Doctor Who’s groundbreaking Bridgerton episode 'Rogue' finally gives us the queer love story fans deserve

doctor who rogue
(Image credit: BBC)

Warning - spoilers lie ahead for Doctor Who episode 6 'Rogue'.

When the synopsis for Doctor Who's latest episode arrived online, the BBC teased how its titular 'Rogue' will change the Doctor's life forever. What we didn't know then was how Jonathan Groff's new character would go on to change Doctor Who itself too in ways most welcome and very overdue, especially for the show's long-standing, sizable queer fandom. 

A fast mover

doctor who rogue

(Image credit: BBC)

The Doctor and Ruby first encounter this charming, blue-eyed bounty hunter at a Bridgerton-style ball held in Bath, England. The year is 1813 and sparks are flying even before that, quite literally, when another dashing gentleman is electrocuted by a dastardly rogue with a hidden agenda. But it's the titular Rogue himself who interests us the most - and that's also true for the Doctor who can't seem to keep his eyes off him.  

Intrigued by this handsome figure who watches over the ballroom, our good Doctor ventures up to the balcony where he proceeds to flirt investigate what's really going on here. The pair quickly take things outside - "fast mover, ok…" - where they get to know each other a little better. Namely, the Doctor comes to realize that Rogue is "tall, handsome, arrogant" and looks "great in that jacket".

This very important line of enquiry is interrupted when he and Rogue stumble across a discarded shoe, which is rather suspicious because people tend to like wearing both of their shoes at once, regardless of whichever era they might find themselves in. 

It's not long before Rogue invites the Doctor onto his ship, which might seem fast to straight people, but it turns out Groff's character has a hidden agenda. Believing the Doctor to be one of the aliens who are attacking polite society, Rogue tricks him into a trap. 

It's classic rom-com fare, the kind of misunderstanding that makes you root for two potential lovers even more. Except here, the story is about a bounty hunter who suspects a Time Lord of secretly being a shape-shifting bird monster. Richard Curtis this ain't. 

Can't get you out of my head

Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

But before Rogue sends the Doctor off to prison, they compare tools to the sound of Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' - as is per custom in gay society. But is Rogue actually queer? The Doctor seems to suspect as such, mouthing the lyrics, "boy your loving is all I think about" in ways that drive Rogue and bigots back home wild for very different reasons.

Even the Doctor's psychic paper suggests that this pair have the hots for each other, but Doctor Who has been known to tease us with queerness before, only to skirt around it at the last possible moment. 

Just take the end of the previous season when Jodie Whittaker's Doctor and Yaz developed feelings for each other. All that build-up, which was a game-changing new precedent for Doctor Who, all led to the moment where Thirteen just said, "I have loved being with you," before waving Yaz goodbye like a parent dropping their kid off on their first day at school. 

Even when Rogue is threatening to send the Doctor into exile thinking he's an evil bird monster, there's still more chemistry between them than Thirteen and Yaz ever had, unfortunately. 

Travelling across the stars

doctor who rogue

(Image credit: BBC)

One very impressive timey-wimey reveal later, the Doctor takes Rogue onto the TARDIS where it's discovered that Groff's character once travelled with someone very special until the day he lost them for good. Note the vague gendering going on here. As they share more of themselves with each other, Rogue and the Doctor grow even closer, both emotionally and physically.

"Travel with me," says the Doctor. "The worlds I could show you…" Rogue counters this offer with one of his own, to which the Doctor replies, "when we both get out of this, let’s argue across the stars". Sweeping orchestral music kicks in then, much like Bridgerton (to paraphrase Ruby from earlier), and then, just as Rogue and the Doctor are about to kiss, a noise distracts them and the Doc pulls away.

Fans long used to queerbaiting on this and other shows might suspect it's happening again here. But then something remarkable happens. To shock the audience of the ballroom and distract the aliens, Rogue and the Doctor start to dance together like any other couple would. And it's not just simply a ruse either. Because when they dance, the world around them fades away until the spotlight is just on them, looking into each other's eyes as their bodies move in perfect harmony. 

