Doctor Who Recap: In Rosa, The Doctor Meddles With History In Just The Right Measure
It’s 1955 and there’s a TARDIS parked on a side street in Montgomery, Alabama. If you know your history then you know that this is both the time and place where Rosa Parks took her stand against racial discrimination and changed the world (or, says the Doctor, the universe). Ryan, Yasmin, and Graham had been hoping to walk out the door of the police box and find themselves back home in Sheffield, but the TARDIS knows where the Doctor and her companions are needed. And where there’s an alt-right Proud Boy from the future running around Montgomery looking to mess with history, there’s a Time Lord looking to keep things in line.
Which has the potential to be slightly problematic. A white woman leading the charge to make sure that a black woman can take her place in history is… not great. However, the writers (including new Who showrunner Chris Chibnall) tread carefully in this territory. Companions Ryan and Yasmin are given the lead in the mission to assist Rosa (with Ryan even getting to meet Dr. Martin Luther King in one scene) while Graham and the Doctor act as proper allies, challenging the racist behaviour of other white people and standing down when it comes time for Mrs. Parks to change the course of history.
For a person of colour, life in Montgomery circa 1955 is pretty terrible—as evidenced by Ryan and Yas being thrown out of a diner for being “coloured” or “Mexican” and having to sneak into a motel through the window thanks to another one of those all-too common “Whites Only” signs. It’s jarring, alienating, and borders on the unfathomable—like, how could human beings have ever treated other human beings this way? Especially so recently. But then you remember that the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 just this summer that a Colorado baker could refuse service to a gay couple. The fight isn’t exactly over, is it?
In the end, their manic scramble to keep the details in place done, the Who squad must stand by and watch as Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus and is arrested. That arrest, on December 1, 1955, kicks off the Montgomery bus line boycott. In a little over a year, segregation on buses in Montgomery ends—but the struggle continues.
5 questions we have about this week’s episode of Doctor Who:
1. Was the white supremacist guy from the future an actual Proud Boy or just a regular Republican?
2. Will we learn more about Stormcage this season? It was, as you probably remember, the prison where River Song was held, too.
3. Ryan got to send Krasko way, way back in time using the baddie’s own temporal displacement weapon. Were there any Angels around to feast on all that energy?
4. Are Ryan and Graham building a closer bond? Because they’re adorable and we REALLY want them to. And while we’re on the topic, what about Ryan’s off-handed compliment to Yas? Future love match or what?
5. Same question we’re left with every week: where to next?