‘Rogue’ sees The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby (Millie Gibson) land in 1813, but their trip to the duchess’ party soon turns into a murder mystery as a dried-up body is found on the grounds. Something otherworldly lurks at the party, but who (or what) is hiding amongst the dukes and duchesses?

The Doctor and Ruby are not the only people out of time. A bounty hunter named Rogue (Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff) is also investigating the mysterious disappearance of guests, his own spaceship floating above the grounds. Something is not right in 1813, and the trio knows it, but what they don’t know is who can trust who.

The episode showcases some new tech, including special earrings, which offer two settings: dancing choreography and fight choreography. It’s also the first time this season that The Doctor has been allowed to have fun. With bird-like monsters choosing the ultimate form of roleplay, ‘Rogue’ takes on a little more of the whimsy previously associated with Doctor Who. This episode doesn’t quite carry the emotional weight of the prior three outings for The Doctor.

Doctor Who 'Rogue' - Ncuti Gatwa smiles at Jonathan Groff

It’s clear a lot of work and care is put into every episode of the fourteenth season of Doctor Who. The attention to detail in the music, costumes, and sets is outstanding. For anyone making Bridgerton references, these are very purposeful. From a leading man who looks like he could be a member of the Bridgerton clan to the pastel dresses and string pop music covers, ‘Rogue’ recreates the Netflix period drama to the small details.

Jonathan Groff is the standout appearance of season 14’s roster of fantastic guest appearances. Rogue immediately feels like he belongs in this bigger, campier new Doctor Who created by Russell T. Davies. Reminiscent of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and River Song (Alex Kingston), Rogue immediately has chemistry with Ncuti Gatwa’s timelord, with the show slightly veering into a more grown-up, sexier type of romance. Within just one episode of the show, Rogue feels like an iconic character and someone who shouldn’t be wasted in one passing role.

In terms of plot, ‘Rogue’ isn’t doing anything that season 5’s ‘The Vampires of Venice’ didn’t do. Written by Kate Herron (Loki) and Briony Redman, the pair have taken a well-known genre and added a monster of the week Doctor Who twist to it. It’s the type of mid-season episode that would be welcomed on a longer run but feels slightly a waste in the shortened eight-episode series.

Indira Varma is having a fantastic time as the Duchess of Pemberton, but the episode belongs to Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff’s chemistry. The pair flirt their way through the episode, dropping the subtext to embrace this soft reboot’s queerness. Groff’s Rogue toes the line of friend or foe, working on his own lack of moral compass. It is exactly the type of recurring character the soft reboot of the show needs. He’s sexy, dangerous, and the perfect match for this more emotionally open timelord.

Doctor Who 'Rogue' Jonathan Groff points a laser at Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor.

After a few Doctorlite episodes, we finally spend some time with this new regeneration. Strangely, by putting The Doctor front and center, it sidelines Ruby Sunday. The pair rarely spend time together, replacing the sidekick role with Groff’s Rogue. It appears only one can be the main focal point, meaning audiences don’t really get the full impact of Ruby and The Doctor’s dynamic.

Unlike previous episodes, ‘Rogue’ is a standalone that doesn’t focus on any of the season’s overarching themes. Minus the regular appearance of Susan Twist, this time appearing only in portrait form, the mysteries take a step back. This allows the show to develop the characters better, which will make it even more disappointing if this is the last we see of Groff on the long-running science fiction show. If audiences want answers to the questions about Ruby’s past or the mysterious sentence that made people abandon the woman in ’73 Yards’, this episode does not offer any resolution.

It does feel a bit of a relief to step away from the intensity of some of the recent episodes. Unlike ‘Dot and Bubble, ‘ Rogue doesn’t have a political message and doesn’t use science fiction as an allegory for the darker sides of life. On the surface, ‘Rogue’ lacks the nuance of prior Ncuti Gatwa outings, but its final act is a gut-wrencher. While the adventure is light-hearted, this era of Doctor Who can’t help but end the proceedings in a somber tone, all assisted by another stellar performance from Gatwa.

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