Doctor Who – Rogue – Review – We’re Going to Cosplay This Planet to Death

Spoilers

Two years ago, Russell T. Davies called out Kate Herron, showrunner of Loki, as not making her show queer enough. Her response, upon helming Rogue, was to more than live up to the billing and make Doctor Who openly queer and openly gay more than it’s been under the entire Chibnall, and arguably, parts of the Moffat era as well – by introducing us to Jonathan Groff’s dashing, loveable bounty hunter Rogue, who boasts charisma to rival Jack Harkness without the problematic casting of John Barrowman, who led to Eccleston’s departure in Series 1. The setting for Rogue and The Doctor to meet is a 1813 Duchess’s Party, bringing to mind Bridgerton, which obviously, Ruby’s a fan – but so too are the alien cosplayers invading the party and replacing members of the party with their own race – determined to have a real-life roleplaying game.

It’s pretty fun and tackles the themes of cosplay and fanfiction strongly by inserting yourself into the narrative. Doctor Who has been all about grand themes; social media, abandonment, war capitalism, alien bogies, so naturally to see the aliens want to inhabit the roles of a lifetime and expand their empire giving them the opportunity to play war games and dictate their own history is fascinating, and it fits in with Herron’s vision of Loki, which very reasonably suggests that she should be a showrunner contender in the eras post Davies’, especially now as we’ve seen with the freedom and lack of constraints of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, been able to put her money where her mouth is. The charming nature of Rogue and The Doctor’s instant affection for each other is made an immediate match thanks to Gatwa’s phenomenal performance – his charisma and likeability embodies the role of The Doctor to a T, and delights in the callbacks to Willy Wonka and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when he shows Rogue the TARIDS it feels like a throwback to when 9 met Jack, but supercharged.

Rogue and The Doctor play up how much of a scandal their relationship would’ve been in the 1800s and it’s not lost on them both what it would mean for the rest of their fellow partiers, which include the Chuldur, and I really love how the Chulder were able to infiltrate the party, and how Ruby was able to trick them into thinking she was one of them for the wedding. But the trick worked too well; and The Doctor, rage-induced and mourning Ruby, who he thought was lost, creates a trap to send them into a hell for the rest of their lifespan. It’s a pretty emotional moment as Ruby gets her big Russell T Davies “I’ll sacrifice myself to save the world” character moment; and the flashbacks to The Doctor promising Ruby’s mother to keep her safe added to his grief and anguish. So of course – this isn’t where Ruby’s going to die. It can’t be! You get Rogue willing to sacrifice himself for her – I would’ve liked a few more scenes with Rogue and Ruby to really drive that point home – but showing Rogue what Ruby means to The Doctor was effective enough, even in their short space of time. And now Rogue switches places with Ruby, but has a longer lifespan than the Chuldur, so there’s a chance of a rescue at last.

Turning Camilla Aiko into a Chuldur was a fascinating twist, especially when Ruby was able to confide in her about her time-travelling from the future. It felt like such a series of great twists executed brilliantly after another – and there were some nods to the fandom too, with Richard E. Grant getting the chance to make his Doctor canon through the obligatory hologram reveal of all The Doctors in turn, the emphasis of course because it was always going to be, placed on Tennant’s Doctor the most. And then there’s “Since we got the new boss” in reference to Rogue getting more bounty hunter paperwork – and the terminology is almost too specific for it not to be the same one that Meep worked for. Perhaps next episode; the first of the two parters, we’ll find out for sure?

I also like the little touches: Astrid Peth; having been played by Kylie Minogue, was such a fun callback. Of course, The Doctor’s a stan. Kylie and Astrid exist in the same universe the same way Stephen Fry and his character in Spyfall does. The music being played repeatedly by The Doctor brought out a side in Rogue that unlocks everything for them both – and it all cascades from there. It’s kind of a testament to Doctor Who’s old-guard treatment however that this is the first episode since The Haunting of the Villa Diodati, in 2020 – four years ago – that we’ve had the first episode of Who that doesn’t have some involvement from Chibnall, Davies or Moffatt – and new blood is very much welcome. I’d love to have Alderton come back under this era as Diodati has a similar vibe to Rogue almost, a party in an historical setting going wrong – and very badly so.

I was reminded a lot of Westworld and the whole fanfiction as reality theme that Rogue tackles, so it was nice to see Billie Eilish covered by Murray Gold and Gold was just exceptional in this episode. He’s really made Fifteen’s era feel distinctive and showcased his range as a composer; especially taking to heart the criticism that he relied on motifs like I am The Doctor a lot under the run of Eleven. The music game of this series is on point as Davies always is – we’ve had The Beatles, Sam Fender referenced, and plenty more to come I’m sure.

A welcome breath of fresh air then, for as much as I liked the Thirteenth Doctor’s run, Rogue showcases the charisma and fun that it lacked. “We’re going to cosplay this planet to death” – I mean, how can you not fall in love with it? I’ve done a complete about turn on this era – and the stretch of Boom, 73 Yards, Dot and Bubble and Rogue is the strongest Who’s been in years.

VERDICT: 8/10

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