Blogtor Who takes a look at Vinette Robinson, one of the guest stars in this week’s episode of Doctor WhoRosa.

Born in Bradford in 1981, Vinette Robinson trained at London’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. Following early roles in Children’s WardCold Feet and the Mike Leigh film Vera Drake, she has since embarked on a career which has seen her win theatre awards and appear in some of the country’s biggest dramas.

With Rosa, Robinson makes her third appearance in the world of Doctor Who – read on to discover more about her past with the show as well as even more career highlights…

“Burn With Me”

With Rosa, Robinson joins a growing list of names who have appeared in Doctor Who in more than one role, including Freema Agyeman, Mark Gatiss and Karen Gillan – and of course former Doctors Colin Baker and Peter Capaldi!

Robinson’s first foray into the Doctor Who universe came over ten years ago with the Series 3 story 42. In the 2007 episode – written by current showrunner Chris Chibnall – the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha (Freema Agyeman) find themselves trapped on the SS Pentallion, a spaceship hurtling towards a sun and certain doom.

Robinson played the ship’s medic, Abi Lerner, who valiantly attempts to make sense of the transformation undergone by her fellow crew member, Korwin – with ultimately tragic consequences…

Doctor Who Series 3 - Episode 7: 42 - Abi Lerner (Vinette Robinson) - (c) BBC
Doctor Who Series 3 – Episode 7: 42 – Abi Lerner (Vinette Robinson) – (c) BBC

Those wishing to re-familiarise yourselves with Robinson’s earlier turn in Doctor Who are in luck; 42 – as well as every other episode to have aired since the show’s 2005 return – is currently available on BBC iPlayer.

Doctor Who: You Are The Doctor and Other Stories - (c) Big Finish Productions
Doctor Who: You Are The Doctor and Other Stories – (c) Big Finish Productions

Robinson’s second Doctor Who role came courtesy of Big Finish in 2015, with the audio anthology You Are The Doctor and Other Stories.

The collection of four stories starred the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred), and also featured Robinson as Cynthia Quince in the final story of the set, Dead to the World by Matthew Elliott:

Tourist spaceship the Daedalus hangs suspended in space, all but three of its passengers having fallen victim to a bizarre infection. But if the Doctor saves those last survivors, he risks destroying the entire human race.

The Two Doctors – And Their Wife

Outside of Doctor Who, Robinson’s connections to the show continue. The BBC One drama series The A Word features Robinson as Nicola, the aunt of Joe, a young boy diagnosed with autism – whose grandfather is played by none other than Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston.

In 2007 Robinson appeared briefly in the BBC political series Party Animals – starring a pre-Doctor Who Matt Smith in one of his first major television roles.

A couple of years later found her playing a lead part alongside Smith’s on-screen wife, Alex Kingston, in Hope Springs. Robinson starred with the River Song actress, as well as Christine Bottomley (Torchwood) and Sian Reeves (Cutting It) in the BBC comedy-drama about four female ex-cons lying low in a quiet Scotland village, following a multi-million pound robbery.

From ‘Hopeless Hopewell’ To Sergeant Sally

As well as Hope Springs, 2009 also marked an appearance for Robinson in the BBC school drama Waterloo Road. Newly-qualified English teacher Helen Hopewell started her new job with enthusiasm, but quickly found herself the centre of a hate campaign by the pupils, led by Amy Porter (Ayesha Gwilt):

Hot on the heels of Waterloo Road came the hit BBC series Sherlock, created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous consulting detective. Robinson has made occasional appearances as DS Sally Donovan, a colleague of Lestrade who takes a strong dislike to Sherlock and his unconventional methods:

Amongst Robinson’s other numerous television credits are Casualty, Doctors, Death in Paradise, Hustle, Murphy’s Law, and the Black Mirror story Hated in the Nation.

Stage Star

As well as TV, Robinson has proven herself an accomplished theatre actor. One of her first stage roles was in the 2004 Complicite/National Theature production of Measure for Measure, in a cast led by David Troughton as the Duke. She followed this up with a role in the Frank McGuiness play Speaking Like Magpies as part of the RSC’s ‘Gunpowder’ season, as well as parts in a stage adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Tanika Gupta’s Sugar Mummies.

Later theatre roles for Robinson saw her garner accolades. A role in 2011’s Tender Napalm by Phillip Ridley saw her win Best Female at the Offie Awards – celebrating the best of Off-West End theatre – whilst she won the Clarence Derwent Award for her performance as Ophelia in the Young Vic’s production of Hamlet that same year.

Most recently, Robinson was one of a trio of women to portray the lead role in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play Emilia. Featuring an all-female cast, the play charts the life of Emilia Bassino, the British poet speculated to be the ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets but also a groundbreaking feminist writer in her own right. Emilia ran at Shakespeare’s Globe throughout August this year and was critically acclaimed, with WhatsOnStage describing it as ‘an outright feminist triumph‘.

What’s Next?

Future screen projects for Robinson include A Family Vacation, an upcoming French-American drama. The film, which enters production this month, tells the story of three generations of the same family grappling with a life-changing experience over one day whilst on holiday in Portugal. A Family Vacation also stars Isabelle Huppert, Marisa Tomei and Greg Kinnear, and is directed by Ira Sachs.

Other films in the pipeline for Robinson include thriller The Dead Ones, set in a world where victims haunt their killers, and black comedy Ilkley, in which two hapless evangelicals are tasked with killing a controversial secularist at a Yorkshire literary festival.

Rosa

So, what do we know about who Vinette Robinson’s latest Doctor Who role?

In Rosa the Doctor and her friends take a trip back to 1995 where in Montgomery, Alabama, they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks.

Doctor Who Series 11 - Episode 3 - Rosa - VINETTE ROBINSON - (C) BBC / BBC Studios - Photographer: Coco Van Oppens
Doctor Who Series 11 – Episode 3 – Rosa – VINETTE ROBINSON – (C) BBC / BBC Studios – Photographer: Coco Van Oppens

Robinson plays the iconic civil rights campaigner, famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger at a time when users of public transport were segregated by race.

But as the Doctor and her friends begin to wonder whether someone is trying to change history, will Rosa Parks’ momentous protest still come to pass?

Doctor Who Series 11 continues with Rosa on Sunday 21st October, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yaz, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Bradley Walsh as Graham. Rosa is co-written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall and is directed by Mark Tonderai.

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