Set in the midst of the ’50s Civil Rights movement, ‘Rosa’ is already being lauded as one of Doctor Who’s best historical episodes.
Since its return in 2005, Doctor Who has mostly remained in the realm of monsters and aliens. However, the show occasionally still dips its toe into historical waters.
Among the best of these are Series 2’s ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’, and Series 5’s ‘Vincent And The Doctor.
‘Rosa’, the third entry in Doctor Who series 11, now joins these great episodes. Set in the mid-’50s, the episode has the new Team TARDIS encountering Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks, at which point they are swept up in a quest to ensure her historic stand on the Montgomery Bus Line happens as scheduled.
Here’s why ‘Rosa’ is such an important piece of television.
‘Rosa’s’ lessons are still hugely relevant
The very same day that ‘Rosa’ aired, racial tensions exploded on a flight from Barcelona to London. A middle-aged white man yelled racist insults at a disabled black woman and her daughter taking their rightful seats beside him. The airline has been frowned upon for moving the women rather than punishing the man’s racist behaviour.
On many people’s trending lists on Twitter, this event appeared above or alongside the praise for ‘Rosa’.
This proves that the lessons in ‘Rosa’ are still relevant today. That despite how far we have come, racism still exists.
This is discussed in the episode when, while forced to hide from a racist police officer, Yasmin and Ryan discuss issues they have both faced due to their race.
It helps spark discussion
Many parents on Twitter claim to have had hours of discussion with their children after ‘Rosa’ aired. The Doctor Who episode prompted questions about the real Rosa. Questions about whether everything in the episode was true.
This is a good thing.
Some parts of ‘Rosa’ are uncomfortable to watch, but they are supposed to be. Let ourselves be uncomfortable. Let the children be uncomfortable, even horrified. This way, we can help ensure that the level of racism seen in the past truly remains in the past.
There are already calls for ‘Rosa’ to be used in history classes.
Teachers have declared that they would be happy to use this Doctor Who episode in their history classrooms. Some are even calling for it to be added to the curriculum.
It’s easy to see why.
‘Rosa’ doesn’t follow the usual Doctor Who format of aliens and mayhem. Instead, the episode’s main villain is a time-travelling racist who seeks to prevent Rosa’s pivotal moment by making small, seemingly insignificant changes to the day’s events.
The Doctor and her companions become guardians of history, working against the villain to keep things on track. In the process, viewers learn of the real facts surrounding the fateful bus trip.
‘Rosa’ is the perfect example of what a great Doctor Who can be. The episode does more than just teaching the facts. It reminds us that the issues within it are still relevant today. It shows us how far we still how far we still have to go.
We hope to see more episodes like it in the future.