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A beautiful episode, in which Racist Danny Zuko plots to disrupt the US civil rights movement in possibly the most convoluted way imaginable

The TARDIS steadfastly refuses to land in Sheffield before the Thirteenth Doctor’s investigated a mysterious artron energy trace popping up where it shouldn’t in 1955, Montgomery, Alabama, Deep South, USA. Oddly, quiet, dignified seamstress Rosa Parks is at the heart of the anomaly.

Seems a Stormcage alumnus has made it his mission to sneak back in time and salt the earth before the Civil Rights Movement can flower. With a mere nudge able to knock history forever off course, can Doc and the fam get their new friend Rosa arrested without Ryan getting lynched?

Meanwhile, way out in the lonely gulf of space between Mars and Jupiter, a 2.2-mile-long asteroid spins unseen through the void. In 2010 it’s discovered and given a number, Asteroid 284496, but no name. Then it’s named after Rosa Parks. This means nothing. It floats ever on. The end.

Here's what we think of N147 Rosa

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

4.1

Marie | @hammashandjelly

4.4

Here's what we think of N147 Rosa

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

4.1

Marie | @hammashandjelly

4.4

Here's what you think 11 Responses to “N147 Rosa”
  1. Rachel C

    I can’t wait to hear y’all’s review of this episode because I did not like it at all. For one, doesn’t it ignore rules the show has put in place about traveling back in time??? If the Doctor had only said that Rosa Parks refusing to stand was a fixed point in history, I would have been fine with it, but she doesn’t. She (the Doctor) is just concerned about making sure the Civil Rights movement happens (fair), but I feel pretty sure that it would have kicked off at some point even if Rosa Parks had not been on the bus that day.

    Secondly, PLAYING “RISE UP” WHEN ROSA IS GETTING ARRESTED??? That was some veryyy heavy-handed girlbossery. I know this episode was written by a Black writer, but it comes across as something written by a “well-intentioned” white person who wants to show how much of an ally they are. Maybe it’s because I’m American, but the race commentary felt really dumbed down here. It would be far more interesting to see the show start weaving in nuanced commentary on racism rather than doing a one-off “we love Rosa Parks!” (who is one of the most well-known and beloved Civil Rights figures, so the show isn’t even tackling racism in a difficult or complex way).

    Finally, Krasko. Does he have a purpose/motivating factor? Nope, just a convenient racist from the future. I want to like Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, but this episode did not help!

    Rating: 0.5 out of 5 racist Danny Zuko-wannabe villains

  2. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    Now this was a great episode! What a change from last time. Can we get Malorie Blackman to co-write all Dr Who episodes?
    Couple of fun things:
    Graham, echoing some of his companion predecessors, gripes about how Doc can’t control the TARDIS.
    Today’s name drop: Elvis
    and
    Suggesting Doc might be Banksy.

    The writing is very solid. Yaz’s dilemma about where to sit feels very real. And what a clever line to give a racist villain: “It might color your view of me.” Not a word is wasted. All the choices- the dialogue, the music, the lighting, the direction- all perfect.

    Seeing Rosa quietly refusing to give up her seat looks such a small thing from the outside. She says no and they escort her away quietly. But Rosa herself references the dangers of the time period when she mentions Emmett Till to Ryan. Earlier that year, Emmett, a 14 year old boy, was brutally murdered after accusations he whistled at a white woman. It was such a scary time and place to be Black. And Rosa isn’t just existing, she’s engaging in civil disobedience. As a white activist I find civil disobedience scary. Watching Rosa do what she did cuts at me. I am so genuinely frightened for her. And while *we* know that this act sets bigger things in motion, she has no way of knowing this. For all she knows, this arrest could get her beaten, or killed, and no one will ever pay any attention. I am simply in awe, not just of Rosa but anyone who takes an action of dangerous defiance, hoping it will make the world a better place.

    Did I mention what a great episode this is?

    My one episode caveat however: where did Ryan send the villain? As far back as it would go. So lava? Empty space? Did Ryan just kill him?

    Rating: Oh, my heart!

  3. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Gang,

    Doctor Who has dealt with racism numerous times before, usually through allegory like The Daleks or lightly dealt with like Thin Ice. Rosa, however, doesn’t pull any punches. The racism is out there front and centre in all its gruesome ugliness. Rosa is the first Doctor Who story to be written by a person of colour, and the titular character is played marvellously by Vinette Robinson. Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole also do brilliantly to breathe life into Yaz and Ryan and their poignant discussion of the racism they’ve faced in their own lives serves to show that although progress has been made there is still so much progress still to come.

    Bradley Walsh also deserves praise playing Graham allowing his anger to bubble under the surface. The Doctor displays her sympathy and indignation, but never puts herself in the way of the story and I’m so glad she wasn’t shown to be the reason for Rosa Parks taking the action as she did. In fact, possibly the only part of the story where it doesn’t quite work is that of Krasko. I get he’s a plot device in order to bring The Doctor here but I just don’t really care about him.

