The latest episode of Doctor Who, ‘Rosa’, didn’t pull any punches. We were taken on a historical adventure to Rosa Park‘s historic act of protest that’s relevant to today’s political landscape.
While I’ve spoken before about the diversity with the companions, it hasn’t been such an integral part of the narrative until now. Not only does ‘Rosa’ force us to confront the racism experienced by both Ryan and Yaz, but the nature of Graham having been married to a black woman. While normal now in 2018, it was massively controversial in the American south in 1955. People’s reactions to Graham being Ryan’s grandfather drive that point home. The episode also explored the layered experience of Yaz in this era, where people assume she’s Mexican and she falls in an odd middle ground between black and white Americans. Yaz sits at the front of the bus, but is kicked out of restaurants. It’s a seldom explored aspect of the area and I’m interested to know how accurately it’s portrayed. If any historians want to chime in, I’m super curious for your perspectives on this bit.
But we aren’t just given a glimpse at the past in ‘Rosa.’ We are shown that racism exists well outside of the past. The time traveling impostor himself shows his bigotry and he’s presumably from our own distant future. For us here, between 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, and the white supremacists of the future, we need to examine the world around us. Ryan and Yaz’s conversation when they’re hiding from the police officer highlights just a handful of experiences people of color face in our modern times. There’s pretty blatant bigotry in the here and now. If there’s a message in this episode, it’s that people have been pushing back against bigotry for a long time and we need to keep pushing.
Despite how heavy this episode was, we got a few light-hearted character driven moments as well. We’ve known since the very first episode that Ryan has a habit of wanting to touch things out of curiosity and now we know that same curiosity extends to opening things as well. And the Doctor is totally on board with that type of (potentially trouble causing) enthusiasm. Graham and Yaz are the logical and cautious counter balance to Ryan and the Doctor’s (careless) sense of adventure without being complete buzzkills. It’s a great balance on the team.
As I’ve mentioned in the past two episode reviews, I’ve been hoping for more focus on Yaz. This week we got some of that. As mentioned, she seemed to exist in a strange middle ground in the racist tensions of 1955 Montgomery. This gave her an opening to share her experiences in modern day England. As a Muslim British citizen of Pakistani heritage, her experience is different from from the discrimination faced by black Americans of the 50’s in the Southern USA states, but relevant to the conversation about what our own society is going through now. By sharing this experience, we learn a great deal about who she is as a person and what drives her. It was well done.
The Tardis Team has really begun to gel together and I’m delighted. It feels like we’ve hit a comfortable baseline for how this team works together and we’re ready to dive into the meat of the season. The creative team behind the new series had my trust already, but they are proving just how much it’s deserved with each passing week.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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