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Serial Code


First Transmitted

21 October 2018

Final Ratings





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Regular Cast

Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin), Toshin Cole (Ryan), Bradley Walsh (Graham)

Guest Cast

Vinette Robinson (Rosa Parks), Joshua Bowman (Krasko), Trevor White (James Blake), Richard Lothian (Mr Steele), Mason Gareth Marks (Police officer), Ray Sesay (Martin Luther King Jr), Aki Omoshaybi (Fred Gray), David Dukas (Elias Griffin Jr), Morgan Deare (Arthur), Jessica Claire Preddy (Waitress)


Written by Malorie Blackman & Chris Chibnall
Directed by Mark Tonderai
Produced by Nikki Wilson, Adam Friedlander & Alex Mercer


The Doctor takes her companions on their first journey back in time – to the dangerous, racially segregated world of Alabama in the 1950s. They encounterone of the era’s heroes, black civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks, but also discover a plot to change the course of history. Vinette Robinson (Sherlock, The A Word) guest stars in an episode by acclaimed children’s author Malorie Blackman.


It is 1943, Alabama in America. Rosa Parks is boarding a bus on her way home from work. She pays the fee and begins heading to the already crowded back of the bus, where “coloured” people are forced to sit while white people sit at the front. However, the driver stops her, telling Rosa to get off and get on through the back door. Rosa tells the driver she believes that she shouldn’t have to use the front door to pay for her ride, and then get off the bus only to enter through the back door; in short its a waste of time for African-Americans. The driver ignorantly shouts for her to get off, making Rosa lose her grip on her purse. She sits down in the White’s Only section, but only to pick up her purse. She tells the bus driver that he better not hit her. He yells for her to get off the bus. She complies and gets off to use the back door; however, the driver leaves without her.

In 1955, the Thirteenth Doctor lands her TARDIS in Alabama, remarking to Graham, Ryan and Yaz that their location is not Sheffield as planned for the ninth time. Graham corrects her it was the fourteenth attempt. However, The Doctor deduces they have come to their new location – Alabama – as there is artron energy soaking up the city.

Exiting the TARDIS, they wander around, The Doctor scanning the surroundings with her sonic screwdriver for traces of artron. While walking, a woman drops her glove. Ryan notices, picks it up and goes to return it to her. Upon touching her arm, the woman’s husband, Mr Steele, strikes Ryan in the face, warning Ryan not to touch his wife again. The Doctor, Graham and Yaz race to help. Mr Steele insults Ryan, The Doctor recalling the racial discrimination present in America against coloured people. Graham defends Ryan, who remarks he was only returning the glove. Disgusted by Graham being Ryan’s “grandfather”, Steele begins to escalate the situation when a woman interjects, calming the man by promising to have his new suit tailored for him soon. With that, Mr Steele departs with his wife. The group thank her, who proceeds to chide them, telling them how people like Ryan and herself are discriminated, baffled the group do not recall what happened to Emmett Till. She introduces herself as Rosa Parks, much to their hidden amazement.

Rosa leaves, The Doctor quickly scanning her, finding artron energy is flooding around her. Meanwhile, a man in leather finds The Doctor’s TARDIS. Unable to get in, he blasts it with an energy weapon only to find it further shielded. Disgruntled, he leaves it be.

Elsewhere, The Doctor and the gang convene at Slim’s Bar. There, Ryan and Yaz discuss learning about Rosa Parks at school, awed by the fact she refused to give up her seat on a bus on 1 December 1955, resulting in her arrest and the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott, an event that led to the end of racial segregation on public transport in America. Reading a newspaper, The Doctor corrects them that Rosa has yet to commit her act of; the date in question is tomorrow. Concerned, the group wonder what to do. However, Graham notes how silent the diner has become. Looking around, the other customers are staring at them. A waitress walks over, stating to Ryan they don’t serve “negroes” or “Mexicans” (referring to Yaz). Realising the diner also enforces racial segregation, the group leave, disgusted. Ryan complains that he has travelled in time to the one place he is hated most in time.

Searching, the group find hidden technology in a warehouse. Scanning it, The Doctor finds it is from the far future, meaning another time traveller is present. On cue, the man in leather comes in and starts firing at them with his weapon. The group flee outside as materials in the room disappear.

They find that man on top of a fuel tank. The Doctor meets up with him and finds that his “weapon” is a temporal displacement device, a device that sends things forwards or back in time. The man says that she has a TARDIS, a valuable time machine that’s worth a lot of money. The Doctor then points out that he has a vortex manipulator, a human time travel device from the future. The Doctor asks what he wants with Rosa Parks. He lies and pretends to not know who she is. He tells her to get out of Montgomery, or he will kill her. Tranquilly upset, she tells him not to threaten her. They part. When Yaz asks if they are leaving, The Doctor says “Not in a million years.”

