Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff face off in

Doctor Who and Bridgerton collided in “Rogue,” episode six of the ongoing 14th Season. But beyond the allusions to the wildly popular period romance series, fresh clues to the mystery of Susan Twist, and a queer romance that is absolutely sublime, this cheeky adventure might have just suggested the return of River Song is on the horizon. 

Now, some of you might be chortling, “But River Song is dead!”

Yes, technically she died in her first appearance, in “Silence in the Library,” Season 4, episode 8. But time travel means that’s not where (or when) her story ended. Over successive seasons, Song — played brilliantly and boldly by Alex Kingston — has appeared over and over, often knowing more about the Doctor than he does of himself. And then of course, there’s a digital copy of her that the Doctor saved away.

Just last year, Kingston herself told Doctor Who Magazine, “You can go forward with River, you don’t always have to go back. She’s saved within a computer, and she can then go anywhere. I don’t think she’s quite gone yet.”

But how might River Song return? “Rogue” offers some clues. 

How does “Rogue” reference River Song?

While Rogue (Jonathan Groff) has the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) secured in his spaceship, the bounty hunters says offhandedly that his “new boss” demands a lot more paperwork. Now, Rogue could be working for anyone, friend or foe, across the Whoniverse. But who would assign him to go after a murderous Chuldur in 1813 Bath? Maybe the Time Agency that once employed Jack Harkness? Perhaps some far-future UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce)? Or — could it be someone who zigged throughout the Doctor’s life and took a lot of notes? Could this new boss be River Song? 

Admittedly, we’ve got little to go on when it comes to who Rogue is working for. But there’s another reference in this episode to the Doctor’s clever wife.

At the end of the episode, the Doctor is explaining to Ruby how Rogue’s being pitched to a “random barren dimension” by their Chuldur trap means he’s next to impossible to find. “There are as many dimensions as there are atoms in the universe,” he says, and then adds, “I don’t even know his real name.” 

That might seem a mournful line about how brief their time together was — not even enough time to learn Rogue’s real (as opposed to lifted from Dungeons & Dragons) name. Perhaps the Doctor yearns to have that kind of intimacy with the time-traveling adventurer who came in and out of his life, just like he has done to so many. But it might also recall the Doctor’s own name, so closely guarded a secret that only a very, very, very select few know it. Chief among them is River Song. 

Might River Song pass the torch to… the Doctor’s husband? 

Imagine if River Song returns from her computer captivity. Might she see their marriage having reached ’til death do we part? Might she hope to see her husband happy over committed to her across all timey-wimey-ness? 

In some regards, Rogue is like River. He’s adventurous, cunning, dynamic, and manages to surprise the Doctor in terms of spontaneity and self-sacrifice. Could it be that showrunner Russell T Davies is setting Rogue up to be the Doctor’s new partner — potentially in a way that pays respect to River Song (and her legions of fans)? 

I’ll admit. I’m speculating wildly — and also desperately want Kingston back in play on the series. But fans have been pointing to River’s potential return since the December 2023 special, “The Giggle.”

There, the evil Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) said he’d put the Doctor’s nemesis Time Lord, The Master, into his gold tooth. And at episode end, a hand wearing dark red nail polish creeps into frame to pluck it away. Some have suggested — including TikTokker cordeliavenable —  that it might be Missy, Michelle Gomez‘s menacing take on The Master. But others have noted that particular nail polish looks awfully similar to the shade River wears in “The Time of Angels.”

And if River is bopping about in time with the tooth-trapped Master — a thing that the Doctor might have thought impossible — perhaps it’s not so unthinkable to imagine he might reconnect with Rogue. 

While it seemed poor Rogue was doomed to die in the desolation of an unknown dimension by his self-sacrifice to save Ruby, he tells the Doctor, “Come find me!” He’s hopeful they’ll reunite. And why not?

There have been plenty of Whoniverse characters who should have died but didn’t quite. See also River Song, or Jack Harkness, the Torchwood antihero who’s hung with several Doctors and cannot be killed. Rogue definitely has some Harkness in him, being a swaggering American with great hair and queer romances.

Here’s hoping that Rogue will become a recurring character, just as Jack did. And that River Song might return to give her blessing or make a throuple. We’re not picky on this point. 

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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