    Overall, Rosa takes Doctor Who back to its origins of being educational and informative but without seeming to preach. There’s some lovely dialogue too and I especially love the thought that The Doctor might be Banksy. Also choosing to use “Rise Up” instead of the usual closing theme is a masterstroke.
    I award this 4.7 out of 5 (4.7 being a higher IQ level than any racist fuckhead out there)

  4. Hello from Alabama, I’ve just started watching series 11 after putting it off for years. This is the first good episode in my opinion for the 11th series. I dislike the pushing of inaccurate racial stereotypes that black people get pulled over more often for their skin color than white people that Ryan says to Yaz behind the dumpster. Yaz brings up Emmett Till which actually came up recently when Joe Biden signed a bill called the Emmett Till antilynching bill which makes it illegal to lynch people as if that’s happening today and basically just makes murder double illegal I guess. However, the story of Emmett Till was a tragic one and very much worth noting to really give the gravity of the situation to Ryan.

    White time traveling racist seemed a bit on the nose for race-baiting agenda. However a dude who went to prison and came out racist isn’t that unbelievable. I felt like they made the fact that Ryan couldn’t sit with them a little more dramatic than it should’ve been considering he literally gets to leave and go back to his time later like this isn’t the end of the world. When Ryan meets MLK I wish when Ryan repeats Martin Luther King to MLK, MLK would’ve just responded “Jr.” just to add that little extra detail of history. I thought it was ironic that the doctor had to cause a racist event in history in order to create the desegregation movement. It’s a definite attempt at a Moffat moment weaving them into the events of history on accident. I felt that the realization that they cause the event was a heart sinking moment.

    The portrayal of Rosa was very heartfelt and genuine. I like how they acknowledge that Rosa still had a difficult life after showing that it wasn’t a quick fix to everything. I did find it kind of dumb at the end when she shows everyone the asteroid named Rosa Parks. I get that it’s supposed to symbolize she’s never forgotten but it’s like and anyways check out this cool rock I named and then end of episode. I think actually seeing real footage of Rosa at the end should’ve been the end to the episode. Overall I went in expecting to hate this episode because I’m not a fan of what’s to come with the Flux but this episode stand alone was actually very good. I give it a 3.3 out of 5

    • Hey P ow,

      Thanks for sending in your review and welcome to the listener mini gang!

      You’ll hear this on the podcast no doubt, but I just wanted to say that, while we disagreed with some parts of your review, we also thought other parts of it were perfectly fair.

      In case you’re interested in a few statistics concerning how different ethnic groups are treated differently by law enforcement in the US (from a news outlet that prides itself on being unbiased), head on over to whobackwhen.com/facts, which will take you to a BBC News article on the subject.

      Cheers!

      L

  5. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    So having had an adventure in space last time, we now follow the usual pattern and have one in the past. And I have thoughts…

    So no cold open, still not used to that with respect to modern Who. But oh well.

    So at 4 mins 15 seconds we get the line that sums up my issue for this episode: ‘Quick look, but quietly. History is very delicate.’ So why do we need space racist greaser? I think I’d prefer a version of the plot where he wasn’t there. Yes, the Classic Who pure historical, last seen in The Highlanders properly (yes, I know about Black Orchid but that one doesn’t really count imo: no historical characters and the historical setting is almost irrelevant). The crew land and accidentally fuck up the timeline and then spend the rest of the episode trying to put things right, whilst trying to fight 50s Southern States Racism. That should be more than enough. Even the plot acknowledges that the tiny actions make a difference as that’s what Spacist Greaser does in the episode. Also Ryan zapping him feels like setting up a sequel which we haven’t had yet, and we don’t have Ryan anymore.

    Now, I do like the detective elements, the brain storming, and the splitting up of the gang’s plan to allow everyone to have something. Let’s be honest, that doesn’t always happen well. The cinematography is nice.

    So yeah, my issue is firmly with the plot and my rating is based on the fact that I will be less likely to watch this one than TWWFTE. 3.5/5

    Cheers

    Kieren

  6. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Occasionally, rising from the slag heap of Rings of Akhartans, Planet of Fires and Let’s Kill Hitlers, this show gut-punches us with a trailblazer. A thought-provoking period piece about future fascists weaponising time travel, amidst a shameful backdrop of all too human racial subjugation. But enough of the Seventh Doctor’s Remembrance of the Daleks, let’s talk about Rosa. Which is pretty good (albeit a poor second to McCoy’s masterpiece). This is powerful stuff: hearing Ryan and Yaz’s experiences of racism in contemporary Britain was shocking. The production is superb: kudos for our heroes sitting on a bus being far more exhilarating than in Planet of the Dead where their bus is under attack by killer alien stingrays. Even Ryan becomes a real character: the Ryan-Martin Luther King-Rosa scene is surely this companion’s high point (before drifting into Ben and Polly levels of mediocracy).

