Rogue

Posted in Episode by - June 08, 2024
Rogue

Released 08 June 2024

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor back front and centre after two episodes that put their focus elsewhere, the Doctor and Ruby in ‘Rogue’ by Kate Herron and Briony Redman land in 1813 where guests at a duchess’s party are being murdered and the Doctor’s life is about to change forever.

‘Rogue’ is very much a story of two components, and while the shape-shifting and avian-like Chuldur are effective enough in setting up the deadly threat as they look to assume the appearances of those around them, their scheme and motivations are wholly shallow with no emotional resonance. That they see humanity as utterly disposable is itself a strong piece of development, but that they are willing to destroy the entire world just so they can get a taste of cosplaying people in different positions across the world as they move from this manor to London and beyond carries with it no weight and seems to create such an unnecessarily large scope of danger simply to increase the narrative stakes without providing a suitable personal impetus. Tonally, ‘Rogue’ is certainly the most traditional of this series when comparing back to Russell T Davies’s initial run as showrunner, and the Chuldur fit that tone perfectly and visually, but they could have benefitted from a bit more nuance to their scheme than simply looking to experience the drama and plot twists of Bridgerton­– which the episode directly references several times- in such a superfluously deadly way.

Naturally, the Regency-era setting sparkles visually, the immense talents of the BBC and of Bridgerton choreographer Jack Murphy being on full display. Indeed, with plenty of dancing, aristocratic gossip, and even furtive discussions in the library that have characters risking their very honour, ‘Rogue’ generally keeps its stakes low while exploiting the typical tropes of this era that the series it has so overtly modeled itself after has made famous. However, it’s the surprising emotional depth that Gatwa and the titular guest star Jonathan Groff bring that truly elevate ‘Rogue’ into something unique. Gatwa, of course, has been unafraid of showing a much more confidently flirtatious side to his Doctor than any other incarnation at any time, and ‘Rogue’ amplifies that to an extent that allows the inevitable exploration of who the Doctor truly is at this time to become all the more effective. From the start on the balcony, Gatwa and Groff have a supreme chemistry as their characters try to size each other up and gain the upper hand, and the escalation of chemistry and flirtatiousness even as the Doctor’s life is assumed forfeit perfectly encapsulates the unique dynamic and bravado with which this incarnation works. Fittingly, however, the Doctor reverts into something of a more hesitant and awkward role when Rogue starts making more serious moves, and that piece of more complex characterization brilliantly hints at the depths of this Doctor still yet to be explored beneath the ostentatious and confident veneer.

For his part, Groff plays the bounty hunter with an understated nuance that perfectly balances the Doctor’s showier side. It’s very fair to compare this character to a more subdued but nonetheless equally confident Captain Jack Harkness, the flickers of smiles and hesitation when choosing to divulge information about himself speaking so much more than any loud boast and laugh could in this situation. Though Rogue does heroically sacrifice himself to another dimension in order to rid the Earth of this threat, Rogue’s ring and the Doctor’s determination suggest that there very well could be a welcome return at some point in the future. The Doctor has never been in a whirlwind romance quite like this, and the portrayals of both characters throughout are pitch perfect. Of course, all of this does mean that Ruby is sidelined much more than she has been to this point, but Millie Gibson nonetheless continues to excel in every scene. Ruby is confident and excitable but also incredibly resourceful, and the Doctor’s genuine emotion when he believes his friend to be lost underscores just how profound and pure their friendship has become in short order. With Ruby’s past due to focus heavily in the upcoming two-part finale, reinforcing the strength of this relationship is wisely and successfully incorporated here, and just as there are mysteries about this companion yet to be explored, the mysterious appearance of Richard E Grant’s face- perhaps calling back Scream of the Shalka, the Great Intelligence, the Sixteenth Doctor, or some other role- within the Doctor’s past selves hints at even more secrecy about the Doctor as well. ‘Rogue’ as a whole isn’t necessarily revolutionary by any means, but it’s a confident and wholly enjoyable Regency adventure that perfectly showcases the strengths and complications of the Doctor’s bold charisma.

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