Tonight Doctor Who ventured back to 1955 for a long, hard look at the struggles of Rosa Parks in mid-20th century Alabama. Let us know what you thought of its take on a crucial moment in history in our weekly, spoiler-tastic discussion zone.
“Rosa” is a very peculiar episode of Doctor Who, in that it tackles a very serious subject matter—one the show has tackled many, many times before—in a way that is surprisingly absent of the show’s usual artifice. Allegory is one of Doctor Who’s greatest friends, giving us underground lizard monsters as a pretense for climate change, cyborg zombies as a commentary on spare-parts surgery, and fascist pepperpots as a stand in for... well, fascists sans pepperpots. So while Doctor Who has brushed upon the issue of racism before, to see it do so without its usual level of allegory intact was surprising (and welcome) in its bluntness.
And it is very blunt, to the point that its on-the-nose approach to not just what Rosa went through, but the struggles Yaz and Ryan still face—and struggles that will continue to go on beyond any of them—as well, might be a little too much at times for some. But it’s easy to forget that even with a subject matter like racism, Doctor Who is still a show for families to watch. The drive to educate as wide an audience—as bluntly as possible in this case—on social issues can come off as heavy handed (like, say, using Andra Day’s emotional powerhouse “Rise Up” over the show’s take on Rosa’s moment of defiance aboard the bus), but sometimes, such heaviness is necessary.
Whether it’s 1955, 2018, or whatever far future this week’s villain Krasko was actually from, sometimes the bad guy is a racist asshole because they’re a racist asshole, and not because of a monster, or time travel, or anything else. And something as systemic an issue as racism can’t be solved with trip in the TARDIS or a wave of the sonic screwdriver—it’s something has to always be resisted, over and over. The fact that Doctor Who got to tackle a theme in so stark a manner, unsubtle or otherwise, is a powerful statement about the remit and message the show still has, all these years since it first began.
We’ll have more to say in our recap tomorrow, but for now, let us know what you thought of “Rosa” in the comments below. You can also join the discussion on our new Instagram.