Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

This an undated photo shows Rosa Parks riding on the Montgomery Area Transit System bus.
Daily Advertiser/AP
Citizenship

Doctor Who Featured Rosa Parks in an Episode by Malorie Blackman — and It Was All Amazing


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals call for reduced inequalities, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, religion, age, disability, sexuality, or any other status. Key tools in the fight against inequalities are awareness, education, and representation, and this episode of Doctor Who nailed it. Join us by taking action against inequality here

Editor's note: Possible spoilers ahead — you have been warned.

The new season of Doctor Who has already marked a regeneration of the classic — largely for the fact it's finally lead by a female doctor, and also because she's reportedly being paid the same as her male predecessors. 

But it’s also the first season in the show’s 55-year history that features BAME writers, and the latest episode is being hailed as “iconic and important”, “powerful”, and “brilliant.” 

Sunday night’s episode saw Jodie Whittaker and her companions arrive in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 — on the day that civil rights hero Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, breaking laws that demanded racial segregation on public transport. 

Take Action: Tell the UK Government: Help Create a World Where #SheIsEqual

Keeping the spoilers to a minimum, the episode mainly focusses on the Doctor and her gang helping keep Parks — played by Vinette Robinson — on track to change history, all while an alien tries to get in the way. 

And, while they’re doing that, there’s a lot of commentary on racism both in 1955 and in the present day. 

Author and former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman is to thank for the episode, co-writing it with showrunner Chris Chibnall. 

Blackman is the author of over 60 children’s and young adults’ books — including the Noughts and Crosses series, which reverses the histories of black people and white people — so she’s no stranger to discussing race and racism in a way that’s digestible for younger audiences. 

Throughout the episode, the Doctor and her companions — two-thirds of whom are people of colour — witness and experience racism in 1955 first-hand. They are told to leave a restaurant that doesn’t serve “black people or Mexicans,” while Ryan is hit for trying to return a dropped glove to its owner. 

Related Stories Oct. 16, 2018 This Nurse Could Be the First Black Person on a British Banknote

But the show also includes an honest, open discussion between sidekicks Yaz and Ryan about the discrimination and abuse they face on a daily basis in the 21st century — including Yaz being called a terrorist, or Ryan being stopped by police more often than his white friends. 

Some people weren’t fans of the episode, describing it as “too educational” for example. But, as highlighted on AVclub.com, when Doctor Who first launched back in 1963, it was designed as an educational programme.

And many people on Twitter welcomed the show for dishing out some much-needed education. 

Parks is hailed as helping to initiate the United States’ civil rights movement. The day that she was convicted of violating the segregation laws, leaders of the local black community launched a “bus boycott” — led by a young Martin Luther King, according to history.com.

The boycott lasted just over a year, and ended with the US Supreme Court ruling that segregation on buses was unconstitutional. 

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true,” Parks, who died in 2005, wrote in her autobiography. “I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”