Doctor Who: Rogue
June 7, 2024 5:46 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The Doctor and Ruby land in 1813, where guests at a duchess's party are being murdered, and a mysterious bounty hunter called Rogue (played by JONATHAN GROFF!) is about to change the Doctor's life forever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A spoiler-free comment first:

I am going to require a DVD copy of every single outtake with Jonathan Groff and Ncuti Gatwa, pls kthnx.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 PM on June 7 [13 favorites]

I wish this episode is longer and slower-paced.
posted by applesurf at 7:38 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Has anyone won the S14 (2005) v S01 (2023) shenanigans yet?
posted by porpoise at 10:21 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

A perfectly adequate Who episode. Classic, even. Baddies we never heard of before. A fun setting. No unexplained loose ends, just the deliberate loose end. And I choose to believe in the chemistry between The Doctor & Rogue.

On the other hand .. it feels a bit of a retread of the Jack Harkness character. I mean, I'm sure I *called him* a lovable rogue at some point. And the fact that the dialog had to lazily raise the stakes to the destruction of humanity if the baddies weren't stopped. Let's face it, they'd get bored and leave before they actually managed to cause a world war 100 years too early.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 5:25 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]

True, but you also get to see The Doctor aggressively flirting with King George III by lip-syncing to Kylie Minogue so that's a perk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]

There's something that's darlingly meta (and also a sneaky bit cynical) in the Doctor's plan to lure the aliens out by going out on the dance floor and sharing a public dance with Rogue. "Let's get everyone's attention and outrage by throwing in some same-on-same romance, followed by a kiss with a one-off character."

Although when network television does it, it's nearly always women.

Also, the Chuldur's obsession with cosplay, and drama, and constantly escalating the stakes are the best writerly-poke at Doctor Who fandom since the LYNDA group in "Love & Monsters".
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:48 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]

I wish this episode is longer and slower-paced.

I very much agree, and I don't mean to pick on this episode because I actually liked it, but I could have done with more linking of the alien threat to character motivations. What I mean is that it's implied that the Doctor brought Ruby to Bath 1813 because she wanted to see IRL Bridgerton (in fact that's her original reason for sneaking off and observing two people in the library), and later on we learn that the aliens... have the exact same motivation. The distinction is that the Chuldur are more hands-on and murdery and I would have liked to see the episode play with that more. Certainly the Doctor and Ruby do a lot of interfering on their own, and are not withholding their disdain for Regency-era sexual and social mores.

Also, it was unclear to me whether "Emily Beckett", the woman Ruby befriended, had been an alien all along? It seems that she was, but the reveal was undercut by the fact that we the audience had already learned not to trust Rogue's count of aliens. First it was one in the opening segment, then "Oh no, there are two!", and then "Oh wait, there are... four?" and then "Oh, wait, here's a fifth." Would have been better to drop the third and fourth (who didn't get much lines or business to do anyway) and keep the Emily Beckett reveal, which then makes the climax of the Doctor almost accidentally banishing the real Ruby more exciting.

It was nice to see Indira Varma again.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:06 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

They really do keep killing Suzie Indira Varma, huh
posted by bcwinters at 10:08 AM on June 8 [6 favorites]

Has anyone won the S14 (2005) v S01 (2023) shenanigans yet?

I vote we go with S1 (2023), as that seems to be what Disney+ and the BBC (and IMDb) have settled on.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:10 AM on June 8

it feels a bit of a retread of the Jack Harkness character.

To me, this felt deliberate enough that, combined with the fact that Rogue was travelling with someone who is now gone, I wonder if it was in fact a hint? Perhaps I'm just a sucker for a old-New Who throwback, but it would be very fun to pull in the Time Agency again.
posted by In Your Shell Like at 11:52 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]

posted by Faintdreams at 1:44 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

Allllsooooo, the Classical instrumental of the Billy Eilsh song 'Bad Guy' was some lovely misdirection
posted by Faintdreams at 2:58 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

I loved a lot of this, although I also would have liked a little more development of the Chuldurs, but I think that's just a perennial problem of Nu-Who episodes being single 45-50 minute blocks, rather than longer serials that stretch up to 2 hours. There just isn't enough time.

How great is it that the Doctor knows about D&D?

Anyways, the Doctor has to go look for Rogue at some point, right? Even if there are practically infinite dimensions, he's kind of a dick if he just leaves the dude suffering with the birdies. It also strikes me as very un-Doctor-like.

