Ncuti Gatwa falls in love in the Regency era in

For 3.5 seasons so far, Bridgerton has been a fertile garden for romantic fantasies — for heterosexual couples.

Still, fans have been yearning to see the beloved Netflix series branch into queer romance, potentially through the irreverent Eloise Bridgerton. Well, while Peneloise isn’t happening, and an Eloise/Cressida frenemies to lovers arc might be around the corner with Part 2 of Season 3, Doctor Who dipped into a Bridgerton-inspired episode and didn’t make queer audiences wait for representation in Regency-era romance.

That’s right, the Doctor found his Diamond of the Season in “Rogue.” 

In 1813 Bath, England, posh folk are enjoying a ball, lively with dancing, gossip, and romantic intrigue. But just under the surface of these courtly dramas lurk alien shape-shifters, whose form of Bridgerton cosplay involves murder and body-snatching.

Naturally, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) is on the case as soon as he sees a handsome stranger taking in the scene from a strategic vantage point. Enter guest star Jonathan Groff as Rogue. 

The Doctor meets Rogue. 

Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff play the Doctor and Rogue.
Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff play the Doctor and Rogue.
Credit: Disney+

Too often, queer audiences are left to scavenge for scraps of representation in mainstream television. This can lead thirsty fans to ship characters who might be arguably queer-coded but aren’t confirmed. (Looking at you, Sherlock.) But with the rise of shows like Interview with the Vampire and Our Flag Means Death, queer romance and fantasy are thriving together, and Doctor Who is on board. 

In what Doctor Who guest star Jinkx Monsoon called “the queerest season” of the series yet, we’ve already seen a nonbinary villain in her Maestro. In “Dot and Bubble,” Ruby and the Doctor both had a clear crush on Finetime celeb Ricky September. And in the setup specials from last winter, the Fifteenth Doctor mentioned a “long hot summer with Harry Houdini,” that implied this incarnation has queer longings. But “Rogue” gave us an unabashed queer romance with the Doctor at its center. 

Where Bridgerton might be tiptoeing to a same-sex kiss, Doctor Who offers a rousing smooch in this Regency setting, wasting no time. But to the credit of the episodes’ writers, Kate Herron and Briony Redman, the Doctor’s romantic arc with Rogue follows a familiar pattern. 

Like Kate and Antony in Season 2, these enemies to lovers begin with an attraction but distrust of each other. Suitably, a very Bridgerton version of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” plays from an unseen orchestra as they meet cute. From there, banter will be biting but enticing.

Matched wits reflect they’re a good pairing. Both are clever outsiders who go by titles over names. “Just the Doctor?” Rogue questions. “Just Rogue?” The Doctor quips. Then — just like that — they go outside together — where they Murder, She Wrote onto the duchess’s corpse. which kicks conflict into gear as they openly suspect each other of the crime. But oh how they already finish each other’s accusations! 

“This is a murder far beyond the technology of planet Earth. It could only be done by someone brilliant,” Rogue begins.

“—And monstrous,” the Doctor continues.

Then back and forth: 

“—And ruthless,” 

“Contemptible,” 

Then together: “You!”

Their conflict will get heated, involving some gunplay, threats, and the Doctor wielding Kylie Minogue’s “I Can’t Get You Out of My Head” with a lip-synch that is telling: “Boy, your lovin’ is all that I think about.”

This dizzying conflict collides with sexual tension, sparking shared confidences about lost loved ones and secret hobbies, then ultimately a public quarrel and wedding proposal. Which yeah, those last two were for show — to arouse the interest of the alien invaders. But when it comes time for a grand romantic gesture, what tops kissing your lover before saving his best friend by sacrificing yourself to a dimension-tripping trap? 

In just one episode, Rogue — with his American swagger, besotted gaze, and derring-do — won not only the Doctor’s heart, but ours as well. 

Queer representation on and offscreen in Doctor Who. 

Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff play the Doctor and Rogue.
Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff play the Doctor and Rogue.
Credit: Disney+

LGBTQ representation on Doctor Who extends behind the scenes. Season 14 has also brought in LGBTQ cast members, including Monsoon, Gatwa, and Groff. Showrunner Russell T Davies, who described himself as “gay as a goose” in Mashable’s interview with him, has previously explored queer story lines in drama series like Queer as Folk and It’s a Sin, as well as the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood, where various characters were LGBTQ, including the antihero Jack Harkness. Regarding queerness in Season 14, Davies said, “It suits Doctor Who, it’s an open, progressive, future-looking show.” 

To that end, queerness in “Rogue” doesn’t get lost in the trauma. While the Doctor and Rogue bond over the pain of losing partners in their time traveling, their time together is chiefly one of joy. They smile. They flirt. They dance — and the world around them falls away as if they are all that matters to each other. They kiss. 

In the climax, Rogue sacrifices himself to rescue Ruby. But first he kisses the Doctor deeply. The music soars as the close-up lingers. This isn’t queer-baiting. This isn’t writers deigning to give fans shipping material. This is confirmed: The Doctor loves Rogue, and Rogue loves him back — so much so that the bounty hunter takes Ruby’s place to save his new love a broken heart. But don’t cry for Rogue. He has faith in his man. Tossing the Doctor a bouquet per the wedding tradition to signify who’ll get hitched next, he says, “Find me,” before disappearing to another unknown dimension. 

Rogue’s conclusion is a promise of more queer joy to come. 

Jonathan Groff is Rogue in "Doctor Who."
Jonathan Groff is Rogue in “Doctor Who.”
Credit: Disney+

The Doctor’s smile vanishes as Rogue drops into the unknown. His eyes glisten with tears. In the final scene of “Rogue,” he admits his heartache to Ruby by explaining how impossible it would be to find Rogue again. He then laments, “I don’t even know his real name,” a remark that is weighted with Doctor Who lore.

But this ending is not as hopeless as it may seem. Rogue is not gone. He’s not dead. He’s just not yet found. The Doctor has hope, which is made clear by a simple final gesture.

Before the end credits on “Rogue” roll, the Doctor plucks from his pocket the ring that Rogue took off his own finger in their public proposal. He looks at it, at the symbol on its top that seems to resemble the bounty hunter’s bird-like ship, and he puts it on his own finger. A promise? An acceptance of the proposal? However you want to read it, the Doctor is choosing to believe in love and Rogue. 

Maybe they’re fated to “argue across the stars” yet. 

How to watch: New episodes of Doctor Who drop every Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on Disney+, where available, and simultaneously at midnight on BBC iPlayer in the UK. The season finale airs June 22.

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