When the Doctor asks Rogue to add some drama in order to spice things up for everyone watching, he doesn't shout or fight. No, Rogue chooses to get down on one knee instead and even presents a ring to the Doctor, as if he's proposing. Is that the ring Rogue once shared with his former "companion"? Either way, this isn't a real proposal, but it does mean something still. 

There's so much weight to this moment, everything from Rogue's quick thinking to the Doctor's shocked expression. Even the Time Lord himself, a man who has truly seen it all, is taken aback by such an intimate gesture from a stranger as gorgeous as he. 

When the plan falls through, Rogue grabs the Doctor's hand and off they run, refusing to let go of each other as the aliens give chase. By this point, every interaction they share carries that same emotional charge. Even when they're discussing how to use the transporter in their plan to defeat the aliens, their faces are much closer this time around. There's an extra layer of intimacy here that's usually just reserved for the Doctor's established love interests of a different gender.

"Find me"

doctor who rogue

(Image credit: BBC)

But are we actually going there? Is Doctor Who finally going to confirm the Doctor's long-standing queerness in a very real and tangible way?

While these two lovebirds were living out their sci-fi rom-com fantasy, Ruby has been fending for herself. And when Rogue and the Doctor do finally snare the aliens in their transporter trap, they accidentally capture Ruby in it too. 

As the countdown reaches its end, the Doctor cries at the thought of losing Ruby for good. And then it happens. Rogue tenderly wipes away the Doctor's tears and kisses him. It's not just a quick kiss or a peck on the cheek though. It's the kind of deep, passionate, romantic kiss that straight couples are long used to seeing themselves enjoy on screen, the kind that will give so much hope and joy now to queer viewers young and old. Even Ruby looks happy and she's about to go to intergalactic prison for life. 

But then Rogue jumps in to swap places with Ruby at the very last second before throwing a bouquet of flowers at the Doctor with all the charm of a new and improved Jack Harkness. "Find me," says Rogue, and then the floor gives way like our tears do.  Our eyes are wide and mouth agape, much like the Doctor, as we try to process everything that just happened.

Changed forever

Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

It's not that everyone's favorite Time Lord hasn't been established as queer before. Remember when Jack Harkness kissed the Ninth Doctor after they flirted all the time back in 2005's 'The Parting of the Ways'? Or more recently when David Tennant's Doctor felt the need to confirm just how hot Isaac Newton is to Donna? Never mind all the years he took female form or consistently defied typical binary notions as a gender-fluid entity.

The difference this time is that the Doctor's queerness isn't just a side note. It's central to the story now, undeniable in ways that bigots watching back home can no longer refute, no matter how much they might try. 

Ruby senses this too, asking the Doctor if they can use the TARDIS to somehow find Rogue and bring him back to reunite the pair. When that seems unlikely - "I don't even know his real name" - the Doctor tries to push forward as he always does, but Ruby pushes that aside to hug him and give the Time Lord a moment to process his loss. 

Thankfully, this isn't the kind of tragic end that gay viewers have sadly gotten used to seeing play out again and again on screen. Even though Rogue and the Doctor have been separated for now, it's clear that there's still hope for them, that the impact Rogue made will linger just as the ring still does on the Doctor's finger.

Because The Doctor is changed now, forever, and so are we. 

'Rogue' is available to stream now on Disney Plus internationally and via BBC iPlayer in the UK. Stay up to date with our Doctor Who release schedule.

For more great new TV, check out our guide to the best new shows coming your way in 2024.

David Opie

With ten years of online journalism experience, David has written about TV, film, and music for a wide range of publications including Indiewire, Paste, Empire, Digital Spy, Radio Times, Teen Vogue and more. He's spoken on numerous LGBTQ+ panels to discuss queer representation and in 2020, he created Digital Spy's Rainbow Crew interview series, which celebrates queer talent on both sides of the camera via video content and longform reads. Passions include animation, horror, comics, and LGBTQ+ storytelling, which is why David longs to see a Buffy-themed Rusical on RuPaul's Drag Race.