Monday, 22 October 2018

Doctor Who - Rosa

Parks And Re-Creation

Doctor Who - Rosa
Airdate: 21st October 2018

Oh, okay... so this is better.

When I first saw that the BBC were going to do one of their historical recreation style episodes this week, my first thought was that it was going to be a bit pants like last week’s episode. Well, I’m happy to report I was dead wrong about that.

In a bit of episode titling which I can only assume is a deliberate parody of the first episode of the new wave Doctor Who shows that started with Christopher Eccleston in an story entitled Rose, which also introduced Billie Piper’s popular Rose Tyler character... this episode is called Rosa.

Why? Well because The Doctor and her new crew are whisked back in time to Montgomery, Alabama the day before the famous black activist Rosa Parks (played here by Vinette Robinson) refused to give up her seat for white folk on December 1st 1955, thus prompting her arrest and leading to a chain of events which ended segregation on buses. The TARDIS has brought them here because, as The Doctor soon discovers, there are some very strange, out of place, energy readings for the time and, as they investigate, they are flung face to face, not just with Rosa Parks but also the terrible racial prejudice bordering on paranoia which was presumably part and parcel of living in this period.

However, it also brings them into contact with an alien ex-con who has time jumped to the same period so he can stop Rosa from having to give her seat up on the bus and thus stop the boycotting of the buses and the eventual end of the segregation of said transport in the state (and beyond). So they have to do their darnedest to ensure that all the right elements are still in place for Rosa to make her historic protest and arrest. Which isn’t easy with ‘villain of the week’ Krasko, played by Joshua Bowman, trying to make little changes in the timeline to ensure this doesn’t happen.

And it’s not a bad episode and I’m optimistic that this series will be a little more hit and miss... rather than downright miss, like last weeks episode... as the weeks go by.

So, the good: Well, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill are all great as they are both alarmed and angry at the racial intolerance on display and, frankly, Jodie Whittaker is simply phenomenal as The Doctor in this one. I don’t know what order these episodes were shot in but she does a really good job here and I get the sense that she is really beginning to find her feet with the character. It kinda helps she has a good script to play around with too. She really knocked it out of the Parks in this one, it has to be said (or I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t say that for this specific episode).

The pacing was also pretty fabulous and there was, in all honesty, never a dull moment as The Doctor and her companions tried to fix and second guess the moves of Krasko by doing all in their power to ensure that a) the bus still runs, b) James Blake (played by Trevor White) is still driving it and c) it’s full enough for Blake to order Rosa to give up her seat for a white person. The identity of that white person is something I won’t give away here but it’s fairly obvious, to be fair, just how entwined the regular TARDIS crew are going to be with the events as they unfold.

There was some stuff I both didn’t like or which I thought was questionable too so, very briefly, they are as follows...

Everything looked too clean and well kept. However, I’ve seen the BBC make this kind of ‘mistake’ before and therefore I had to think to myself that, yeah, maybe that’s how things were in the 1950s with a much less abundant population than we have nowadays. Maybe the BBC keep portraying places like this as being really tidy because that’s just how things were in those days. So that’s my possible but ‘not really all that worried’ criticism out of the way.

Second criticism was the use of a song over a certain sequence and its repetition over the end titles. Now they’ve done this before in the Eccleston and Tennant eras and sometimes they get away with it, in my opinion and... sometimes they don’t. I think that, in this particular case, it’s an example of they definitely didn’t. It was, at the very least, mixed in way too loud although I could see how it might have solved a dramatic problem in this particular scene. Again, it’s a personal opinion but, it wasn’t for me.

Third thing... the reason for Krasko being there wasn’t adequately explained. We had a little of his back story but really no context as to why he should undertake such a task in the first place. I don’t think the character had enough emotional weight or reason for actually doing all this in the first place. It may have been cut for time but I don’t think it played out very well the way it did.

Okay, fourth and final thing (because, seriously, don’t get me started on the opening titles and music arrangement again)... there’s a point in the story where Tosin Cole’s character gets rid of the Krasko situation for good and I can’t help but think that The Doctor would not have approved of his methods here and would have scolded him for it, just as she did the week before when he reached for the gun. It’s possible that we haven’t seen the last of Krasko, of course but... I’m not holding my breath for him to return anytime soon. Especially when show runner Chris Chibnall has gone on record saying there will be no multi-part story arcs this season (although that does, I would say, remain to be seen).

And that’s me done on this one, too. Much better than the second episode and I’m a lot more confident about emotionally investing in the new Doctor now (although I know some people have already bailed on the series after last week’s show). Really looking forward to next week’s episode I’m glad to say so, fingers crossed the spiders seen in the trailer are as deadly a threat as they might have been in the 1970s incarnation of the show. We shall soon see, I guess. 

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