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Doctor Who - Rosa - Review: "Unstoppable"

© BBC Pictures
Episode: 11.03 "Rosa"
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Written by: Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall
Air date: 21 October 2018

This week, the Doctor and her friends find themselves in Montgomery, Alabama, in the year 1955. They're confronted with the painful reality of the past and experience the racial segregation of the United States. They also meet a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks and realize someone is trying to change the history. The man called Krasko, a serial killer from the future, recently released from the Stormcage Containment Facility, punished with a neural restrictor into his brain is no longer able to harm anyone, so he decides to alter little things that led to the famous protest and the arrest of Rosa Parks and make sure these events never happen. In the end, the Doctor, Graham, Yasmin and Ryan are able to stop him and keep the history intact, while also experience a powerful journey of their own.

It was one of the most powerful and moving episodes of Doctor Who in years. The hour also turned out to be much scarier than I expected. There was no terrifying monster or a potential world-ending event. This time the real threat of the week were people. Ordinary human beings living in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. The scariest part? The people from the story weren't just an echo of the past but still a part of our everyday reality, still making the same wrong choices all around the world. The realism, the historic value and the impact on the present certainly make this hour one to remember. The focus of the episode is Rosa Parks, not a president, a king or any leader that we've encountered on Doctor Who in the past, but a true icon, historical figure and an extraordinary woman, beautifully portrayed by Vinette Robinson. I imagine her story to be much better known in US than it was for me before seeing the episode. Though I was familiar with Rosa Parks I certainly didn't know all these details from her life. That is why I'm especially grateful for an hour like this. The episode was powerful, educational and sadly still very needed. It's beyond terrible to see such intolerance and cruelty on screen, not to mention it continuously happening in real life. I will never understand what can lead people to such behavior and I will always admire the people who stand up and fight against it. An inspiration like Rosa Parks has the power to make the world a better place and her appearance on Doctor Who may seem unexpected but is definitely most welcome. It was a very different story than one might expect from the show, yet still following the same themes that the series was built on years ago. A lesson in tolerance, in human nature and the importance of each life and the choices we all make. With the new showrunner there does seem to be a new tone in the story, a more serious but character driven one, and I can't wait to see where it's going to lead us next.

I continue to love Graham's character. He's such a wonderful addition to the show, it's easy to relate to him even though he doesn't actually remind me of anyone we've met on the series before. I also really appreciate him always mentioning Grace and keeping her spirit alive. That's probably why I felt especially bad for him when both he and the viewers realize the role he's forced to play in Rosa Parks' story. He's exactly the sort of person who would stand up against such behavior and yet he has to stay quiet and let the things play out like they were meant to, without any interference. This was such a terrible moment for Graham, but he understood exactly what's at stake and accepted his only choice in this situation. As great of a companion as Graham is, this time the person at the center of the events was definitely Ryan. I'm glad we got to see another side of him. Our introduction to the reality of Alabama in 1955, with him getting hit in the face for a simple act of kindness was such a brutal wake-up call. Nightmare barely started there, Ryan is forced to truly experience exactly what Rosa Parks (and millions of other people) had to survive on a daily basis - the awful treatment in the restaurants, hotels, the buses... He's horrified but not entirely surprised and the reason why is wonderfully explained in his scene with Yasmin when the two have to hide during a police inspection at the hotel. Though the world has certainly evolved since those years, racism is still a part of our reality and still something we have to stand up against, more and more openly in the recent years. What's important is to find your strength and inspiration in those who continue to fight against all odds and Ryan getting an opportunity to meet both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. was nothing short of an experience of a lifetime. Hopefully Ryan will also continue to develop his relationship with Graham, they seemed to be getting along better during this hour, but they're still disconnected at times and I think it's one of the things that doesn't allow me to fully embrace his character. Another would be Ryan's attitude towards the weapons and fighting. Call of Duty reference in the last episode was funny, but this time his confrontation with Krasko made me think whether this could become a problem between Ryan and the Doctor. It's a well known fact that the Doctor stays away from weapons and refuses to use them. Hopefully this isn't a beginning of the recurring behavior for Ryan but only a one time choice he was forced to make, not to harm exactly, but to send Krasko away using a weapon, to help save the day.

