11 Easter Eggs and callbacks in Doctor Who’s Rosa Parks episode

Jodie Whittaker’s third episode tells a powerful story – but it also managed to sneak in a few references for die-hard fans


Generally speaking the new series of Doctor Who has been a little lighter on references to wider Who mythology, with new showrunner Chris Chibnall keen to make the series as accessible as possible to newcomers.


However, series 11’s third episode (which sees the Doctor and co stop a criminal from undoing the civil rights protest of real historical figure Rosa Parks) does drop quite a few references and callbacks for the most dedicated fans to pick up – and these are a few of our favourites.

Warning: from hereon out, we’re dealing with spoilers from Rosa.

The Time Meddler

Classic Who fans might notice that the basic story of this episode bears some similarities to 1965 serial The Time Meddler, which also features a time-traveller hoping to alter history using futuristic technology for his own ends.

We go more into the connections between the two adventures here, but we reckon that the new episode was intended by episode writers Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall as a nice little rework of the old idea  – assuming it’s not just a coincidence, of course.


Alex Kingston as River Song in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Alex Kingston as River Song in Doctor Who (BBC)

The prison where Krasko (Joshua Bowman) was incarcerated has cropped up many times in previous Doctor Who episodes, with Stormcage probably best known as the place River Song (Alex Kingston) was locked up for most of her appearances during the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who.

You can read more about Stormcage and its relationship to River Song here.

Vortex Manipulator

John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator

The time-travel device Krasko uses to journey to 1955 is called a vortex manipulator, and it has a long history in modern Doctor Who.

First appearing in 2005 as the primary mode of transportation for Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), other versions of the wrist-mounted gadget have been used by the Doctor, Missy (Michelle Gomez), Martha (Freema Agyeman), Clara (Jenna Coleman) and River Song herself.

In fact, considering that Krasko says he got hold of the vortex manipulator by bartering at Stormcage, it’s possible he even got it from River secondhand…

The Doctor’s description of the device as “cheap and nasty time travel” is also a direct callback to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, who described the vortex manipulator using the exact same terms in 2010 episode The Big Bang.


At one point the Doctor jokes that she could be elusive graffiti artist Banksy, after Graham (Bradley Walsh) complains about her drawing on a motel room wall.

Later, she’s able to erase the markings using her sonic screwdriver and quips “Banksy doesn’t have one of those… or do I?”

And this isn’t the first time that episode co-writer Chris Chibnall has slipped a Banksy joke into one of his Doctor Who scripts. In 2012’s The Power of Three, it’s mentioned that the artist released a statement saying that the “invasion of the very small cubes” wasn’t one of his works, with illusionist Derren Brown also denying responsibility.

Elements of Banksy also inspired the series’ Bristol-born graffiti artist Rigsy (see video), played by Joivan Wade, who appeared in two Doctor Who episodes that aired between 2014 and 2015.



Another famous figure name-checked in the episode is Elvis Presley, who the Doctor implies is an old friend who she previously lent a mobile phone to.

While Elvis has never appeared in the series proper, the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) were attempting to attend one of his concerts in 2006 episode The Idiot’s Lantern when they accidentally ended up in 1953 north London instead.

Later, in an official tie-in game called Blood of the Cybermen the Eleventh Doctor commented that he’d taught Elvis the guitar, perhaps explaining their later friendship.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra (Getty)
Frank Sinatra (Getty)

And to round out the trio, crooner Frank Sinatra – who the Doctor and Yaz call in a favour with to distract a bus driver – also has some previous Doctor Who experience.

While never seen onscreen, it’s revealed in 2010 Christmas special A Christmas Carol that the Doctor and Frank Sinatra performed a duet at a Hollywood party in 1952, just a few years before this episode is set. Clearly, the pair stayed in touch.

A familiar face

Vinette Robinson in Doctor Who: 42
Vinette Robinson in Doctor Who: 42

Vinette Robinson makes a terrific impact as real-life civil rights hero Rosa Parks in the new episode – but it’s actually not the first time she’s appeared in the Whoniverse.

The actor (probably best known for her role as Sgt Sally Donovan in Sherlock) previously appeared in 2007 episode 42 as Abi Lerner, a medical officer who falls victim to a sentient star that’s possessing a spaceship crew (as you do).

Notably, 42 was also Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall’s first script for the series, and you can read more about Robinson’s earlier Who appearance here.

Perception filter

During the episode the Doctor discovers that Krasko has placed a perception filter over his equipment, and manages to lift it so she can examine the kit.

Perception filters, which hide objects and people from view (while not invisible, they go unnoticed) actually had their first onscreen mention in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, as an explanation for the alien-hunting team’s “invisible lift” entrance to their headquarters.

Since then it’s been confirmed that a perception filter is part of the Tardis’ camouflage (the reason why more people don’t find it strange to see a massive blue police box lying around the place), though it’s unclear whether this was always the case or whether the Doctor installed one later on.

In other episodes, perception filters have been used to hide the Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness and Martha Jones (using Tardis keys), escaped alien prisoners, entire spaceships sitting on top of UK houses and Peter Capaldi and David Bradley’s Doctors in the 2017 Christmas special.

Perception filters have also been known to “filter” certain aliens rather than hiding them entirely, rendering fish-like aliens as vampires to warn others of their danger (in 2010’s The Vampires of Venice) or convincing a couple to love a son they never had (actually an alien child called a Tenza, in 2012’s Night Terrors).

While this is more of a callback than an Easter Egg, it’s nice to see this part of the modern series’ mythology is still alive and well.

Artron energy

The energy that leads the Doctor and her team to Krasko has even longer roots in the series than perception filters, mentioned frequently throughout the classic series and often used to drive storylines in more recent years.

Essentially, Artron energy is a kind of background radiation and mental energy that can be used to power Tardises among other things, and its presence in an area can sometimes be a sign that many time travellers have visited there (for example, in 2014 episode The Caretaker, regular series setting Coal Hill School had such high Artron levels that it attracted alien attention).

Back to the Future

Back to the Future (Netflix, BA)
Back to the Future (Netflix)

Any time-travel story must contend with comparisons to classic movie Back To The Future – and from its 1955 winter setting to its main story beats, we noticed quite a few connections between the 1985 Michael J Fox film and Rosa.

Read here to find out more.

Temporal displacement

Weeping Angels Doctor Who
Krasko’s temporal displacement weapon, while new to the series, bears a marked similarity to the attack of the Weeping Angels, the iconic frozen aliens (who can only move when they’re unobserved) that were first introduced in 2007.

Generally, the Angels deal with their victims by zapping them into the past and feeding off the residual time energy of the days their victims will no longer live in their own timelines. Similarly, Ryan ends the episode by sending Krasko far back in time permanently.

Those are all the Easter Eggs we spotted – but did we miss any? Let us know!

Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sundays


This article was originally published on 21 October 2018