Doctor Who has received significant viewer and critical acclaim for an episode featuring Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) that tackled racism and discrimination.
The show did not hold back in showing racist attitudes. Before meeting Parks, Ryan (Tosin Cole) innocently tried to return a glove to a white couple. He was slapped in the face by her husband and then was then subjected to racist abuse.
Later they were refused service at a restaurant, being told this by the waitress:
Many people pointed out how significant it was that the show was highlighting racism to young audiences...
...and how the episode’s tone was uncomfortable because it needed to be.
The storyline also did not attempt to influence the event, or in any way inspire Rosa for her actions that day.
Rather, they helped protect the circumstances so that the event did happen.
Not only did the episode highlight racist attitudes in the past, they also highlighted how racism continues today. Ryan (Cole) talked about being stopped by police and Yaz (Mandip Gill) opened up about the abuse she has experienced as a Muslim.
Viewers noticed that the language wasn’t toned down at any point, to ensure that racist attitudes both then and now weren’t undermined.
They also contextualised Rosa Parks’s story, highlighting the future difficulties she faced and the continued fight for civil rights.
Notably, this was also the first episode in Doctor Who history to have been written by a person of colour.
It was pointed out how much this episode stood out from other episodes that came before it...
...but also how inclusive Doctor Who has been, and how this show was the place to talk about such issues.
Robinson, who played Parks in the episode, said that she had been “overwhelmed” by the reaction.
It was also pointed out that the episode was aired on the same day as a black woman was racially abused and was made to move on an Ryanair flight.
And at the end of the episode, the Doctor highlighted that Rosa Parks not only changed the world but the “universe”, pointing out an asteroid that has been named after her.
Here is Asteroid 284996: Rosaparks.
Tosin Cole’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.