The Spirit of Rosa by Samantha Harden

 “I have a duty of care.” These words spoken so often by the 12th Doctor are what immediately spring to mind when I reflect over this week’s episode of Who. So many, myself firmly included, have waited so long for this episode; not “Rosa” specifically, but any story which addresses the history and culture of people of color, written by someone who can authentically tell it, and this week after a grueling 55 year wait, Whovians of color finally got their first taste of what that could be. In the weeks leading up to “Rosa” I found myself nervous, but overwhelmingly optimistic in anticipation of this story, because, as the saying goes, after waiting all this time, it has to be good, right? Even so, when I finally found myself sitting down for a borderline religious viewing session, my stomach was gripped with nerves.

     Upon finishing it, I was a little baffled with myself; I definitely liked it, it was Doctor Who and therefore automatically enjoyable to me, but I didn’t feel the immediate warmth that floods over me with reckless abandon, as with so many instant favorites before it. My initial reaction was disappointment, three quarters with myself for not being uncomplicatedly enthused. See, I’d latched on to one part of the episode more strongly than the rest; the main conflict lies in the fact that Krasko and the TARDIS team believe that “nudging” history just enough so Rosa doesn’t commit her act of civil disobedience that day, would completely topple the Civil Rights Movement. “Parks won’t be asked to stand, she won’t protest, and your kind won’t get above themselves.”


     Growing up in the South, I’d spent a lot of time learning about the efforts of the NAACP and all of the work that went into organizing the Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement. As a bit of an organizational mess myself, I was always in awe of their tireless dedication in pursuit of equality, which is why I think this erroneous assumption hit me so hard. Even if Rosa hadn’t “sat her ground” that day, the Boycott would have eventually taken place. Tensions were incredibly high, many women had done what Rosa did that day before, but she made an excellent icon because she was a paragon of the Black community. This fact does not in any way make her less of an important figure however, in fact it is because of the activism she and other members of the NAACP did previous to that fateful December night that the Boycott was able to create such an impact, despite lasting over a year, through the hot Montgomery summer months. However upon a second viewing of the episode I was struck by this thought; even taking into account the writers’ knowledge of the work of the NAACP, the belief that Rosa was the key to the CRM doesn’t ring as outlandish for either our “Space Racist”, the TARDIS Team, or even the Doctor herself to have. So often people, even those in marginalized groups themselves, don’t realize or acknowledge all the thought, planning, and persistence that goes into the mere right of existing as an equal in a society structure that’s stacked against you.

     Hit with that thought my stomach unknotted, and though I had noticed it before, I was able to completely appreciate all of the earnest care that went into this story.  Aside from a single off color joke Yaz makes about using Ryan as a piñata (maybe not the best laugh to have in an episode where the threat of lynching is constantly hung above Ryan like Damocles’ Sword), Yaz and Ryan really do feel like old school mates reunited. I enjoyed their amiable banter in quiet moments as they allowed themselves to relax, alien threats less pressing, and the earth familiar and solid beneath their feet. The Doctor is wholly kind and encouraging, proving with every passing moment that after years of work she can now effortlessly be the best version of herself.


     Though as a Southern American I found the levity with which they all strode off the TARDIS more than a little alarming, in context it makes perfect sense; I doubt even Martha or Bill would be as concerned about visiting the comparatively more modern era of the American 50s. One would think that segregation doesn’t hold a candle to slavery, however the reality of the danger involved in such a trip for three quarters of young Black men could hardly be stated to be much less. The message still doesn’t seem to quite hit home with them though, as following their disturbing encounter, they still act with little regard for the basic rules around them (shocker, I know), at the risk of Ryan and Yaz’s safety.  The Doctor has never had to navigate the nuances of privilege before this series and I am so looking forward to the day when she does not possess the advantage of fair skin, opening the possibilities for some wonderfully intriguing storytelling. All the Doctor does is make waves, how will they operate when their non-compliance could derail history?

