The episode which caused equal amounts of excitement and concern when it was announced, did Rosa deliver?
First up, apologies that this has taken me so long! I'm currently job hunting and if you've ever experienced that, you'll sympathise. But fingers crossed everything is back on track and my review for Arachnids in the UK will come out in a timely fashion.
In episode three, Rosa, our guys still haven't managed to find their way home. The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham find themselves instead in 1955's Alabama after the Tardis brings them there of its own accord. They quickly realise that it's the day before Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) makes her iconic protest - refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus.
However, there's a problem. Another time traveller in town is trying to ensure that never happens.
Warning for spoilers ahead!
Doctor Who has visited many important parts of history. And, as we have learnt, is responsible for most if not all of them in that classic time travel way. However, this is one occasion where that would have been completely inappropriate.
The danger of a Doctor Who type of intervention is Rosa Parks would lose all her agency as a character. Rosa decided to protest injustice and it changed the world forever. It's enough of a heroic, iconic moment that it really doesn't need the dramatic flair of the Doctor. To imply it came from a Doctor nudge would have been insulting at best!
This makes for an interesting episode storywise, as rather than the Doctor being the hero, she's there instead to ensure another gets to be the hero of their own story.
I really enjoyed this episode. It was the right mix of educational (this is, after all, a programme aimed at children!) and exciting. And I felt like our characters are finally started to get into their stride. The Doctor's first speech to Krasto on the petrol tanks was in true Doctor style. And apology count at zero this episode!
Rosa was co-written by Malorie Blackman - onetime Children Laureate in Britain, she also wrote Naughts and Crosses so she's no stranger to science fiction. This was definitely a step up from the first two episodes in my opinion and makes me want to see more from her. Blackman writes Rosa as a truly powerful figure who steals every scene she's in. Thanks in no small part to Vinette Robinson's acting.
Rosa's scenes aside, there was another beautiful scene which Graham (Bradley Walsh), gets all the credit for. The moment he realises that he is simply not allowed to help someone in the face of this persecution is emotionally devastating. His attitude and expression almost broke my heart.
I only have one minor criticism for this episode. Our time-travelling villain, Krasko (Joshua Bowman) seemed rather two dimensional. In fairness, that's because we didn't see a great deal of him. But I would have liked to have learnt more about his motivations. He's obviously a psychopathic racist, but other than that, we don't learn much more before Ryan zaps him into the past. However, there's no doubt Krasko will be back, building our cast of new returning villains.
For a showrunner who has decided to abandon serialisation, Chris Chinball does like to keep a lot of balls in the air.
However, I can almost understand why Krasko wasn't an essential villain in this story. It would be easy to have blamed one person for the racism and persecution - Krasko, the bent cop or the bus driver. But that racist and horrendous culture was a result of everyone's actions, not one person. In the context of what Rosa and then Ryan had to face, Krasko was almost unimportant.
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In classic kids tv style, the episode has a powerful message from Yaz and Ryan. A reminder that bigotry hasn't gone away. That things are better but still aren't perfect.
Overall, I was really impressed. It reminded me of the Vincent van Gogh episode. A homage to a great figure in history which is done in the Doctor Who style, but still respectfully. Definitely a step up from what we've seen so far, so I hope it'll continue.
If you'd like to read my review for the previous episode, The Ghost Monument, click here!