Doctor Who airs Sunday nights on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in North America. Time slots may vary.
The series stars Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history.
This week Doctor Who showed it has truly grown up. Dealing with difficult and challenging subject matters without adding too much humour. “Rosa” is at time very close to home, dealing with racial issues in 1950’s America which still feel relevant in 2018.
An excellent opening sequence with Rosa attempting to ride the bus sets the stage for events to come. It’s played entirely straight. No crashing TARDIS and no alien monster threat, just a woman trying to ride a bus.
This episode was written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall. The pair spend little time enjoying the scenery and instead focus solely on the social injustices of the period. With Ryan the butt of much of 50s Americas hatred it is at times difficult to watch. The multi-ethnic casting of season 11 really contributes to the story making this the perfect time to tell the story of Rosa Parks.
Unlike the previous episodes the second act doesn’t suffer from over talkiness. Instead the episode feels much better paced than its predecessors. It’s consistent and engaging throughout. But most importantly its thought provoking and that is what Doctor Who should be.
Secondary to the main storyline we also meet Josh Bowman’s Krasko. The ominous theme which comes along with him seems builds some dramatic tension. His threats to derail history add some danger to The Doctors mission. Like the rest of the episode he’s handled delicately so as not to take away from the overall message of the episode.
As the two stories collide in the third act the episode continues to tug at the heart strings. The pivotal moment in history as Rosa refuses to give up her seat is handled with significant weight. As the score cuts out for much of the scene before a more traditional pop song cuts through the silence is perfection. It was easily enough to bring a tear to the eye.
Segun Akinola is shaping up to be an excellent successor to Murray Gold. The soundscape of “Rosa” is befitting of a Doctor Who tale but also continues to break new ground for the series. The reliance of a more classical style of scoring is really helping enhance my enjoyment of the show.
The cinematography, again by Tico Poulakakis, is excellent. I’ve said it before but this is the most mature Doctor Who in years. It’s crafted in such a way that audiences of all ages can again be entertained by the show. It doesn’t lean in to being a “children’s” show but never verges on being too dark. Some excellent camera angle choices throughout make this episode particularly stunning.
With “Rosa” Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who feels like it is hitting its stride. Another emotionally charged episode which features just the right amount of humour. It tackles serious subject matters without making light of its circumstances. Best episode of the season so far.
Coming up next week I’ll be hiding behind the sofa…