Recurring motifs: Susan Twist appears as the painting of the deceased mother (mother-in-law?) of the Duchess (prior to her Chulduring), and the Duchess comments that the eyes of the painting seem to follow her wherever she goes.
Feet/Stepping: The Doctor & Rogue find a lonely shoe, and the trap/transport holds them by their feet.
A musical number of sorts when the Doctor lip-syncs.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:29 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Oh wild, one of the Doctor faces in the scan on Rogue's ship was Richard E. Grant, whose Scream of the Shalka Doctor has been decidedly not canon since modern Who started in 2005. Really hoping they do something with that and it wasn't just a reference for the sake of a reference!
posted by jason_steakums at 9:05 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Yeah baby!
posted by Coaticass at 11:35 PM on June 8

Obligatory reference to Richard E. Grant also playing The Doctor in Curse of the Fatal Death.
posted by Gary at 1:54 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]

At first I thought "Bad Guy" was just a cute moment, but by the end of the episode I found myself wondering whether this was just such a popular destination for time travelers that the orchestra was all from the future, too.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:23 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed the heck out of this one!
posted by maryellenreads at 4:39 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

For as much as I enjoyed the previous three episodes because of their subject matter and their more serious tone, I loved this romp so much. If I can't have Boom or 73 Yards every week (and I wouldn't really want that anyway), this sort of fun historical with silly aliens is my jam. And having fun with cosplayers is just the icing on the cake.

Obviously making the Doctor canonically queer is important, but doing it with such style is incredible. Having Rogue say to the Doctor they should go outside is so "let's go fuck in the bushes" coded, that I can't believe they got away with it. The kiss was everything - and I was worried Rogue was going to betray the Doctor, but I'm glad he sacrificed himself and didn't send Ruby away.

Also, I'm sure they'll find Rogue again when Jonathon Groff is available. He's currently on Broadway, so I assume he won't be in Season 2 since that is already wrapped.
posted by crossoverman at 6:02 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Did anyone get a good look at the ring Rogue gave the Doctor? Does it look the same as the one picked up at the end of The Toymaker special episode?
posted by beaning at 6:10 PM on June 9

Do you mean the tooth? The Toymaker has a gold tooth with the Master trapped inside and someone picks that up. I don't recall a ring.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:32 PM on June 9

Ah, you're right, Saxon Kane. My memory was off, thanks for the correction.
posted by beaning at 6:32 PM on June 9

Did you notice the tattoo on the Doctor’s fingernail?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 PM on June 9

At the end of this video Gatwa says they are Gallifreyan symbols. Found via this subreddit thread, which also includes this photo.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:06 PM on June 9

In 2023, a Reddit said the fingernail tattoos were Gallifreyan. Is there new info on them?
posted by beaning at 9:11 PM on June 9

Jinkx (Monsoon)!
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:14 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]

I really like how Gatwa (and all the staff behind him) make the Doctor so very unique while continuing the Gallifreyan

I gather the faces shown are all iterations of the Doctor ever decided and this is interesting for canon.
posted by beaning at 9:21 PM on June 9

Thinking back to the very beginning, we had a subtle hint about Emily being one of the Chuldurs. Her "brother" was angry at the dark-haired guy for "dishonoring" his sister in several different locations, and when dark-haired guy refused to marry her, the "brother" was enticed by how bad dark-haired guy was that he killed him and took his form. It seems that they started their cosplay with more "traditional" Regency types, like the meek & bookish Emily and her bro, and then decided to have some more fun with the naughty types.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:13 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]

A couple other notes:

Didn't catch it the first-time, but when explaining how the earrings help her dance, the Doctor says to Ruby, "Just don't put them in Battle Mode." Chekhov's psychic earrings to the rescue!

When Ruby follows the Emily and Lord "Stilton" and overhears their argument, the two of them are hamming it up a bit, definitely cosplaying their Bridgerton-roles with stereotypical behavior (I think Ruby even says something like "This is SO Bridgerton!" Who knows, maybe their dialogue was lifted straight from an episode?). Then when they are discovered, Emily explains her conundrum to Ruby in a rather abstract way, like a rule she has learned and is reciting: "If a lady is found alone with a man etc etc." Same for when she describes her hoped for future: "I'll marry lower. There won't be love, but perhaps a kind smile at dinner, and then a shared grave" or some such.

I was trying to get a good look at Rogue's ring -- we are shown it from a few different angles, but never quite so we can see exactly what it is. I've seen online people saying it looks like a caduceus or the dagger/mask symbol for the rogue class in D&D, but it doesn't look quite like either of those to me (or a cross between them) -- it's too asymmetrical. There seem to be two main pieces, not quite perpendicular to each other. The bottom piece is flatter, with two sort of rough non-matching polygon shapes. On top and mostly perpendicular is something that looks like a thin bar with something wrapped around it or over it, with small spheres at either end. It's almost a T, but again, not really.

Also forgot to note that in this episode Ruby is echoing the behavior of the youth of Finetime -- literally being told by a machine how to move, where to put her feet, etc.