The group take refuge at a whites-only motel instead, where The Doctor proceeds to write on the wall to figure out everything they need to know about the incident of Rosa Parks, to Graham’s annoyance. However, they were followed by a police officer, who knocks on the door. Erasing the writing with her sonic and locking Ryan and Yaz in the bathroom (as they are not legally allowed to be there) the officer comes in to search the room as The Doctor and Graham make up a story that they are inventors pitching a new idea while in town as their reason for being there. Unconvinced, the officer enters the bathroom but Ryan and Yaz are gone. Disgruntled, he leaves. Outside the back, Ryan and Yaz are hidden behind a dumpster, both irritated they have to hide because of their skin colour. Ryan remarks how it is worse than back home, where he says he is stopped while driving more than his white friends. Yaz agrees, noting how some people call her a “Paki” wile being a police officer and terrorist for going to a Mosque. The Doctor and Graham return, calling them back in.

They then continue on with their written problems. The Doctor sonics the words back into existence. Graham says that according to Grace, James Blake is the name of the bus driver that demanded that Rosa should give her seat up. They decide to commence Operation: Rosa Parks. Outside, Ryan collects bus timetables. At the same time, Yasmin goes finding an advert for the place that Rosa Parks works at. Travelling on the bus, The Doctor and Graham enter through the whites’ door, while Ryan, to his dismay, goes through the coloureds’ door. Yaz, strangely, is allowed to go through the whites’ door. This makes her question her place in society. Soon, later at night, Rosa comes onto the bus. They do a discussion with her, saying that they are doing market research for bus companies and doing a raffle for it. Rosa says she gets this bus every day, most times. Soon, the bus arrives at Rosa’s stop. Ryan decides to follow her. Graham decides to find James Blake and Yaz decides to find a bus timetable. The Doctor, meanwhile, is ready to find the man from the future she met earlier.

However, Rosa knows that Ryan is behind her. Ryan says that he wants to help. When he is accused of being part of the police or FBI, Ryan counters that if he was, he’d be better at sneaking up and not have a British accent. He also points out that judging by how everyone acts, there aren’t any coloureds working for either. So Rosa asks him one question; “You any good at servin’ coffee?”

Meanwhile, The Doctor meets the man at the bus work shed. The Doctor tricks him into zapping his equipment back to the man’s home time, the 79th century. The Doctor says she identifies his tattoo, saying he was a prisoner of Stormcage, the same prison that The Doctor’s wife was once imprisoned in. The man admits he was in there for massacring 2000 people. It’s then revealed that he has a neural restrictor in his brain, explaining why he couldn’t just kill her. To test it, The Doctor destroys his vortex manipulator. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t strangle her. The Doctor is puzzled on how the man can go about changing history. He says that tiny actions change the world. He introduces himself as Krasko, a name The Doctor doesn’t like. She gives him one warning to go somewhere else and catch a break. He refuses. Both walk off, The Doctor taking the temporal displacement weapon with her.

At Rosa’s home, Ryan meets Rosa’s Youth Council, consisting of Mr. Parks, Fred Gray and, to his amazement, Martin Luther King. In surprise, Ryan says to King that his nan loves him, confusing him slightly until Ryan clarifes that he is referring to his grandmother. Raymond declares that older women love King’s sermons, and that he’ll “never be short of a grey-haired wife in Alabama.” When asked if Grace attends Dexter Avenue, Ryan answers in the negative and explains that she died recently. King he is says sorry for his loss, and Ryan thanks him for his kindness; Grace would have been “chuffed” to know that he said that. Rosa reminds him to make the coffee he said he’d make, which he’s eager to do.

This time being allowed in (due to Yaz and Ryan not being there), Graham goes to Slim’s Bar and finds James Blake. He plays pool with him as they discuss their jobs. Blake is surprised to hear that England doesn’t involve segregation on buses, not knowing he’s talking about the 21st century. James then says that he’s not going to work tomorrow. He’s going fishing at Mill Creek, much to Graham’s confusion. The rota was changed by “a man from the depot”.

Outside Rosa’s house, Ryan says that it’s been good to meet them and he didn’t know what he wanted. He tells Rosa that it’s worth the fight and Ryan thanks her as he leaves, despite Rosa saying she didn’t do anything.

Back in the motel, The Doctor scans the temporal displacement device. Graham gives them information of Blake taking tomorrow off, which didn’t happen. Another bus driver named Elias Griffin Junior is doing it instead. The Doctor then realises that Krasko is not planning on killing Rosa; he’s planning to prevent her arrest and the subseuqent bus boycott, thus preventing the establishment of the civil rights movement. So they have to make sure that James Blake is the one who drives that bus. So they have to get Elias Griffin Jrout of the way and get James Blake back on duty.

