Doctor Who returns with “Rogue”, its sixth episode of the season and the final one before the two-part finale.  he Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) are full-on cos-playing a “Bridgeton” moment.

Set in 1813 Regency-era England, the Doctor and Ruby are at a lavish ball hosted by the Duchess of Pemberton (Indira Varma). The time-travelling duo are enjoying themselves thanks to some elaborate period costumes and witty characters donning period costumes and engaging in witty banter. However, things quickly take a darker turn when the Doctor and Ruby discover that the ball is infiltrated by the Chuldur, an alien species of shapeshifters who assume the identities of their victims. We can’t help but think “They Keep Killing Suzie” as the Duchess reaches her demise.

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Rogue,James Pardon Doctor Who. Gibson stands in a yellow regency era ballgown, her hair up, looking sophisticated
Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Rogue,James Pardon

But the Chuldur are not the party’s only “alien” infiltrators. The Doctor quickly notices Rogue (Jonathan Groff), a charming and enigmatic bounty hunter on a mission to capture the Chuldur. The two characters, initially at odds, fall into a mutual attraction that leads to a romantic development for the Doctor.

Rogue’s appearance resonates with a familiar tone. He hits all the same notes as Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), complete with the same square ray gun as the head of Torchwood 5. While Rogue’s cloaked, time-travelling vessel is not identical to the Captain’s ship, it certainly touches another memory from the Eccleston era.

As the episode progresses, Rogue and the Doctor work together to thwart the Chuldur’s plans, culminating in Rogue’s self-sacrifice to save Ruby and ensure the Chuldur’s defeat.

Bridgeton Influences

The costumes and conversation aren’t the only Regency-era components. “Rogue” leans heavily into its “Bridgerton” influences with the use of orchestral covers of modern pop songs in “Bridgerton’s” signature style. Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” is heard as Rogue appears at the ball. As Ruby battles the Chuldur with the assistance of her Strictly/Battle mode Matrix earrings, Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is heard.

The Return of Indira Varma and Kylie Minogue

India “Doctor Who” universe as the Duchess of Pemberton, a far cry from her previous role as Suzie Costello in “Torchwood.”

Doctor Who; Rogue,The Duchess (INDIRA VARMA), Lord Barton (PAUL FORMAN),BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon
Doctor Who; Rogue,The Duchess (INDIRA VARMA), Lord Barton (PAUL FORMAN),BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon

While she has had more well-known recent roles (Tala Durith in Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi), we can’t help but be thrilled at the return of the actor who portrayed Torchwood’s Suzie Costello. Her performance as the aristocratic and later sinister Duchess is captivating.

Kylie Minogue’s song “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is also featured in a memorable scene where the Doctor and Rogue bond, further linking the episode to previous “Doctor Who” lore. This scene adds a nostalgic touch and serves as a fun Easter egg for long-time fans.

The Mysterious Doctor in the Parade of Doctors

In an intriguing sequence on Rogue’s spaceship, the computer displays several images of the Doctor’s past incarnations. The lineup includes all Fourteen, along with the Fugitive and War Doctors. But what is surprising is the inclusion of a new mysterious new face – that appears to be Richard E Grant. Apart from Comic Relief’s The Curse of the Fatal Death, this new Doctor has never been seen before, and it opens up a plethora of questions about the Time Lord’s history and future. Whether this new face will appear in future episodes adds an intriguing layer of mystery to the episode and leaves fans eagerly anticipating future revelations.

The Episode Changes Everything

Russell T Davies has commented on how this episode changes everything for the Doctor. This episode is not that revolutionary. It has been established for several years that the Doctor can be male or female and, in some ways, neither. He/she/they have been attracted to men, women and many other species numerous times.   Once we established that this Doctor was gay, it was natural that a same-sex romance would follow. Just as the Master (John Simms) regeneration into Missy (Michelle Gomez) would eventually result in a female Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). Neither event is surprising or shocking.

The most significant moments in this episode are the full-blown same-sex kiss between the Doctor and Rogue and the Doctor’s flirtatious and highly sex-infused dancing to Kylie Minogue for Rogue. Let’s recap these items.

