I have concerns.
I’m sure we’ve all seen the proposal for an episode of Doctor Who with Anne Frank. It’s been floating around Facebook and the like for a few years now. If you’ve not read it, then all you need to know is that it takes the life and positive outlook of a very brave little girl and makes it about the Doctor and his/her travels.
In doing so it undermines Anne Frank’s experiences and outlook. Utterly and disgracefully. This is a young woman who has come to represent a whole generation that were persecuted, brutalised and murdered by their oppressors. In my opinion, trying to take any of that away from her is showing a complete and total lack of context for her life.
But I digress.
The reason I bring this up is that I believe it illustrates the line that Doctor Who should never cross. The Doctor can and has messed around in the lives of Charles Dickens, Emperor Nero, Mary Shelley, Doc Holiday, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Marie Curie, William Shakespeare, and many, many more. They’re fair game. I still have reservations about Let’s Kill Hitler, but that’s a whole other article.
Anne Frank and her diary is a part of history that needs to be held in reverence and the lessons learned never forgotten. I’m always heartened to see fans argue as much whenever this particular idea pops on my feed, though I’d be much happier if it didn’t appear at all.
Which brings us to Rosa, the third episode of Doctor Who Series 11.
Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat for a white passenger on the bus was the defining moment in a life dedicated to pursuing equal rights in America. It wasn’t her first act of rebellion and it wouldn’t be her last. What it would be, however, is the one she was remembered for. A bus boycott followed in the wake of her arrest and, after that, the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Group that elected a young minister by the name of Martin Luthor King as its President.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of that one single act of defiance and everything that followed on from it. In my head I can hear the Seventh Doctor talking about ripples in a café in Shoreditch.
My concern is that Rosa might take away from the bravery that Rosa Parks displayed that day. If she’s inspired by the Doctor, or by the future represented by any of his companions, then it takes away from the enormity of her actions, the single act of defiance in a sea of oppression. If she makes that decision knowing what comes from it, it’s not really a decision at all. And Rosa Parks deserves better than that.
But my concerns may very well be unfounded. After all, Rosa is being co-written by Malorie Blackman, whose award winning Noughts and Crosses series has been tackling the issues of racism since 2007. There’s an incredibly good chance that Blackman has a better grasp on this particular portion of history than this self-confessed middle-aged white man.
But my 7 year old daughter has just discovered Rosa Parks and Anne Frank and is in absolute awe of them. I would hate for anyone or anything to take that away from her.
Even the Doctor.