Going to Elias Griffin Jr’s house, The Doctor and Yaz congratulate him on “winning” a Raffle of the Century and the prize is an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, and meet Frank Sinatra himself. But he has to leave now, and they his company’s already assigned someone to cover him. A taxi will be coming in 30 minutes, so he and his wife better get packing. Excited, he starts. Leaving, The Doctor says that despite her words, Elvis Presley lent a mobile to Frank Sinatra. They now have to stick to Rosa, so The Doctor tears her coat for Rosa to repair.

At Mill Creek, Graham and Ryan find Blake at the creek. James is horrified at seeing Ryan and is shocked Graham calling Ryan his grandson, but he stops paying attention to that when Graham says that a group of black passengers were planning a sit-in across all the bus routes tonight. Furious, Blake packs up his things and goes back to work. Graham and Ryan then start fishing, but Ryan refuses to fist-bump Graham.

At Rosa’s sewing job, The Doctor hands Rosa her coat and Rosa confirms she’ll fix it right before she closes. Yaz stays behind to keep Rosa company.

Unfortunately, Blake is dismayed that he finds his bus wrecked. Krasko, in disguise, tells him he can go home and his shift is cancelled. Ryan and Graham, nearby, realise that Krasko is one step ahead of them. The Doctor comes to them. She tells Ryan to check every bus stop along Blake’s route and tell the passengers that the bus is coming. Graham stays and decides to get a replacement bus. They pick up James and get him to drive and do his job.

Rosa discusses with Yaz that she originally wanted to be a teacher, but lost her mother and grandmother. So she educated herself. Yaz says it’s worth the fight and she got to be a police officer, to Rosa’s surprise. Then her attention is given to the time; 5:39. Yaz tries to convince her to take the bus, just as Rosa finished fixing The Doctor’s coat.

The Doctor and Graham panic, seeing there aren’t that many white passengers on the bus than there should be. Meanwhile, Ryan is having a difficult time convincing people to wait due to his skin colour. He then runs into Krasko, who is blocking the road with a car. Krasko taunts Ryan, saying that the bus is three passengers short, and therefore “[his] kind” won’t get above themselves. Having enough of Krasko, Ryan pulls out his temporal displacement weapon and sends Krasko as far back through time as he can, stranding him in the distant past. He then moves the carout of the way.

Yaz and Rosa arrive on the bus, giving The Doctor her coat back. Ryan then boards on the front and tell the group what happened to Krasko, before being told by James (ignoring his conversation) to use the coloureds door, which he does. The bus moves on. Graham asks if that’s that. The Doctor counts the white passengers. At the next bus stop, Empire Theatre, people start boarding.

When Graham stands up, a woman sits where he used to. To their confusion, The Doctor says that they can’t leave. Every white person on the bus is seated, except Graham. That’s when they realise that Graham is the passenger that Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up to. Graham, now distressed, says that he doesn’t want to be part of this. But it’s too late. James asks the coloured people to give up their seats. Two black women and a black man move to the back.

However, Rosa, possibly recognising Blake from 1943, just sits back down. James gets up and moves a Whites sign up to the row in front, viciously asking if she’s going to stand up. Rosa says she doesn’t think that she has to. He yells the same question, and she replies with a quiet “no”. James tells her if she doesn’t, she’ll be arrested. After a pause, she says he might as well do that.

Baffled at first, James gets serious and goes over to a telephone kiosk to call the police. Eventually, the police come and take Rosa Parks away. She looks at The Doctor, Yaz and Graham one last time, looking at her devastated, before giving a little nod to them as she leaves to go to prison. She won’t forget them.

Back in the TARDIS, The Doctor explains to her companions that on December 5, the boycotts begin. Across Montgomery, people refuse to use the buses as a response to Rosa’s arrest. On December 21, 1956, segregation on buses in Montgomery was banned. However, life was still hard on Rosa, as she and her husband both lost their jobs in response to what happened on the bus, but despite this they never gave up their fight. In June 1999, Rosa received the Congressional Medal from Bill Clinton, the highest award given to any civilian, recognising Rosa Parks as a living icon for freedom. Ryan was sad it took her whole life, but The Doctor adds that while she changed the world, she also changed the universe. To prove it, she opens the TARDIS doors to reveal… Asteroid 284996, nicknamed Rosaparks. The group look at it in amazement.



    The Doctor has lent a mobile phone to Elvis, who in turn lends the device to Frank Sinatra, against The Doctor’s wishes.
    The Doctor teases herself as the identity of Banksy.
    Yaz is revealed to be of Pakistani descent. The waitress at Slim’s Bar thinks she’s Mexican.
    The body of Emmett Till was found in a river in Mississippi.
    Graham identifies himself under the false name of Steve Jobs to a policeman.
    Krasko was imprisoned at the Stormcage Containment Facility.


