Captain Jack Harkness

Posted in Episode by - June 15, 2018
Captain Jack Harkness

Aired 01 January 2007

Following in the footsteps of the modern run of Doctor Who, the first series of Torchwood ends with a two-part serial, the first tasked with setting the scene and delving into the characters before the second deals with the true effects and aftermath of a catastrophic event. Returning after the wonderful ‘Out of Time,’ Catherine Tregenna pens ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ and continues the fascinating arc of Owen Harper following Diane’s departure while finally giving a much-needed look into Torchwood Three’s leader’s past.

With quick nods to Doctor Who via Bad Wolf graffiti and Vote Saxon posters, the story exploits the very tense and evocative setting of World War II London when Jack and Tosh investigate an abandoned dance hall and inadvertently fall through the rift to a goodbye dance for departing soldiers after hearing temporal echoes of big band music playing. Jack has never been one to openly discuss his past, a continual point of consternation for his team members whom he simply asks to trust him implicitly, but he reveals to Tosh that he has lived through World War II before and, upon meeting the true Captain Jack Harkness who is fated to die the very next day, that he assumed that name only as a cover.

Meanwhile, Tosh determinedly works on finding a way home, compiling equations that she hopes will last until her true present so that her team can once more open the rift to retrieve them. While looking for a means of ensuring her work’s survival for several decades, the manager Bilis Manger takes a photograph with a camera that seems oddly out of place, and it’s this photo that allows Ianto and Owen to realise just where their colleagues have ended up after sending Gwen to investigate the dance hall. Gwen runs into the very same manager, and though he doesn’t let on that anything is amiss when Gwen claims to be searching for her friends, his earlier retrieval of a file with ‘Torchwood’ written upon it reveals more than any words ever could about this mysterious figure.

With a sudden urge to open the Rift- ostensibly to rescue his colleagues but quite clearly to seek out Diane- but without all of the information to do so, Owen finds himself in a battle of wills and sentiment against Ianto. This scene is a bit melodramatic at times, but both Gareth David-Lloyd and Burn Gorman fully commit, and Owen having to admit that Lisa never left Ianto despite all of her many flaws unlike Diane who willingly left to explore other times and people is a strong moment that only spurs his anger and commitment further. This altercation only results in the two realising that they are missing a part to the Rift Machine Core, however, and Owen quickly goes to the dance hall to join Gwen in her search. To her credit, Gwen finds the note Tosh had left so long before, but she doesn’t take the time to wonder why only one part of the equations would be scratched out but the note itself left otherwise intact. Indeed, even after realising that Bilis is somehow present in both time zones, no real thought is given to providing an explanation or trying to uncover why his office holds the key for which Owen has been searching.

Ianto is not one to stand idly by, however, as Owen returns and attempts to open the Rift without any idea of what might happen, and he takes the extreme action of shooting Owen in the shoulder, a grand gesture that still falls short as Owen manages to start up the Rift Machine. Jack and Tosh end up back in the present alive and well, but not before the two Jacks form an immense bond solidified by a shared survivor’s guilt and Torchwood’s Jack tells the other to seize the day. This is not the bombastic Jack usually on display, and Barrowman does incredibly well with his portrayal of a softer and much more humanised version of his character who can so dearly relate to this other man. Both men are so tormented and passionate that- even though there is no way their dance and kiss could have realistically happened in this time period in public- their moment on the dance floor feels completely validated and earned.

‘Captain Jack Harkness’ gets all of the small details about its historical setting right, and Matt Rippy is an excellent casting choice to bring the true Harkness to life while Murray Melvin captures the odd eccentricities of Bilis wonderfully. While there are far too many minor moments that get glossed over that any astute member of Torchwood should have picked up on to realise that something just isn’t right, the fact that the rift is open as Bilis echoes Suzie’s warning that something is coming out of the darkness sets the scene for what promises to be an exciting finale.

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