Who Was the Mystery Face in Doctor Who’s “Rogue” Gallery?

Recognise that familiar face? SPOILERS

The Doctor and Ruby Sunday in Regency era costume in a ballroom in Doctor Who episode "Rogue"
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios

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

Just three episodes ago in “Boom”, the Doctor was trapped where he stood while a countdown ticked off the seconds until his death. In “Rogue”, he found himself in the same situation, but this time with the addition of a Kylie soundtrack and some excellent flirting.

Fifteen got out of the “Boom” trap by deactivating a landmine. He got out of the “Rogue” trap by properly introducing himself, both to Jonathan Groff’s bounty hunter, and to any new viewers late to this party. Rogue had mistaken the Doctor for the shape-shifting alien Chuldur he was on 19th century Earth to track down, and was seconds away from pressing the ‘incinerate’ button when the Doctor activated Rogue’s ship scanner and explained:

“I’m not a Chuldur. I’m something much older and far more powerful. I’m a Lord of Time from the lost and fallen planet of Gallifrey. Now let me go, bounty hunter. We have work to do.”

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Backing up the Doctor’s words, around him hovered a ring of past incarnations courtesy of the scanner. First was Fourteen (who’s still presumably enjoying al fresco mac and cheese in Donna Noble’s garden), followed by Thirteen, and then the numbering went skewwhiff and in came William Hartnell’s First Doctor.

Next came the surprise face we’re here to talk about (look around the 19:01 mark), followed by the Doctors played by Tom Baker, John Hurt, Peter Capaldi, Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith, Jo Martin, a younger David Tennant, Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Paul McGann, Patrick Troughton, and Sylvester McCoy, in his hat. All present and correct.

So who is mystery face number four? No, not a moustache-less Peter Cushing from the 1960s movies, but someone who looks an awful lot like actor Richard E. Grant.

Screengrab of Doctor Who episode Rogue featuring the Doctor surrounded by the faces of his previous incarnations, including the face of actor Richard E. Grant.

Withnail & I actor Grant has played the Doctor twice before, first in a non-canonical comedy sketch “Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death”, which broadcast in 1999 as part of a charity Red Nose Day fundraiser (and was written by Steven Moffat. Whatever happened to him? etc.). In that comedic sketch, the Doctor was briefly played by a host of non-canonical actors including Rowan Atkinson, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley, all of whom starred opposite Jonathan Pryce as the Master, and Julia Sawalha as companion Emma.

In 2003, Grant voiced a pre-Eccleston Ninth Doctor in animated BBC web series “Scream of the Shalka”, two years before Doctor Who’s official TV revival. Written by Paul Cornell, the six-episode Flash animation was released weekly online and also briefly featured the voice of David Tennant as a caretaker, years before Tennant was cast as the Tenth Doctor.

In 2012, Grant also appeared in multiple episodes of Doctor Who series seven as Walter Simeon, a Victorian character who was manipulated and then possessed by The Great Intelligence, an evil entity first faced by the Doctor back in 1967’s fifth season.

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The mystery face in the “Rogue” gallery very much looks like Grant’s (though more Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker-era Grant than either of the incarnations above). So what might that mean?

Is the alternate Ninth animated Shalka Doctor now considered in-continuity and live-action? Has another mystery War Doctor/Fugitive Doctor regeneration just been confirmed? Since The Timeless Child revelations, are all bets on continuity and canon simply off? Was that not even Richard E Grant’s face and we’re all just still reeling from all that Regency-era dancing? Or might the makers of Doctor Who just be having a little bit of ‘cat-thrown-among-pigeons’ fun… Answers on a postcard, please.

Doctor Who “Rogue” is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer and Disney+.