    Yaz states that 53 years in the future, America will have a black leader as president.
    The Doctor and friends arrive on Wednesday, 30 November 1955, one day before Rosa Parks made history. On Thursday, 1 December, she refuses to give up her seat, and Rosa is arrested for sitting in a “whites only” section of the bus.
    The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins on the following Monday, 5 December 1955.
    On 21 December 1956, the racial segregation of buses in Montgomery ends.
    The Civil Rights Movement was led by Martin Luther King.
    In 1999, Bill Clinton gives Rosa Parks the Congressional Medal of Honor for her services to the advancement of black people’s rights in America.
    Based on the device’s settings, The Doctor thinks that Krasko sent his suitcase to the 79th century with his displacement weapon.


    Yaz has previously been called a “Paki” and a “terrorist”.
    Black people are often referred to, in 1955 Alabama, as “negroes” or “coloureds”.


    Dr King is the minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
    The stop where Rosa is arrested is by the Empire Theatre.
    The TARDIS lands in an alley next to Jefferson Drug Store.
    The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan visit Slim’s Bar, part of Kimberley Hotel.
    The group stay at Sahara Springs Motel.
    The cover of a Montgomery City Lines Inc. bus timetable shows stops Bainbridge St. and Cleveland Ave..
    An August 1954 telephone directory lists phone numbers for parts of Montgomery, including the areas of Young Place, Greenacres, Ridgefield and Hillwood.
    A map of Montgomery shows that it is located on the Alabama River.
    The Doctor tells Elias Griffin Jr he’s won an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, to see Frank Sinatra.
    The Doctor takes her companions to see Asteroid 284996, named Rosaparks.


    Goods advertised outside Slim’s Bar include Pressburg, RPW Motor Oils, and Sampson Liquors.


    Krasko has a vortex manipulator and a temporal displacement weapon.
    He also keeps an information brick, a multi-intercepting surveillance device, and a backup charger for the displacement gun, in his suitcase.
    Krasko recognises The Doctor’s “blue box” in the alley as a TARDIS, and thinks that it might be worth a lot of money.
    After Stormcage, Krasko had a neural restricter implanted into his brain, preventing the criminal from inflicting harm on others.
    Graham claims he and The Doctor are pitching a 21st century mobile phone as an invention.


  • Rosa was the third episode of season 11.
  • Krasko has a vortex manipulator. (Utopia) The Doctor comments that it is “cheap and nasty time travel”, resembling her eleventh incarnations view of the device. (The Big Bang) Missy also referred to it as such. (The Magician’s Apprentice)
  • Krasko was imprisoned in the Stormcage Containment Facility. River Song was also imprisoned there. (Flesh and Stone/The Time of Angels, The Pandorica Opens, The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, A Good Man Goes To War)
  • Ryan recalls his grandmother, Grace O’Brien’s, death. (The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
  • Yaz remarks on how dangerous it is for her and Ryan to walk around Alabama given their racial ethnicity.
  • Martha Jones held similar reservations in Elizabethan England, (The Shakespeare Code) as did Bill Potts in the Regency era. (Thin Ice)
  • The Doctor mentions how the TARDIS feeds on artron energy. (Four to Doomsday, The Doctor’s Wife)
  • The Doctor remarks how she intended to return GrahamRyan and Yaz to Sheffield. (The Ghost Monument)
  • The TARDIS shows events from history in a similar way to the Time-Space Visualiser. (The Chase)
  • The Doctor is still not used to being addressed as a woman. (The Woman Who Fell to Earth, The Ghost Monument)
  • Yaz remarks on how years later there is a black president. (The End of Time)
  • Graham discovers he was a part of the original history of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, similar to how Donna Noble and the Tenth Doctor became part of events when causing the volcanic eruption at Pompeii. (The Fires of Pompeii)
  • This episode came with a warning on iPlayer subtitles that: “In this episode, there are familiar prejudices to face for The Doctor’s friends.”
  • Rosa, along with The Ghost Monument, was filmed in South Africa in January 2018, with Out of Africa Entertainment, a local production company.
  • This was the first televised story since The Day of the Doctor in 2013 to feature a real world historical figure.
  • The episode didn’t feature The Doctor Who theme over the ending credited, replacing it instead with “Rise Up” by Andra Day, the same song used in the sequence of Rosa’s arrest. It is the second episode to not feature The Doctor Who theme in the ending credited, following Part Fourof Earthshock.
  • The Doctor has encountered time travellers attempting to alter history before. (The Time Meddler)
  • Graham refers to The Doctor as “Doc” several times. Unlike her first, (The Five Doctors) ninth, (The Doctor Dances) and tenth incarnations (Dreamland) the Thirteenth Doctor does not seem annoyed by the abbreviation.
  • Ryan’s response when told that the diner doesn’t serve “negroes” is “Good, because I don’t eat them”, a quote from the real life Muhammad Ali.

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