As a big Doctor Who fan, but not a die-hard Whovian, I was enthralled at the most recent episode: “Rosa”.
Although Doctor Who is usually a science-fiction romp, this particular story was something more than that. It navigated around Rosa Parks’ protest at segregated public transport in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. If you don’t know about Rosa (and you really should), look her up on Google.
Anyway, it’s not the monumental impact that Rosa’s actions triggered which struck me in this particular episode, as I was already familiar with the events that followed. What hit quite hard was the almost claustrophobic atmosphere created. At times I could not help feel I was on the bus.
Ok, the plot had some historical inaccuracies, but it was not a documentary.
I found viewing quite uncomfortable at times. The menace and overt racism of the local “white folks” coupled with the passive acceptance of those on the receiving end were all horrible to witness at such apparent close proximity. I have seen plenty if factual dramas about the battle against racial discrimination, some very blunt with no holds barred in terms of language and violence. Yet, without having to take the show to those extremes, this felt just as hard-hitting as those adult-focused programmes.
The most emotional moment is when the main Doctor Who characters have to refrain from interfering with the events on the bus to prevent history changing: passive witnesses, helpless participants, complicit by their inaction. Truly upsetting.
I think those involved in producing “Rosa” may have shocked people more in less than one hour of viewing than anything that has gone before, certainly for the younger viewers. That, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.
I have written before about prejudices, and how abhorrently they can manifest themselves. We still have lessons to learn from the past so we don’t allow them to be repeated in the future. If an entertainment programme can help, then Who cares?