The TARDIS lands in Montgomery, Alabama mere days before December 1st, 1955, the night on which Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. It’s only after Ryan innocently tries to return a dropped item to a white couple that the time travelers crash into the brutal reality of the racism in this era of American history – and meet Rosa Parks herself. Soon afterward, the Doctor becomes aware that another time traveler is in Montgomery at the same time, something that can’t possibly be a coincidence, and finds herself confronting a man whose preference for a racially-segregated future has led him to try to change history. Ryan attends a meeting at Parks’ home and gets to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while the Doctor, Graham and Yaz put a plan into motion to keep history on the right track to advance the American civil rights movement…but to do that, not only must they derail the scheme of their rival time traveler, they must remain still, and seemingly indifferent to the reality of race in 1955 in America, as they occupy seats about the same bus on the night of Rosa Parks’ arrest.
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Vinette Robinson (Rosa Parks), Joshua Bowman (Krasko), Trevor White (James Blake), Richard Lothian (Mr. Steele), Jessica Claire Preddy (Waitress), Gareth Marks (Police Officer Mason), David Rubin (Raymond Parks), Ray Sesay (Martin Luther King), Aki Omoshaybi (Fred Gray), David Dukas (Elias Griffin Jr.), Morgan Deare (Arthur)
Notes: Vinette Robinson had made a prior appearance in Doctor Who, in the 2007 episode 42 opposite David Tennant’s Doctor; she has also appeared in Black Mirror (Hated In The Nation) and Sherlock. Joshua Bowman has some time travel experience of his own, as Jack the Ripper in the short-lived 2017 TV adaptation of the movie Time After Time. American-born actor Morgan Deare previously appeared opposite Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in the 1987 three-parter Delta And The Bannerman, and in the 2001 Big Finish audio story Minuet In Hell, starring Paul McGann’s Doctor. He has also appeared in Star Cops (another BBC science fiction series produced in 1987) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
As unlikely a topic as Rosa Parks’ arrest might seem for a British science fiction series, the reality is that this historical event had ripples that reached England as well, in particular a boycott of bus service in Bristol, inspired by the boycott following Parks’ 1955 arrest, and arising from the bus company’s refusal to hire non-caucasian drivers or other employees. Unlike the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, the Bristol boycott organized by Paul Stephenson lasted only two months in 1963, and was resolved by the bus company’s hire of its first non-white bus conductor a mere three months before Doctor Who premiered. (This also partly explains Ryan and Yaz’ degree of familiarity with Parks’ role in American history.)
LogBook entry by Earl Green