Who is Captain Jack and just why are we happy to see his return?

; Date: Thu Jan 30 2020

Tags: Doctor Who »»»» Doctor Who Season 12

In Fugitive of the Judoon, we had a lot of news jammed into one episode, one of which was a tangential visit by Captain Jack Harkness. You heard that right, Capt. Beefcake is back just when we thought his only return would be in audio releases from Big Finish. Since there may be a lot of Doctor Who fans who aren't aware of Capt. Jack, since it was maybe 10 years since his last appearance, let's take a stroll down memory lane and revisit just who this guy is. Capt. Jack's life story is right among the accidental immortals created by The Doctor.

Source - BBC

Why are we glad Capt. Jack is back? It's because he is so much fun. Okay, the presence of Capt. Jack Harkness brought in some unwanted sexual innuendo. Does that actually add to the story line? I don't think so - except insofar as having that adds a bit of realism to the show. But in Jack's case it was a bit over the top, and ... Anyway, yes, Capt. Jack is a very fun character, and the actor (John Barrowman) clearly wants to be back in Doctor Who in a big way. I gather from his social media feed that Barrowman has been lobbying the Doctor Who team at the BBC, and the fans, for years.

The method of his return does bring to us yet another story twist that may or may not be intertwined with the Lie about the origin of the Time Lords. That's gonna have to be another blog post 'lest I get distracted.

Capt. Jack is he's an invention of the Russel T. Davies years that did not make it to the Steven Moffatt years. He was such a strong character that Barrowman, playing Capt. Jack, was the lead of a spin-off show called Torchwood. (Torchwood is an anagram for Doctor Who) The Torchwood series was kind of like CSI Cardiff except that the crimes were being committed by alien creatures from other dimensions who were coming through the rift that is in the main square of Cardiff.

Torchwood as an organization was launched as a result of events in Tooth and Claw. The Doctor and Rose landed in Balmoral Castle in 1879 and ended up interacting with Queen Victoria (with Rose tricking the Queen into saying "We are not amused"). The bottom line is that The Doctor pissed off Queen Victoria, and she ordered the creation of The Torchwood Institute as a means to fight against The Doctor. Well, any alien incursion, and Torchwood was to gather up any and all alien technology for reverse engineering and research purposes.

Capt. Jack and the Vortex Manipulator

As a Time Agent, Capt. Jack had to travel through time. He didn't have a TARDIS. Instead he had a gadget strapped to his wrist, a Vortex Manipulator. He could use it to travel to any time frame or location in the history of the universe.

This was such a fun plot device, that the Vortex Manipulator was stolen from Capt. Jack and used by Dr. River Song for a long time. The Doctor even used it in The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. The Doctor described it as cheap nasty Time Travel that probably wasn't healthy.

Capt. Jack and The Jacket

The signature outfit for Capt. Jack is his RAF jacket. His whole persona as Capt. Jack Harkness is borrowed from a soldier during World War II, and the RAF jacket is clothing he began wearing at that time. We never see him wearing anything else, though sometimes we see him with the jacket off and he's still wearing the shirt and other stuff that's underneath.

Even in The Children of Earth where he was stripped of his clothing, Ianto Jones makes a special run to an army surplus store to find that outfit.

Origin of Capt. Jack Harkness

Capt. Jack, Rose and The Doctor in The Doctor Dances, Source - BBC

We first meet Capt. Jack in a two-parter featuring the 9th Doctor and Rose, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. The episodes are set in London during "The Blitz" - the period of World War II featuring an air between Great Britain and Germany. The Doctor and Rose were following a time traveling metal capsule that had crash-landed in that context. The Doctor and Rose knew that the cylinder was going to blow up on a certain day, and wanted to avoid that result, and were trying to find the cylinder to take it somewhere else to defuse it or destroy it safely.

Capt. Jack introduced himself as a former Time Agent who was seeking to sell the cylinder.

He had joined a British military office posing as an American soldier. He had parked an invisible spaceship next to Big Ben, and was trying to arrange the sale of the cylinder.

The Time Agent part of Jack's history is that he was originally born in the 51st century in the Boeshane Peninsula on some planet somewhere. He said at one time he'd been the first Time Agent selected from his area, and that he had been called The Face of Boe referring to his home region. But it also referred to an amazingly ancient person that The Doctor and Martha Jones had met, who was also called The Face of Boe, who was nearly 5 billion years old at that time.

The Imortalization of Capt. Jack Harkness

Capt. Jack being resurrected by Bad-Wolf-Rose, Source - BBC

After The Doctor Dances, Capt. Jack traveled with The Doctor and Rose in Boom Town, Bad Wolf, and The Parting of the Ways. The last two was a two-parter episode set in a space-bound TV broadcasting satellite that had been subverted by an evil Dalek plan.

