A powerful Doctor Who claims that Rosa Parks is the heroine of her own story.

adminOctober 22, 2018

Photo: Coco Van Oppens (BBC America)

There is a moment in The Lord of the rings where Frodo tells Gandalf that he wishes he did not have to go through these difficulties. Gandalf responds: "So do all those who live to see those moments, but that is not for them to decide, all we have to decide is what to do with the time we are given." It is a date that I have been very inspired by throughout my life, especially in our recent political climate. And I'm certainly not alone in finding inspiration in science fiction and fantasy characters. The images of Princess Leia dotted the March of the Woman and the appointments of the previous Doctors serve as mission statements to combat injustice. There is something about the improved context of gender storytelling that seems to make those heroes particularly easy to connect. Tonight's episode of Doctor who Take the good trick of offering an accentuated gender story in which the supreme act of heroism is the real-life act of a real-life person. "Rosa" is a powerful celebration of a woman who could not choose at what time she lived, but who, like all of us, could decide what to do with the time they gave her.


I'm not sure Doctor who He has ever faced a higher level of difficulty than with "Rosa." I was incredibly nervous in this episode because there were so many ways I could fail. It could fall on the sanitized myth that Rosa Parks was just an old woman who was too tired to give up her seat. He could inject extravagant alien aliens at a changed political moment in history. Or, worst of all, he could rob Rosa of her real-life agency by presenting the Doctor as some kind of inspiring influence on her actions. But writers Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall are incredibly smart about how they structure the episode. "Rosa" is not about the Doctor and her colleagues changing the story, it's about keeping the timeline so that Rosa's heroism can change the world.

When Doctor who it debuted for the first time in 1963, just eight years after Parks' real-life protest, it was explicitly designed as an educational program, and "Rosa" goes back to those educational roots in an important way. In addition to broadcasting tons of information about Parks' life (even the prologue to the 1943 episode is based on a real event), "Rosa" also educates her audience about the realities of racism in the Jim Crow era of American history. . The episode makes no effort when it comes to describing the intolerance that Ryan and Yaz experienced when TARDIS ignores the Doctor's attempts to return them to the current Sheffield and lands in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. In fact, Ryan is literally hit in the face when he tries to return a glove to a white couple. When we meet Rosa Parks for the first time, she mentions the recent lynching of Emmett Till as an example of the level of violence that can be inflicted on black teenagers simply by talking to white women. Even that scene has layers of meaning: the Parks of real life cited Till's death as an inspiration as to why he decided not to give up his seat.

Doctor who has had other color partners dealing with historical racism, including Martha Jones in "Human Nature" / "The Family Of Blood" and Bill Potts in "Thin Ice", but this is the first episode of NuWho that presents racism as its central villain. "Rosa" offers an avatar for that villainy in the time that ex-convict Krasko (Josh Bowman) travels, who is trying to prevent the Civil Rights era from happening by changing the circumstances surrounding Rosa's act of activism. But ultimately, it's more of a plot device. In contrast, "Rosa" is more interested in representing the full scope of a villain system with visceral details. That includes taking the time to describe the details of how segregated buses actually work, from the way black passengers had to pay their fare in the front and then re-enter from the back, to the way they non-black colored people like Yaz do not even necessarily sure where they fit into the system.

"Rosa" also avoids making the other mistake that would have been easy for this episode, which would present racism as a thing of the past that we can slap on the back to overcome. Ryan and Yaz, forced to hide behind a garbage dump in an alley while a policeman searches their motel room "only for whites," discuss the racism they still face in 21st century England. Yaz talks about people calling her a terrorist or shouting insults, while Ryan says that the police detain him more often than his white friends. The scene is directly confronted with the complex question of how to appreciate how far we have come, while still recognizing how much we have left to travel. As the optimist Yaz says, "They do not win, those people, I can now be a police officer because people like Rosa Parks fought those battles for me, for us, and in 53 years they will have a black president as a leader. they will be 50 years after that. "

It is the moment in which it feels that the episode focuses completely, which also happens almost always when Rosa herself is on screen. Vinette Robinson, in a truly fantastic guest turn, projects seriousness, dignity and a spirit of quiet perseverance while guaranteeing that Rosa feels like a real person, not a looming historical figure. Because the episode wants to avoid getting too confused in the route of time travel, "Rosa" does not present her title character as much as I would have liked. But Rosa has sweet scenes with Ryan and Yaz that help humanize her and allow Robinson to project warmth and humor, as well as the dignity she shows elsewhere.

"Rosa" struggles a bit when she moves away from Rosa's story. The episode had to spend more or less time with Krasko, who ends up having a lot of screen time but is never becoming a character. "Rosa" also dedicates too much time to the logistics of how the Doctor and her companions undo each step of Krasko's plan, the time she would rather have spent with Ryan sitting in a meeting between Rosa, her husband Raymond Parks, the lawyer Fred. Gray, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (That would also have been a good time to recognize that the bus stops were planned and attempted several times before Parks' arrest was strategically chosen as a foothold to anchor the Montgomery Bus Boycott.) In general, however, those are relatively small complaints about an episode that is much more correct than it is wrong.

"Rosa" hit me Really I was emotionally hard on my first watch and, looking back, I realized that what I am most responding to is simply the power of Parks' action. Doctor who For a long time it has been a show about the celebration of the strength of ordinary people, but that usually comes through a great monologue of the Doctor. The fact that the doctor, Ryan, Yaz and Graham are silent witnesses of Rosa's act of protest changes the lens of the episode so that his act can stand on its own, which makes it even more powerful. One of the most complex elements of the episode is the moment in which Graham realizes that he has to become the white man for whom Rosa refuses to give up his seat. "I do not want to be part of this," he says. "We have to, I'm sorry, we should not help her," replies the doctor. It feels like a really complex metaphor of privileges and alliances, one that I am still analyzing.

Initially I asked myself whether to establish the protest and the arrest of Rosa in "Rise Up" by Andra Day was making the lily a little too far, but after looking at the scene again a couple of times, I think it was an excellent choice. The song itself can be an empowering hymn, but it gains in complexity when contrasted with the more somber faces of Rosa and the TARDIS team, who know that this is only the first step in a long and long battle. "Rosa" does not argue that facing prejudice is easy or that historical change happens quickly. As the Doctor explains, Rosa's life was still hard, even after she won the victory of bus separation. He may have been awarded the highest honors when Bill Clinton awarded him the Gold Medal of Congress in 1999, but as Ryan points out: "However, it took a lot of time, his whole life." However, when describing what she chose to do over time was given, Doctor who makes Rosa Parks a hero as inspiring as any other fiction we can imagine. This episode feels like a true declaration of purpose for this new era of Doctor who, and it could not be more opportune.

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