This isn’t our first time seeing the Doctor in a same-sex kiss. The Ninth Doctor and Captain Jack famously kissed in The Parting of Ways. The Eleventh Doctor kissed Rory in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) almost kissed before they parted.   The difference in this episode is the intent of the kiss.

ogue (JONATHAN GROFF) in Rogue,,BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon
ogue (JONATHAN GROFF) in Rogue,,BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon

Over time, the Doctor has evolved from a primarily asexual being into one engaging in romance.   But in general, the Doctor’s romances have not been infused with a sexual component. But for the first time in the series’ history, the Doctor demonstrates his sexual and romantic attraction to Rogue, specifically during his dance to Kylie’s beat.   This Doctor has no weird Dad dancing. He is cool.

The Doctor has been flirtatious before – most notably as the Tenth Doctor – but this flirting with intent. There is no question about his follow-through when he invites Rogue to travel with him. That makes this kiss not just a fleeting gesture but signifies a sexual and emotional connection between the characters.

For all of the Eleventh & Twelfth Doctor’s marriage to River Song (Alex Kingston) and the Tenth Doctor’s fleeting romance with Madame de Pompadour (Sophie Myles), the only other time the Doctor demonstrated such passion was during Journey’s End, as the  Metacrisis Doctor (David Tennant)  passionately locks lips with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).   That makes Ncuti Gatwa ‘s Doctor the most passionate and coolest generation of our favourite time-travelling alien.

This episode will make a difference to the younger audience who watch Doctor Who.   While Doctor Who spinoffs such as Torchwood, The Class and The Sarah Jane Adventures have had gay lead characters, seeing the audience’s main hero identify as gay and openly embrace and celebrate that characteristic of this generation of the Doctor will heal wounds and self-worth.

The world of Doctor Who has always been so. 

The Doctor – “I have to be like this because this is what I’m like.”

This episode also reminds us of who the Doctor is at his core.    He breaks when he is about to lose Ruby to another dimension and cannot press send. As the Ninth Doctor would say when faced with a similar decision, “A coward. Any day.”   Instead, it is left to Rogue to save Ruby as he sacrifices himself while the Doctor remains parallelised.

The Fourteenth Doctor was tasked to rest and heal for all their future regenerations. However, that has been a limited recovery as true to form; Doctor hides his pain and grief at losing Rogue to an alternative dimension by running away and moving forward. The irony that this is another passionate love is lost to the alternative dimension that the TARDIS can’t reach was not missed.   That guarantees we are going to see Rogue again.

Rogue vs. Captain Jack – Commonalities

Rogue’s character draws inevitable comparisons to Captain Jack Harkness. Both are time travellers who cloak their crafts and seem to have a love for the same weapon.   Both are charismatic and flirtatious and operate in morally grey areas. Rogue’s dynamic with the Doctor, characterised by witty banter and mutual respect, mirrors the Doctor’s relationship with Captain Jack.   Even at the end, the small salute the Doctor gives the sky echoes the Tenth Doctor’s last scene with Captain Jack.

Ncuti Gatwa

Once again, Ncuti Gatwa continues to impress as the Doctor, bringing a fresh and charismatic energy to the role. His ability to balance the character’s inherent eccentricity with moments of deep emotional vulnerability is commendable. In “Rogue,” Gatwa’s performance shines, particularly in his scenes with Jonathan Groff. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, making the Doctor’s romantic storyline believable and compelling.

Conclusion

“Doctor Who: Rogue” is an episode that blends romance, adventure, and cultural homage into a single, compelling narrative. With its nods to “Bridgerton,” groundbreaking romantic developments, the episode is another excellent out of the current season. Kudos to writers Kate Herron and Briony Redman, as well as director Ben Chessell. Ncuti Gatwa’s and Millie Gibson’s performances and Jonathan Groff’s memorable guest appearance make “Rogue” an episode that fans will remember for its bold storytelling and emotional depth. This instalment not only entertains but also pushes the boundaries of what “Doctor Who” can be, setting the stage for even more exciting adventures.

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