C+Q - Rosa (2018)

It's often said that Doctor Who used to be an educational show, way back in the black-and-white era. Personally, I don't see much of that in the Hartnell era as televised, regardless of what the creators of the show during that period intended. I bring this up because apparently Whittaker Who is a return to the show's roots as a tool for teaching children about history. Thing is, I think Whittaker Who so far is educational in a way the show has never been before, and Rosa is probably the single episode of the show best suited to being shown in classrooms.

The episode features two (2) separate scenes of the Doctor teaching her companions a history lesson on Rosa Parks, complete with visual aids (the whiteboard in the motel and the presentation on the TARDIS scanner at the end). The climax of the story, rather than being about fighting an evil baddie or defusing a bomb by feeding it to a Pting, is about recreating the exact conditions of Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger based on details about her life the team are able to remember. This episode is basically one great big revision aid dressed up like a sci-fi adventure, and I kinda dig it.

On the subject of things I kinda dig, having a celebrity historical after so many years is surprisingly refreshing, and thank god we're outside of the UK. For far too long the TARDIS, a machine that can go anywhere in time and space, has been stuck in London or Cardiff. I don't like that Episode 3 has to be a historical just like every other Episode 3 ever made, but at least it's this historical. I also really appreciate the little nods to Doctor Who's history, like how Krasko used a Vortex Manipulator and was locked up in Stormcage. After a big overhaul of the creative team, it's reassuring to know Doctor Who is still being run by fans. We're so lucky that our favourite show is being looked after by people personally invested in its success.

We're also lucky Andy Pryor still knows how to pick 'em. Jodie Whittaker is wonderful as the Doctor, and although she's yet to be given a really big deep Doctorish moment, I have no doubt she'll deliver when the writers decide to give her one. I have zero doubt that she's the same old Time Lord we know and love, mainly because she feels so fresh and new while also being familiar and effortless. She's different from Capaldi obviously but she's so confident in who her Doctor is that she seems like the natural next step. Also, the way the Twelfth Doctor's arc, culminating in his final speech in Twice Upon a Time about being kind, has clearly influenced Thirteen's personality really sells the transition (I don't know if Chibnall and Whittaker set out to make a kinder Doctor after Capaldi to follow his arc but still, his arc makes it work).

Ryan, Graham, and Yaz are an amazing team of companions. It's so much fun to hang out with them every Sunday. I'm praying to Chibnall that they stay for a good long while. We're only getting 10 episodes this series, so that should mean they can afford to keep the same cast for longer as burn-out is less likely. Also, I just want to see what these characters could become if they were given enough time to develop. When a companion is first pitched to a group of writers, all they have to set the tone is the lead writer's pitch. After the first series of a new companion gets made though, future writers have more to go on because there are episodes with the companion available on DVD, and they can see not only how the previous writers developed that character but how the actor plays them. The best example of this is Clara, who continually grew new layers and become more and more complex and nuanced as more writers wrote for her and as Jenna Coleman played her for longer. Giving Ryan, Graham, and Yaz a second series would improve all of their characters and performances, which is exciting considering how good they already are.

Vinette Robinson also does an amazing job of becoming Rosa Parks here, to the point that it took me longer than it should of for me to recognise her from Sherlock. The location filming in South Africa to create Alabama really paid off and gave us an episode that's stunning to look at, like the rest of Series 11 so far. At time of writing there are still three episodes left to air (The Witchfinders will air in almost exactly 5 hours!) but it's safe to say Rosa will end up in the top half of my overall Series 11 ranking.

Next: Arachnids in the UK