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Doctor Who: Rogue – season one episode six recap
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Doctor Who: Rogue – season one episode six recap

After four decidedly off-the-wall episodes, including two in which Ncuti Gatwa hardly appeared and one where he was immobile on a landmine, it was enjoyable to get a relatively straightforward Doctor Who episode. This was a good old sci-fi costume drama, complete with a murderous, shape-shifting, body-draining alien menace seeking thrills while trying to destroy the world.

The explicit references to fandom, cosplay and a season finale only added to the feeling that much of this series has been incredibly meta, with frequent fourth-wall breaks and callbacks to its own earlier episodes. Indeed, the sparring between Rogue (Jonathan Groff) and the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) felt like a turbo-charged version of when the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) met Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) in 2005’s The Doctor Dances, including having a joke about the sonic screwdriver putting up furniture.

Whereas Capt Jack was always flirting with Rose Tyler and the Doctor (and in fact pretty much anything that moved) Rogue had his heart set on only one, and the show played up how scandalous that match would have been in the early 1800s. Indira Varma as the Duchess of Pemberton, ring-leader of the Chuldur, was a literal scream for everybody attending her party, and didn’t waste a second of her time on screen.

The Doctor’s dilemma in the end over saving Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), and Rogue’s willing self-sacrifice, neatly tied up the episode, but also teed up a potential sequel featuring Rogue at some point. Too much was made of the Doctor and Rogue’s blossoming relationship to leave it as a one-off, surely?

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday peeking through bookcases in 1813.View image in fullscreen

Sum it up in one sentence?

The Doctor gets his heart broken while attending a Bridgerton convention in 1813.

Life aboard the Tardis

Having Rogue invite the Doctor to travel across the stars with him was a novel inversion of the usual “Time Lord and their companion” dynamic. The fact that there was a whole clutch of Chuldur on the rampage seeking to become the Doctor resembled the Family of Blood from Human Nature, as did the Doctor’s desire to see them suffer for a long time after he believed they had killed Ruby. For the second episode in a row, Ruby ended up as the Doctor’s emotional support after he suffered a devastating blow.

Fear factor

The Chuldur might not have been the most menacing of villains in their natural state, but it is always jolly good Doctor Who fun to start the show off with a murder in the gardens of a stately home. The revelation that Camilla Aiko was also a Chuldur was a deft twist after what we saw of the naivety of her earlier interactions with Ruby.

Indira Varma leads her gang of Chuldur on their cosplay quest.View image in fullscreen

Mysteries and questions

At one point Rogue says bounty hunting has a lot more paperwork “since we got that new boss”. Could that be the same boss referred to by the Meep at the end of The Star Beast?

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Russell T Davies side-stepped the question of where he places Jo Martin’s fugitive incarnation in the Doctor’s timeline, by having the Doctor’s previous incarnations appear in a jumbled-up order. But Richard E Grant is canon as the Doctor on television now? It would have been even more wild if Susan Twist had appeared in that past Doctor line-up, but she was the portrait with judgmental eyes this time.

Deeper into the vortex

  • We first saw the Doctor kiss someone when Paul McGann kissed Daphne Ashbrook playing Grace Holloway in the 1996 TV Movie. Fans were furious. Since then the Doctor has kissed – with varying degrees of romantic intensity or consent – Rose Tyler, Capt Jack, Astrid Perth, Amy Pond, River Song, Rory Williams, Tasha Lem, Missy, Jenny Flint and Elizabeth I among others. In The Day of the Doctor, the War Doctor, seeing the 10th Doctor marry Elizabeth I, even asks “Is there a lot of this in the future?”

  • Talking of Astrid Perth, the Doctor making Rogue’s spaceship play Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head isn’t the first time the Voyage of the Damned guest star has been made canon in Doctor Who. In 2006 episode The Idiot’s Lantern, before the Australian pop star had appeared in the show, David Tennant’s 10th Doctor said “It’s never too late, as a wise person once said. Kylie, I think.”

  • The Doctor said: “No thank you, sir,” to being called “Doc”, which Graham (Bradley Walsh) habitually called the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

  • As incredible as it may seem, Rogue is the first episode of Doctor Who not to feature a writing credit for one of Chris Chibnall, Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat since Maxine Alderton wrote The Haunting of Villa Diodati for Whittaker’s Doctor in February 2020, back when the much-missed Dan Martin was doing these recaps.

  • And speaking of much-missed, we said goodbye this week to William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton with such aplomb in the original 1963 Tardis crew. He died aged 99, having set a world record in 2022 when he reprised the character in 2022’s The Power of the Doctor after a gap of 57 years.

Next time: The Legend of Ruby Sunday

An eight-part series is simply whizzing by, and we are already hurtling towards a two-part season finale. Bonnie Langford! Lenny Rush! Jemma Redgrave! More Susan Twist! A Satanic-looking horned alien hidden in static! Vworp Vworp!

Source: theguardian.com