I also started thinking about the motif of games, since the Toymaker is the Big Bad who apparently set the currently brewing crisis in motion. This episode has the most prominent examples of gaming so far: the Chuldur are cosplaying in Regency England (as are Ruby & the Doctor), and Rogue is both a Player of Games and literally named after a character in a game (and carries dice with him on his ship). The youth of Finetime spend the majority of their day partying. The Villengard Algorithm could be considered a massive game with the soldiers as pieces. The fairy circle in 73 Yards is sort of like Cat's Cradle and other finger string games -- does Ruby say something like that when they first see it? Any others?

Finally: "The One Who Waits" -- After this episode, could Rogue be the One Who Waits? Waiting for the Doctor to rescue him from an alternate dimension for years, decades, centuries, millennia... that could turn a chaotic good rogue to chaotic evil, perhaps?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:54 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]

My guess is that Rogue is just fine and very much capable of rescuing himself; he seemed much too much the prudent sort to set a trap he can't escape from. (This is the major difference between Rogue and Captain Jack, who absolutely would set a trap he could not escape from.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:22 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

They really do keep killing Suzie Indira Varma, huh

In my house she is always addressed by her full name: Female Sean Bean Indira Varma. As soon as she appeared on screen we began the countdown to her inevitable demise.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:28 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Now you're making me wonder if Rogue still would have jumped in the trap if the Doctor had left it set to incinerator.
posted by beaning at 8:33 PM on June 11

Okay, I'm gonna say it:

If it was so easy to get Ruby out of the trap just by pushing her free, then why didn't Rogue and The Doctor stand outside the trap and pull her free instead?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:17 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Female Sean Bean Indira Varma

I once saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe in London, and Tamora was played by Indira Varma. I was standing right up against the edge of the stage (as you do at the Globe), and she accidentally almost kicked me in the head a couple of times.

Worth it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:41 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]

If it was so easy to get Ruby out of the trap just by pushing her free[...]

I think what they were going for was the implication that adding another body to the sensor -- when it's already at full capacity -- will force/allow an earlier one to be popped out. (And, working backwards, that's probably really the only reason the concept of capacity was written into the script in the first place.) When it happens, there's even an automated voice from the machine that tries to reinforce this with something like "matter exchanged; trap locked at six."
posted by nobody at 3:52 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I think what they were going for was the implication that adding another body to the sensor -- when it's already at full capacity -- will force/allow an earlier one to be popped out.

Oh, good point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on June 12

It's sort of like the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark: gotta have the right amount of sand in the bag before you take the idol...
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:00 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Although, y'know, maybe one of those shrubberies woulda knocked Ruby off the platform and not committed Captain HarkMk2 to the netherworld. But there was a countdown, time was fleeting.
posted by Kyol at 1:07 PM on June 12

Agreed to everyone saying "this feels like it should have been a two-parter".

But I did like the set pieces, especially the solo dance with Rogue. ("The world doesn't end because the Doctor dances...")

Having watched the Unleashed for this one, it feels like Jonathan Groff may have been given "introvert" as a direction and come out with "wooden". In avoiding overdoing (à la Barrowman), he's underdoing. But they did arrive at a certain level of chemistry, so that part worked.

I know the BBC are keen to cross-promote, but three Bridgerton references and not a word about Jane Austen? That's going to become quite dated, probably quite rapidly.

But I'm carping. I did enjoy this one and would happily watch more like it.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:31 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

I was impressed with this show finding a guy to pull off both Mr. Darcy and Han Solo. And then he actually went and did a Han Solo. And then he was Jonathan Groff? Wild.
posted by mersen at 7:16 PM on June 16

Didn't catch it the first-time, but when explaining how the earrings help her dance, the Doctor says to Ruby, "Just don't put them in Battle Mode." Chekhov's psychic earrings to the rescue!

I watched this immediately after watching Finetime and was somewhat annoyed by the earrings. We just saw a whole society who lost most of their physical abilities due to an over-reliance on technology!

Also, the Doctor could have had a great interaction with Ruby on the dance floor, sharing his knowledge with her, encouraging her dance steps, comparing the dance pattern to math, chess or the movement of the planets, etc.

I may have missed something, but it was a little startling that the Doctor didn't seem concerned about Ruby's safety when he discovered that alien shapeshifters were stealing people's bodies? I felt that the script let Ruby down with the use of the psychic earrings to fight off the Chuldur.
posted by JDC8 at 8:03 PM on June 16

Has anyone won the S14 (2005) v S01 (2023) shenanigans yet?

I'll be in my cold grave before I stop numbering Doctor Who episodes from S0001 (1963).
posted by mikelieman at 3:49 PM on June 24

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