    My only beefs. Firstly Krasko’s naff plan. Big deal if Rosa hadn’t needed to stand! Surely something else would have ignited the Civil Rights powder keg. An oversight explained perhaps by Krasko being a pea-brained Tommy Robinson (real name, Stephen Penis Head Christopher Cunt Face Yaxley-Lennon) thug. How would scary high intellect racists go about this if they had the tech? Second beef was not seeing Krasko get munched on by a T-Rex. Perhaps that would have undermined the poignancy.

    Rating: 4.9/5

  7. Daniel McGinley

    This beautiful looking episode sees the fam visit 1950’s Alabama on a mission to keep history on its path. Remind me, what constitutes a fixed point in time or can history be changed or not?

    Jodie is warming up being much more relaxed in the role . She’s funny in this one, highlights being the ‘or am I’ Banksy line, ‘ I did not warm to him’ and the look she gives Graham for putting his arm around her.

    The enemy is underwhelming AGAIN. Unbelievably, Tim Shaw is still the ‘high’ point of the series so far. Being generous, Krasko is a product of an uninspired creative mind but the elephant in the room is that it’s clearly saying white men = bad. It’s a shame as the concept of a villain who can’t directly do bad acts is really interesting and has potential for some really clever timey-wimey plotting.

    Within the space of one minute Ryan goes from not knowing exactly who Rosa is to commenting on how brave she is for living in Montgomery all her life. Consistency please!

    Moralising lecture count: Well, the whole story is one big one. But I counted three for series total of five.

    Dr Who often holds a mirror up to society , including much of the third doctors run. When it’s so in your face however, the overt politicisation and lecturing really diminishes the quality and enjoyment of the show. Give the audience something to think about, don’t smash it into our faces every two minutes. Still, a good story, best so far 3/5.

    PS Is having an asteroid named after you REALLY changing the universe?

  8. Maxwell Rayner | @thetruemisty

    Who Back When Podcast Release Date (10 April 2022)
    BBC Broadcasting Date (21 October 2018)
    Directed By: Mark Tonderai
    Written By: Malorie Blackman/Chris Chibnall

    I hope this gets to you guys on time.

    Am I last this time? Rosa was a terrible episode or I thought until I watched it again, with nice characters and great actors, and an ok storyline. Every time I went to watch this episode I fell asleep. The last time I fell asleep during an episode was during Sleep No More (ironically). Here’s a theory tho, Every third episode there is a terrible episode, Exception: Thin Ice (which I would rate a 3.9/5 by the way). Also have they slept cause the timeline was like, doctor regenerates falls straight into next episode and then straight into the next episode and then straight into Rosa.

    Okay, so it’s been a week since I wrote that first part and I finally sat through the whole episode and it made me cry (last time I cried was Face the Raven). I give this episode a 4.5/5 for storyline and a 4.1/5 For characters (except for the time travel dude he gets a 0/5). Anyway I will be back for the horrible N148 Arachnids In The UK. P.s Hi Marie. Hopefully you are well and back for this review. P.p.s Fun Fact the first Who Back When Episode I listened to was The Snowmen, The first ever doctor who episode I watched was (You guessed it) The Snowmen. P.p.p.s This episode gets a 3.5/5 punched racist from that episode Thin Ice. Anyway, I’ll be Back.

  9. Justforwhoo

    Hola amigos, me again for another instalment of justforwhoo just for you (patent pending wink wink). So, let me follow in Yaz’s footsteps and sit my “South Asian Mexican backside down” and get right into this review shall we?

    So ROSA – I absolutely love the message of the episode and the beautiful way it was executed. It gave so much more insight and perspective into Ryan and Yaz, not only as contemporary teens navigating through life but also as POCs. With the perspective that doctor who is generally a family friendly show, this episode beautifully demonstrates how far we’ve come with the civil rights movement but also shows how much more work we have to do. In saying that, this is my third time watching this episode and I can’t help feel disappointed by Krasko and his wasted potential. It seemed as though he was just racism personified and well, it was a bit – meh? I really wish they delved deeper into why he was so determined to stop Rosa beyond just him being an outright racist.

    Forgetting about Krasko for a second (and let’s be honest, hopefully forever), the ending of this episode makes me tear up every time. The fam finding themselves in that moment in history and being unable to intervene and GRAHAM of all people being the reason it has to happened! One of the best bits of the Chibnall era for sure.

    BEST BIT: *in Jodie Whittaker’s voice* don’t kill the vibe Graham!
    WORST BIT: nothing? JOKES, Krasko’s lack of agenda duh

    I’d rate this a 4.0/5.0

    • Aloha! Excellent mini. Sorry I didn’t read it out loud on the show—I’d already popped back to the future at that point. Thanks for sending it in, though! :)

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