During this group of episodes, Capt. Jack slowly redeemed himself transitioning from a cheap con man to a proper hero. At the end of The Parting of The Ways he even sacrificed himself to be killed by Daleks.

By that time Rose had grown quite fond of Jack, and she also had been infused by the energy of the Eye of Harmony in The TARDIS and had become some kind of god-like being. On the one hand God-Like-Rose swept away the Dalek fleet. On the other hand, she caused Capt Jack to not only be resurrected from the dead, but he could never die.

Over Capt. Jack's subsequent time we saw him killed in many different ways, including being blown to smithereens with his body completely shattered and blown to pieces, and from every death he resurrected. Some of the resurrections were horrid, but resurrect he did, all because Rose wanted him to live.

Utopia and The Last of the Time Lords

Capt. Jack next encountered The Doctor with the beginning of the episode Utopia. By that time Jack had spent about 100 years working for Torchwood based in Cardiff. One item he had gathered was The Doctor's "Hand" in The Christmas Invasion (David Tenant's first time out as The Doctor), and which Torchwood quietly grabbed and put in a preserving liquid. One day, Jack noticed the hand twitching like crazy, he heard the TARDIS's engines, then strapped the container holding The Hand to his back, and took off running, being able to grab onto the TARDIS as it was dematerializing.

They landed on a planet at the very end of the Universe, just a few hours before the Universe finally collapses into nothing.

There they met some humans led by a Prof. Lazarus, who had a cockamamie plan to put the remainder of the human race on a spaceship to travel somewhere beyond the end of the universe.

This Professor turned out to be The Master but under a deep disguise. The Master stole The TARDIS and went back to present-day Earth, becoming Prime Minister Harold Saxon, where he developed another barking mad plan to kill off a large portion of the human race and enslave the rest.

Jack accompanied The Doctor and Martha through the whole set of events in The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords.

Stolen Earth and Journeys End

In The Stolen Earth and Journeys End, the Daleks invent a barking mad cockamamie scheme for stealing Earth and a bunch of other planets to create some kind of energy engine. Jack, as the Torchwood Guy, is involved, and meets up with The Doctor just as Rose also meets up with The Doctor just as The Doctor is shot by a Dalek. Because The Doctor was shot by a Dalek, Capt. Jack knows this will cause a regeneration and they get The Doctor into The TARDIS for that to happen in safety. Except that The Doctor has his hand, and puts the regeneration energy over there, and simply heals his body.

The Doctor, Rose, and Capt. Jack meeting the Daleks in Journeys End, Source - BBC

Capt. Jack's role is - once they get on the Dalek Ship, he gets shot by Daleks who don't know that he resurrects. He then is able to act as a free agent, running through the ship on his own. He meets up with a group including Sarah Jane Smith, Mickey, and Rose's Mom (Jackie Tyler) and is able to act as one of the groups that disrupts the Daleks plans.

By the end of the episode, Capt. Jack and Martha are walking away, and joined by Mickey who wants to sign up as some kind of special agent.


In parallel to all that, Capt. Jack headed up the Torchwood office in Cardiff.

The story was that Jack had been captured by a couple Torchwood operatives in the late 1800's. Initially they were torturing him because he was alien and Torchwood was tasked with learning about alien creatures. Eventually they came to an agreement with Jack where he would work for Torchwood, eventually heading up the Cardiff branch.

There were several whole seasons of Torchwood episodes.

In my opinion the whole series went downhill with The Children of Earth which was a very dark five-part story. In that story a race of alien creatures, the 4-5-6, had come to The Earth in the early 1900's and demanded the sacrifice of 12 children. It was Capt. Jack who oversaw the delivery of those children. In The Children of Earth the 4-5-6 had returned and this time demanded 10% of the entire child population.

There were in my opinion many bad things about that story and I found it disgusting.

The final series of Torchwood, Miracle Day, was even worse. This was co-produced by an American TV company, and a lot of the action was based in America. Hence there was a lot of stupid conspiracy theory nonsense such as the US Government being forced to use FEMA camps to enslave a large part of the population, and a bunch of other raving paranoid delusional stuff. I couldn't bring myself to watch more than a couple episodes of it.

The plot of Miracle Day was kind of that Jack's immortality was stolen from him, and as a result nobody else on the planet could die, but Jack himself was at risk of dying. In other words, put the character through a "What If" scenario of reversing the roles and see what happens. I understand that by the end of the series, the issue was worked out, everything put back the way it's supposed to be, etc.

About the Author(s)

(davidherron.com) David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.