Doctor Who Just Gave Bridgerton What It’s Been Missing

And it’s not shapeshifting killer bird-aliens from outer space.

Ncuti Gatwa and Jonathan Groff in Regency-era costume as The Doctor and Rogue
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios

Warning: contains spoilers for Doctor Who episode “Rogue”.

What’s always coming but never arrives? Tomorrow, and LGBT+ romances in Bridgerton. Ever since the Shondaland show turned Regency race-relations on their head to create an inclusive version of 19th century England, people have asked when it will do the same for queer love stories. Mixed in with the steamy duke and debutante storylines, will the escapist period drama step outside of its source material to also offer up some duke/duke or deb/deb plots? 

Absolutely, the makers of Bridgerton have said, but you’ll have to wait. Creator Chris Van Dusen told Q Voice News in 2022 that, after scratching the surface of queer representation with the story of artist Sir Henry Granville in season one, “hopefully, we’re going to be able to expand on that even more in future seasons.”

Next, 2023 prequel series Queen Charlotte told the story of Brimsley and Reynolds, two male royal valets who fell in love but were ultimately kept apart by social intolerance. It was a poignant development for a supporting character, but as romantic stories go, it was more tragic than escapist. We glimpsed a love that had to be kept hidden, and the only dance shared by the two valets took place symbolically outside of the Regency ballroom.

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New showrunner Jess Brownell told on the eve of season three’s release in May 2024, that a priority for future seasons of Bridgerton is to foreground not only queer love stories, but also queer joy. Not that it’s a contest, but Doctor Who just beat them to it.

In series 14 episode “Rogue”, written by Kate Herron and Briony Redman, the Doctor and Ruby travel back to 1813 England for a spot of dressing up fun and psychic-earring-enabled dancing at a Regency Duchess’ glitzy party. They have a ball, until they realise that they’re not the only ones enjoying some Bridgerton cosplay and the whole place is teeming with shapeshifting bird aliens who are happily murdering people to try them on like outfits on a sale rail.  

The Doctor isn’t the only one in the ballroom who knows that something’s up; a space bounty hunter named Rogue (played by Jonathan Groff) is also there to round up the alien interlopers. That leads Rogue to the Doctor, and the Doctor to Rogue, and the result is: A* chemistry. They flirt, show each other their spaceships, the Doctor almost gets put in an incinerator and lip syncs a bit of Kylie, and they share an intense Regency-era dance that clears the floor with its sheer scandal – just like Anthony and Kate in Bridgerton season two, but because they’re both men and not because one of them very nearly married the other’s sister. 

The Doctor and Rogue’s whirlwind romance, like Brimsley and Reynolds’ in Queen Charlotte, also ends with them separated. Rogue heroically sacrifices himself to save Ruby Sunday, leaping into a transporter to “a random, barren dimension” after planting one on the Doctor and telling him to come and find him. It’s very much a ‘to be continued’ story, and knowing Doctor Who, in some form, continued it will be.

When the Doctor and Rogue danced together, it wasn’t poignantly and in the shadows, but centre-stage and hot. Yes, they did it to create a spectacle and to draw some murderous aliens out from under cover, but while it was happening, it was all about them: on display and under each other’s spell. That dance and that passionate kiss are indelibly there now, part of this show’s vast fabric.

When socially manufactured shame is absent in the way it can so easily be between a millennia-old alien and a space bounty hunter from light-years in the future, queer joy can exist in any imagined historical setting. We’ve just seen it spin around a 19th-century dancefloor thanks to Doctor Who. Sci-fi got there first, but with new episodes landing this week, let’s hope that Bridgerton‘s division-defying imagination doesn’t fail it now.

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Doctor Who series 14 episode 6 “Rogue” is streaming now on BBC iPlayer and Disney+. Bridgerton season 3B streams on Netflix from June 13.