     More than anything else however, the great triumph of this episode comes down to Rosa herself. Her portrayal was so incredibly honest and heartfelt. Unlike so many larger than life historical figures before her, Rosa is wonderfully grounded and three dimensional; the smallest amount of time spent with her left me with a feeling of immense calm. Her quiet fierceness and kindness shines in every scene, her activism is neither forgotten nor overshadowed, opening the door for curious viewers to learn more and be inspired by her efforts*. Leaving this episode, you feel as if you’ve met the real Ms. Parks, and you are all the better for it.


As much as this episode is overdue, it is also extremely timely. Today when we’re faced with so much political chaos, with some scrambling to mask injustice with the guise of legality (as Blake said, “Law’s a law”), it is so very important to remember how far we’ve come in such a short span of time, and how far we have yet to go. It’s encouraging to know that her story will inspire a whole new generation of fans. In the end the message is clear; never let anyone silence you, go on with the spirit of Rosa.

[i]   In addition to being secretary for the NAACP, Rosa spent years dedicated to registering Black voters in the face of deliberately discriminatory registration laws 

Learn more about Rosa and the Civil Rights Movement

‘Before Rosa Parks there was Claudette Colvin’

Missed In History Podcast: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott pt 1

Missed In History Podcast: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott pt 2

Eyes On The Prize – (Part 1) Awakenings 1954–1956

Written by Sam, who you can follow on Twitter and Instagram.

What did you think of Rosa? Let us know by tweeting us @thetimeladies_ or emailing us at

Why Exclusive Spaces Should Be Inclusive: Gender Equity in Doctor Who

Since starting this all-female Doctor Who blog, it’s fair to say we’ve taken a lot of flak from all corners of the fandom. Our aim for The Time Ladies and its accompanying podcast and social media channels is to raise the voices of women in a community where there is a significantly large male-to-female ratio, particularly within positions of influence. 

A lot of people have argued over the ‘exclusivity’ of our space because we only feature female contributors. One argument in particular is that we’re creating the complete opposite of equality –actually encouraging the gap between men and women, and widening it. 

This is untrue. Let’s take a wider look at gender equity. 

Even if men and women were given the exact same opportunities, it does not equal equality of the outcome. This is why we need gender equity, a strategy that seeks to create the outcome of gender equality.

Imagine: three people all from different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and sexualities. Now imagine them all standing on boxes, reaching high into the sky to get fruit (opportunities), from the trees. If we were to place them all on equally sized boxes and therefore giving them ‘equal’ opportunity to reach the fruit, the outcome would obviously not be the same for everyone.


The inequality we see in this analogy is due to deeply rooted systemic inequalities in power; meaning men are naturally privileged in comparison to women just for being born male. The same also goes for white women being more privileged than women of colour, heterosexual women being more privileged than someone who is LGBTQ+, and so on.

In order to reach equality, we must boost minorities and under-privileged people to the same level. The boxes must be raised in order for them to reach the fruit. In the example of The Time Ladies, we must bring women up to the same level as men. So, by this logic we have to give women, LGBTQ+ women, and women of ethnic minorities opportunity and safe spaces in order to work towards gaining fairness and equality.

This is where the term ‘empowerment’ comes into play. By creating an all-female space, we are raising the voices of passionate women, changing the community and bringing everyone together equally. We can develop ourselves and other women’s agency, relations and structures. This needs to happen across all communities, and most definitely in the Doctor Who community, despite many believing otherwise.


This is why it is necessary to make a big deal out of a female Doctor. Across 54 years of the show, 13 actors have played the lead character, and even though there have been female Time Lords for decades as accompanying characters, there is no denying that there is a running theme with 13 white men playing the main part. The Doctor is an alien who can regenerate into anyone, so being a woman shouldn’t be a big deal in the show. In the real world however, it is a huge step in the direction of seeing equality on our television screens and should most definitely be celebrated.

Just because the Doctor is a woman, doesn’t mean inequality and sexism isn’t a problem within the Doctor Who community. A lot of men try to say this isn’t true, but I’m afraid they’re not opening their eyes to the topics in the tree analogy, and are also not on the receiving end of it.

Be open to people when they say they’re feeling unfairly treated or put down, they’re saying it for a reason. And for now, we will carry on being an female-led space which everyone can enjoy.