The latest Doctor Who episode saw Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her team land in 1955 Alabama, where they ran into historical icon Rosa Parks and an evil time traveller determined to halt the Civil Rights movement in its tracks.
Rosa ends up being one of Who’s most moving episodes, and by the story’s end you may have a tear in your eye – but you might also have a few burning questions about what happened, what might be coming next and how the plot ties into the real history it’s drawn from.
Read on below to get our thoughts (and attempts at some answers) about the biggest mysteries of Rosa…
Is the Doctor Banksy?
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)
“You ain’t Banksy!” Graham tells the Doctor after she starts drawing on the wall of a motel room. “Or am I?” she asks. After erasing the markings using her sonic screwdriver, she quips “Banksy doesn’t have one of those…or do I?”
So could the Doctor be Banksy? Put it this way, if you were an elusive street artist who wanted to materialise unseen anywhere at any time to paint a mural, then disappear again without a trace, you could do a lot worse than having a Tardis.
This is not the first time Banksy has been mentioned in Doctor Who, though. Back in 2012, when Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall was a mere writer for the show, his episode The Power of Three saw the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory on Earth investigating an “invasion of very small cubes” and featured a statement from Banksy assured the public it wasn’t one of his works. Does that rule out the Doctor and Banksy being one and the same person? Perhaps. Then again, we wouldn’t put it past the Doctor to enjoy a private joke with himself even in the middle of trying to save the world…
Stormcage Containment Facility is the maximum security prison where Krasko did his time and where River Song was sentenced to 12,000 consecutive life sentences for the murder of the Doctor. As we explain below, there’s even a chance that she and Krasko met there.
What is a vortex manipulator – and where have we seen it before?
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator
The device used by Krasko to journey to 1955 in an attempt to sabotage Rosa Parks’s historic stand against racial segregation is, in the words of the Doctor, “cheap and nasty time travel”. The Time Lord has used that exact phrase twice, in Rosa but also during his Eleventh incarnation in 2010 episode The Big Bang. The Eleventh Doctor also sneeringly called the vortex manipulator a “space hopper” to his “sports car” the Tardis – but it seems one reason for the Doctor’s dislike of vortex manipulators is that he was once addicted to using them, having admitted to being a “40-a-day” man.
Vortex manipulators were used by Time Agents and one first appeared in Doctor Who attached to the wrist of a certain Captain Jack Harkness. You might think the chances of Krasko’s being the very same device are miniscule but Krasko mentioned that he bartered for it while serving time in maximum security prison Stormcage, the same facility where River Song was once incarcerated. River herself owned a vortex manipulator bought from Dorium Maldovar – who had in turn taken it “off the wrist of a handsome time agent”…
Why didn’t Krasko just zap Rosa into the past?
Given that Krasko (Joshua Bowman) has a temporal displacement weapon able to send people into the past, viewers might wonder why he doesn’t just use it to take Rosa Parks out of history altogether.
However, later in the episode it’s suggested that due to the violence-suppressing chip in his head, even this act is impossible for him, which is why he tries to derail her bus protest in another way.
And this has us wondering – if he can’t use it on anyone, why bother having such a rare, power-hungry and unreliable weapon? Sure, he can intimidate people with it a bit, but a normal gun would probably do that and have been a lot easier to acquire.
Plus, the temporal displacement weapon rather backfires on Krasko in the end…
Will Krasko be back?
Krasko (Joshua Bowman) faces off with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) – BBC
Towards the end of this week’s episode, Ryan (Tosin Cole) uses Krasko’s own temporal displacement weapon to send him back in time, zapping him out of the episode handily.
“Mate – you’re living in the past,” Ryan says.
“In fact, you like living in the past that much, so why don’t you stay there?”
From this point on Krasko is entirely gone from the story, which leads us to wonder – is his temporal displacement setting up a return for the character?
As it lands in the episode it feels like quite an anti-climactic end for him, and it’s specifically noted that Ryan changes the settings on the temporal displacement weapon from the far future to the past. Why note that if it wasn’t important?
All of this could point to Krasko’s return at some point – especially if the Tardis team travel further back in history, as they’re slated to do in an upcoming witch-themed episode – to face off with our heroes again.
On the other hand, Krasko’s explicitly racist villainy in this episode might not translate as well to further stories, and it could just be that Ryan zapping him into the past was intended as a sign that he was stranded permanently, unable to access time-travel technology that might be available in the far future.
Unless, of course, it’s supposed to suggest something else entirely…
Classic Who fans may note that the basic storyline of Rosa bears some similarities to The Time Meddler, a 1965 serial starring William Hartnell’s Doctor that also saw a time-traveller from the future aiming to alter historical events for his own ends in 1066.
Pretty darn accurate, we have to say, especially when it comes to Parks’s pivotal bus protest at the end of the episode. Some of the lines the actors speak in that scene are actually word-for-word what was reportedly said on the day in 1955, while the events themselves are very closely followed.
And yes, that scene right at the start of the episode when Parks was kicked off a bus in 1943 really did happen, and it WAS the same bus driver who did it, unlikely as that may seem.
This episode takes place a little while after episode two, with Graham (Bradley Walsh) noting that the Tardis team have had 14 unplanned stops in their quest to find their way back to Sheffield.
Accordingly, the they’ve managed to find a fresh change of clothes in that time, but this has us wondering – where did the Doctor find a different-coloured variation of her T-shirt?
The dark blue and rainbow version she wore in the first two episodes was picked up at a Sheffield charity shop, before she was transported far away without carrying any possessions – so did the Tardis just happen to have a similar design in the wardrobe? Does the new control panel include a clothing replicator?
Or were a few of those 14 stops to different intergalactic rummage sales so the Doctor could try to find a matching shirt, and the best she could manage was this new burgundy effort? We demand answers.
Why is there so much bartering in this series?
Slightly random thought, but for two episodes in a row Doctor Who has included people getting their hands on alien tech through a barter system – first Angstrom and Epzo in The Ghost Monument’s intergalactic race, and now Krasko from inside Stormcage (where he acquired his vortex manipulator).
Who knows? Maybe some evil bartering monster is due to emerge by the end of the series…
Andra Day’s moving and emotional Rise Up was the song that ended the episode on a triumphant note as we saw footage of the real Rosa Parks being officially recognised for her part in the Civil Rights movement, and as the Doctor opened the Tardis doors to reveal the asteroid named after her.