Why A Recent Episode Of 'Doctor Who' Is Getting Praise For Being So 'Uncomfortable'

"The tears are real."

Most episodes of Doctor Who get fans fired up, but the most recent episode is doing that and so much more. The episode from October 21, titled "Rosa," is earning praise from folks online for how it handled some tough conversations about race.

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The premise of the episode was simple: The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions — Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), and Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) — find themselves in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. As the episode's title suggests, they must stop a criminal from the future who has come back in time to stop Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson) from making history by refusing to give up her seat on a bus — a simple move that started a revolution.

Before getting into how the episode brilliantly handled race, we would be remiss to not point out that it was written by Doctor Who's new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, and Malorie Blackman, the first Black woman to write an episode of the series.

Within the episode, there are numerous moments when race is tackled in ways that are honest and push the conversation forward. Both Ryan and Yasmin are discriminated against during the episode, with the former threatened with lynching because he was a Black man interacting with a White woman and the latter being referred to as a Mexican despite the actress who plays her being of Indian heritage. The two even share a poignant scene when they talk about how they've been raised to act a certain way and compare different ways they've been treated differently from White people. Not only this, but the degree to which they are non-White is explored when Yasmin is able to sit at the front of the buses while Ryan is forced to the back.

As for how The Doctor — our first female Time Lord — factors in, we constantly hear apologies from her for how Ryan and Yasmin are treated in the episode and, at one point, is so worried about their safety that she tells them "it's easier for me here." It's this ability to be self-aware that she is able to move about freely despite how her friends are treated that shows a real understanding of the situation — likely thanks to Blackman's influence with the script.

The other great thing about the episode is how, while they're trying to make sure that Parks is able to fulfill her destiny, they never let The Doctor live up to the "White savior" trope and completely save the day. It is stressed that they are only there to simply make it so that Parks is able to do make that defiant and history-making decision. They cannot interfere with history, just simply make sure that it can go off without a hitch (and while Andra Day's "Rise Up" plays, of course).

There's a real sense that the events that unfold in "Rosa" mean a lot to Ryan and Yasmin, with a speech from The Doctor at the end detailing exactly the impact Parks — and Martin Luther King Jr. (who is also in the episode) — had on history. It's truly the end to a perfect episode and Twitter was set ablaze with tweets saying exactly that.

Let's hope for more episodes of Doctor Who — and other shows — like this one.

(H/T: Twitter)

Cover image: Coco Van Oppens / BBC / BBC America | BBC / BBC America

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