the doctor looking at the rogue on a balcony in doctor who

‘Doctor Who’ Writer Kate Herron Gets the Flirtation Between the Doctor and the Rogue

Kate Herron is known by fans as the woman who helped bring us Loki and now she’s diving into Doctor Who. Herron wrote “Rogue” with Briony Redman, and it brought Bridgerton to Doctor Who and that’s exactly what Herron and Redman wanted to do with the episode!

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I had the privilege of talking to Herron about the episode and how much the pair was allowed to lean into that Bridgerton feel for the episode. “We said to Russell when we were having initial conversations with him, we were pitching him different ideas of what the episode could be. And then there was one where I was like, ‘Well look, I love romances. Could we do a regency era romance for you?’ And he was like, ‘Sure,'” she said.

“I think, to be honest, I don’t even know if we even spoke about Bridgerton. Or maybe we were talking about it because we all just love that show. But I think me and Briony always thought, ‘Well, there’ll be a point where they’ll tell us, please remove these references now.’ And then we were just never told to remove them. So we were like, great because I adore that show and me and Briony were joking that we’d basically just written a fan fiction.”

Letting the Doctor flirt a little

His relationship with the Rogue (Jonathan Groff) marks the first time that the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) reciprocated a same-sex kiss. It is not the show’s first same-sex kiss, nor is it the first for the Doctor, but his kiss with Captain Jack back in season 1 wasn’t exactly two-sided.

Herron and Redman did, however, write the Doctor flirting back with the Rogue for the first time, and that was exciting to see. “I think for me it’s always grounding the emotion in reality, but at the same time, it’s really fun to see the Doctor doing something that we’ve seen them do a little bit, but not in at this level. So yes, it was just a challenge in being like, ‘Okay, well how would the Doctor flirt and how would a romance play out for them in some ways?’ But obviously they’ve had romances in the past. But I think for me it was always just about keeping it grounded in some ways just for the emotion, because obviously it’s a very heightened situation in the story,” Herron said.

But there was an idea among fans, as well about the Rogue. The minute we saw glimpses of him, we were convinced that he could be a version of Captain Jack. Herron isn’t a stranger to theories from fans; she directed the first season of Loki. She gets it.

That means navigating a sea of fans with what they thought was right. “I haven’t actually seen that many,” Herron said. “I have seen some of the Captain Jack ones because some of my friends sent me those mainly trying to find out what’s going on with our episode, and I was like, ‘Well it’s not that, so.’ Because that’s such a brilliant character. I wouldn’t dare.”

What’s in a name

Herron and Redman wanted a bit of mystery in the episode, clearly, and we now have another title as a character name. The Doctor and the Rogue do have a nice ring together, though. But the reasoning behind naming Groff’s character simply the Rogue came from Herron and Redman’s own love of Dungeons and Dragons.

“So me and Briony both love Dungeon and Dragons and Briony plays that in a comedy show weekly. And for us, it was like, ‘Well Rogue is a rogue.’ And I think honestly it’s so hard coming up with character names and we were like, ‘Well let’s just call him Rogue because that’s mysterious and cool and then it just stuck with it.”

A thing about this version of the Doctor I love is that he isn’t someone who tells his companions to stay close to him. In the past, the Doctors have been afraid of their companions leaving or complain because they run off. Gatwa’s take on the Doctor tells his companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), to go have fun, and it’s fun to see the Doctor treat his companion in that way.

“I think the fun thing with Ncuti and Millie and what Russell’s created with them is just that their friendship is really beautiful,” Herron said. “And so it was just us trying to add to what had already come before in the season and I think it was really interesting for us. I’ve always enjoyed episodes where the companion sometimes does go away from the Doctor and get separated and because there’s just something quite interesting in that, this person has left their home and everything behind to go traveling with the Doctor. But when they’re separated from them it’s like, ‘Okay, well how do they feel about things?’ And I loved the idea of having Ruby meet a woman from this era who you think is from this era and what is their friendship like and what is her story in that world. I think it was just a very fun challenge for us honestly and also we kind of needed them to separate because the Doctor’s going have this brilliant love story.”

A budding romance for the Dotor and the Rogue

Even when you are creating something that the fans will eat up, like the Doctor and the Rogue flirting with each other, it’s still a challenge. But Herron and Redman created a relationship with these two characters in “Rogue,” and their flirtatious relationship is beautiful to watch unfold. Even a writer like Herron has a favorite moment.

“I do love their first meeting on the balcony. It makes me so happy. And I think because it was so fun plotting their sort of enemies to love his storyline and also just in the sense that I think straight out the gate that Rogue is someone a little bit different to the Doctor,” she said. “And I also love where he tells the doctor to run and he grabs his hand and it’s like, ‘Wait, I normally do this. Like what is happening? Who are you? How are you turning my world upside down?’ And I think that’s the fun thing with every love story, right? Is that it was a real challenge making sure that Rogue felt like an equal to the Doctor. And that was very important.Even just that line, ‘Travel with me.’ Because I think the Doctor’s always asking people to travel with them and it was really important to be like, ‘Well what if he meets someone who actually is like, well maybe my life is quite cool and you could come along with me for the ride.'”

“Rogue” is out on Disney+ now and is beautiful.

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.