Doctor Who Featured Rosa Parks in an Episode by Malorie Blackman — and It Was All Amazing
This is the first series to feature BAME writers in Doctor Who’s 55-year history.
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.”
As a black woman this episode touched me in a more personal way, Rosa Parks in amazing. The Doctor is brilliant. I love this show— out of context doctor who (@ocdwho) October 21, 2018
That was proper old school #DoctorWho. Bold, unflinching storytelling. Heart and magic. *Some* tears— Terri White (@Terri_White) October 21, 2018
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.
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.
Thank you @malorieblackman Not only does my 14 yr old love your books but he was gripped by your Rosa Parks episode of #DrWho, hugging me & shedding a tear at the end. Well done to all involved. #Thankful— Marcia Layne (@MarciaLayne) October 21, 2018
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.
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.
#DoctorWho like fuck it, if schools won’t teach the children black history, we’ll teach them ourselves. What a brilliant episode, and gorgeous writing from Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall.— b ✨ (@iambri_97) October 21, 2018
Explained to my girls that it was less than 79 years ago that #rosaparks made her stand. It changed everything. It’s the little things and the little people who together make #bigchanges... And now we have a female #doctorwho— Angela Griffin (@Angela_Griffin) October 21, 2018
After watching it my dad stated it was one of his favourite episodes.— Dimmeh Looming (@TheDimmeh) October 21, 2018
Before it he had no idea about Rosa Parks or the event, (When I said last week it was the Rosa Parks episode he asked if I meant that Rose was coming back so we know what level he's on here)
As a history teacher I'd have no hesitation in showing tonight's episode of #DoctorWho when teaching about the Civil Rights movement. In fact, like Blackadder Goes Forth, it should be made part of the curriculum #RosaParks#Rosa Stunning!— Inebriated Anorak (@IontheAnorak) October 21, 2018
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.”