the way the scenes contribute to the mood of what isn’t always a happy story can’t be undervalued.
  • That scene at the end where The Doctor (and especially Graham) realise they have to wait on the bus and be part of the problem is just… wonderful and awful in equal measure. I love Doctor Who, but it’s rare that it makes me cry.
  • ^ I need something stronger than just bold caps to make my feelings about this known, but I’m trying to be polite.
  • Doctor Who, as originally envisaged, was meant to be historical, and a way to educate young Brits about important historical events. Of course, Rosa Parks was essentially contemporary “history” at the point of its conception, but this serves as a great historical learning tool — while still having some fantastic nods to those who already know the history of the period.


Ahem. Well, sort of.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Doctor Who: Rosa”

  1. There’s been a lot written about how they could have stuffed this up – they deserve a lot more credit for *not* stuffing it up and delivering a damn good episode.

    I thought Ryan was going to get into trouble around as well. The danger was there though, and it had been felt by that point.

    As to it all being sets… The last two episodes have had credits for a South Africa Unit…

    1. Good point on the South Africa link — and almost certainly why it’s had that film-style look of late. Although I did see some comments from fans in Montgomery unhappy because they didn’t film there. Something tells me Montgomery circa 2018 looks just a *little* different to how it did back in ’55.

  2. Loved the episode, as I’m also a fan of the Historical episodes of Doctor Who, plus that period in American history. I too got a little dampness in my eyes when Graham and the Doctor realised that had to just stay put on the bus. I recall the Doctor says that the time displacement gun had put the white supremicist time-traveller `way in the distant future’, or somethng along those lines. Hopefully some time when such racist attitudes are completely abhorrent as to make him an outsider.
    The part where Ryan is invited by Rosa to serve coffee to her guests, including Martin Luther King Jnr, made me think the writers had come up with their dream dinner party.
    And Rove got my yelling at the tv too. I missed out on viewing the episode on iView in the morning, as our internet is down at home.

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