Next there's Yasmin. Though Ryan wasn't very familiar with the story of Rosa Parks before their meeting, it's very clear who much it meant to Yaz. She knows little details from the life of Rosa Parks and is grateful for her fight that allowed for someone like Yaz to become a police officer. Yasmin admits to Ryan that even when things aren't great, every time she's called "Paki" at work or labelled a terrorist after leaving a mosque, she's still hopeful, looking at the progress made around the world during the last few decades. She's positive that thanks to the people like Rosa Parks her life is so much better today and can be even greater in the future. Really loved seeing Yaz's perspective during the episode. Especially considering that the color of her skin placed her in a strange, confusing situation, different with each person and place on her way. She was allowed to sit in the "white section" on the bus, but was thrown out of the restaurant and not accepted at a hotel. Her hesitation on the bus really stood out for me, like she couldn't find a place for herself in this reality. Ryan's presence was not wanted, hers was confusing for the people. Clearly not a lot of place for Pakistanis in Alabama decades ago. She was dismissed, mistaken for a Mexican, yet she continued to remain calm and show kindness to those around her. So glad we finally got a closer look at her character during the hour. Yaz is certainly growing on me with each episode. Surprisingly I also think we might expect a potential romantic connection between her and Ryan. I wasn't really considering it before, but I think it's becoming clearer with every hour. Let's see how this one plays out.

Finally, the Doctor. This story made me wonder how many times the Doctor was forced to be a part of events that were going against everything she/he's always stood for but she's forced to allow them to happen anyway. There's something definitely unique about Thirteen but I can't quite describe her well at this point. Her conversations with Krasko were very interesting. She practically challenged him to attack her just to prove her theory about him not being able to hurt anyone. But I don't think there's been a moment when she was really afraid so far. Of course without the TARDIS the Doctor seemed a bit lost, maybe less confident than normally, but still, most of the time she feels in control of the situation. I think I'm waiting for a true challenge, a monster or a tragedy that will really define Jodie as the Doctor. Everything she's been doing till now is great of course, but still somehow incomplete from my perspective. I did really love the scene on the bus, though. The look on the Doctor's face was pretty much perfect. She absolutely hated what was done to Rosa and others, but she carried the importance of this event, the weight of it on her shoulders and couldn't be herself. Doing nothing is so much harder for her, in any situation to be honest, but felt especially painful here. Wonderful performance by the entire cast in this moment. The music and the writing also fit perfectly. Kudos to everyone for all their fantastic work on this memorable hour.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. What did you think about Krasko? I didn't really focus on him in the review, cause even though he was the main obstacle for our heroes, he didn't seem especially threatening and his motives were unclear. It made his character seem rather unfinished and I'm wondering whether he might still show up in a future episode. I do like the actor who portrayed him, so I would be open to learn more. How about you?
2. How familiar were you with the story of Rosa Parks before watching the episode? Did you enjoy the way the events were presented on the show? What other historical figure or event would you like to see on Doctor Who? The first things that come to my mind would be either the Gladiators fighting at the Colosseum or a return to World War II.
3. Is it just me or all the guest characters of this season seem to be disappearing at the end of each story? It happened to Tzim-Sha, then Angstrom and Epzo were teleported off the planet in the last episode and now Krasko. Strange or a coincidence?
4. I've heard some voices that this episode didn't actually feel like Doctor Who and I both agree and disagree with the statement. Each showrunner changes the tone of the story in a way but the themes remain the same if you ask me. Also, as a fan of Broadchurch, I was expecting a bit of darker, more serious storylines on the show. What did you think?

1. Rosa: "Education makes you unstoppable."

2. Yaz: "I can be a police officer now because people like Rosa Parks fought those battles for me. For us. And in fifty-three years, they'll have a black president as leader. Who knows where they'll be fifty years after that? That's proper change."

3. Krasko: "Blue box in the alley. Is it a TARDIS?"
The Doctor: "Might be. What's it to you?"
Krasko: "Could be worth a lot."
The Doctor: "Nah. Not that one. Second-hand. Huge mileage. One careless owner."

4. The Doctor: "Is anyone excited? Because I'm really excited."
Graham: "You won't be if it's a bomb."
The Doctor: "Don't kill the vibe, Graham!"

5. Graham: "We will stop somewhere else to eat, now won't we?"
The Doctor: "No time, Graham!"
Graham: "Have you noticed that happens a lot? I need regular food."

What did you think about "Rosa"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Check out the press release & promo for the next episode "Arachnids in the UK". As always, thanks for reading!


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