Spoilers will rise.
There’s a time for everything. The Doctor apparently has met Elvis and given him a mobile. The show is known for meddling in history in a funny way. However, when tackling something as serious and as relevant as the civil rights movement, you have to be really careful where you step in. The show knows this, which is why their involvement has to be carefully constructed keeping a respectful distance from the main character.
This episode was dedicated to Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson), and it merited the involvement of Malorie Blackman to make sure it was done right. It’s a bit of a balance act, which keeps the Doctor fighting a new history-distorting foe named Krasko (Josh Bowman) on the sidelines. For the most part.
It’s a tricky episode. From the companions, we mostly focus on Ryan and Yaz. Ryan gets to spend an evening talking to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Yaz does get her moment with Rosa. But it’s a bittersweet memory as Ryan gets punched for approaching a white woman and they all get kicked out of a establishment. It’s Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 after all. Racism is on the surface. The time bandit is relegated to a side quest.
The show does its best not to feel like a history lesson, but let’s face it. It’s exactly what it’s doing. It’s a good history lesson, but obviously we gotta keep all the funny hijinks on the down low.
Highs, lows and tiny actions:
- This was a very charged episode. Rarely has the show dared set foot on the subject of racism. Rather than skirt around it, it was finally directly addressed. Kudos to the show on employing Malorie Blackman to co-write this with Chris Chibnall.
- The Doctor does not directly influence or motivate the birth of the civil rights movement. This was important. They do walk a line to get the historic events right and they are part of the bus ride where Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat.
- The villain seems to have a racist agenda. I mean, there are villains and there are villains. Krasko is not going to be anybody’s favourite, if he ever comes back.
- The one funny scene the show tried was with Graham and Ryan converging on James Blake, the driver of the bus, on his fishing spot. I know we’re supposed to be find it funny, but racism is just toxic to see.
- As much as it is ugly to see, it was important that racism was portrayed accurately. Ryan was obviously going to get in trouble. The show had to bring us face to face with the ugly side of being black in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.
- I think my favourite scene was Ryan talking to Yaz about their own lives and how the civil rights movement has started but racism is still present. That and the scene where Yaz tells Rosa that she’s a police officer where she comes from.
- Graham gets to inadvertently become a bitter part of history. He ends up being the white passenger for which Rosa Parks is asked to give up her seat. He doesn’t want to be a part of it, but he can’t do anything about it.
- The show did make a point of not sugarcoating history. Rosa Parks’ life was rough after the bus incident. Present day racism is still ugly and systemic racism is still a cancer yet to be fully eradicated. So, yes, it was a history lesson and one that bears repeating.
That will do for now.