So far series 11 has been received exceptionally well by fans and critiques as the Jodie Whittaker Era continues to impress. We have had the standard new Doctor finishes regeneration episode and last week the companions has their first trip to an alien planet. This week comes the traditional “first trip in time” episode and going by the trailer, an episode featuring iconic civil rights legend Rosa Parks, this could be more a powerful episode and story for the new Doctor and team!
Straight away this is perhaps the darkest toned episode of the show since it was rebooted, and I mean this is one that is set at time in the US when racism was rampant and forced segregation was common place. These are very grown up themes which the writing does not shy away from and it was a little uncomfortable to watch at times.
The Doctor is attempting to return the companions back home to preset day Sheffield when the TARDIS, refusing as she always does at times, take them there and after nine attempts finally lands in Montgomery Alamba in 1958. The episode actually begins in 1943 as we see Rosa Parks getting on the nubs home from work who got on the front of the bus when the driver aggressively highlights just how racist the south of America was in the 40’s and 50’s and beyond. The Doctor detects some Artron energy and goes to investigate.
The bravery of this story is both a surprise but also inspirational to see where Chris Chibnall is aiming to take this new era of Doctor Who. Again the focus of the story lands on Ryan as an aside but a powerful one as no sooner do our heroes step out of the TARDIS then he is hit by the racism present in Montgomery and we see him having to fit in and hide at times but the personal toll it takes on his character conveys the shock the audience will no doubt have to see this level of racism on screen especially before the watershed.
There is still some Doctor Who standard story as The Doctor investigates the strange Artron Energy readings which leads to a nice surprise and use of some old Doctor Who lore very well. Soon The Doctor and companions must work to ensure the historic events of Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus for white passengers. It effects all the companions in some way and holds up a mirror to a subject that many will see as in the past but even now in 2018 is just as important to fight against with many suffering at the hands of racist attitudes. I did have some Quantum Leap flashbacks as Dr Samuel Beckett would travel in time to put right what once went wrong which is exactly what The Doctor is trying to do.
There some positives as Ryan gets to meet another icon of the American Civil Rights movement in Dr Martin Luther King and even Yasmin spends some time with Rosa, which leaves both feeling inspired despite the treatment they had suffered in this time zone. The balance of very dark subject matter whilst showing the strength and inspirational people who stood against racism and barbarity in those times to provide both lessons and hope for the audience in 2018.
Once again Jodie is just killing it as the Doctor, and throughout her compassion and courage in doing what has to be done are traits I really like in the 13th Doctor not to mention she is not afraid to stand up to enemies head on, literally face to face yet again in declaring how she will stop whatever it is the big bad from executing their plan. The new Doctor is brave and determined and looks right into the eyes of danger and yet shows the same compassion and empathy for those around her as we would expect from the Doctor. Jodie plays every trait so strong that you would be forgiven for not realising this is only her third episode and story and yet it just feels to me as a life long fan, that Jodie was simply born to play the Doctor.
Rosa as an episode is the most powerful use of real historical events yet for Doctor Who with a subject many would not expect to see in a family drama particularly at dinner time on a Sunday night. It was moving, inspirational, educational and at times uncomfortable to watch some of the scenes but the writing was so strong that the balance between showcasing the story of Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in the US was blended so well with the usual Doctor Who story. I was not sure what to expect when I first watched the trailer for Episode 3 last week but this strength in tone and story have made it a must watch for fans.
It will be interesting to see if next weeks episode, which already looks as though it will be going full scary time for Halloween, will try to be a little more lighthearted which is sometimes the case when Doctor Who goes dark in storytelling. As yet there does not seem to be any hints towards a series arc either, no big bad in the shadows pulling strings although it will be intriguing to see if one event in tonight’s story comes back to haunt our heroes later in the series but all in all, Rosa showed how this new series is definitely taking the show to places it never quite reached and unlike last week, all the characters had a moment to shine, though I am still holding out for Yasmin to take centre stage with an episode.
I am loving this new series and Jodie’s 13th Doctor so much right now, it is most definitely must watch telly right now.