Heroes of Doctor Who: Jack Harkness

copyright BBC

By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues

In the beginning, the ninth Doctor saw right through Jack on meeting him in London during World War Two when Jack tried to sell an alien ambulance for a quick profit. However, Jack didn’t realize it contained nanogenes that were turning people into gas-masked zombies because of an injured little boy looking for his mummy.

It was the highlight of Christopher’s Eccleston’s first season as Jack took his place aboard the Tardis. A former time agent, Jack was probably the most promiscuous person ever to travel with the Doctor. He was a companion for the 21st century and as he was from the 51st century sexual boundaries were long gone.

He was brought in in preparation for the battle with the Daleks in the season finale and the show had never seen his like. Played by the characteristic John Barrowman, Jack quickly became a fan favourite. He was executed by the Daleks in the Parting Of The Ways but was brought back to life by a time vortex possessed Rose Tyler. Abandoned by the Doctor he was forced to travel back to twentieth century Earth as he reckoned this was the most likely place to find the Time Lord and get some answers. However, he overshot and ended up in the 19th century where he was forced to live until he could find the Doctor once again. But another surprise awaited him when Jack was murdered in a fight and came back to life. Time and again, he would die but Jack would always came back to life. That’s when he realized what Rose had actually done to him quite accidentally.

It was during this time that he came to the attention of Torchwood, brought together by Queen Victoria to stop any alien threat to the Empire and to ensure that if the Doctor returned he would be killed instantly. Jack worked for them until the millennium when the then leader of the team murdered everyone because he had foreseen a great darkness that they could not stop. Forced to keep the organisation alive singlehandedly, Jack brought together a new team, aiming to change the nature of Torchwood. When Torchwood One was destroyed in the battle between the Daleks and Cybermen, Jack’s Torchwood was the only one left and decided to devote the organisation in honour of the Doctor. In Miracle Day, Jack revealed he wanted to be like the Doctor with companions to whom he could show the wonders of the universe. But even Jack kept secrets as he didn’t originally tell his friends about his immortality until the battle with the demon Abbadon forced his hand. Up to that point he was barely keeping the team together, even with the introduction of Gwen Cooper, a policewoman whom he recruited to help remind them of the human factor.

Jack had found the Doctor’s hand, severed by the Sycorax in the tenth Doctor’s debut story and used it as an alarm system if the Time Lord was near. Knowing the Doctor used the rift that ran through Cardiff to refuel the Tardis, Jack’s patience was rewarded when the Tardis landed above his base. However, the Doctor and Martha took off not realizing Jack was clinging to the exterior of the ship becoming the first companion to travel in time like a limpet to a rock. This adventure lead them to discovering the Master alive and well in the far future having turned himself human as the Doctor did in the Family of Blood. There the Doctor and Jack had their confrontation where the Doctor revealed he had deliberately left Jack behind as he was afraid of what he had become and never expected to see him again.

The Doctor soon realized he had been mistaken and that Jack was a reformed character and was secretly impressed he had dedicated Torchwood to him. But they had to face the Master who became Prime Minister and devastated the Earth by bringing the Toclafane back from the future and turning the planet into a giant war machine to launch the new Time Lord Empire. Jack, along with the Doctor, spent a year as the Master’s prisoner where he was tortured to death over and over until Martha arrived and the Doctor executed his plan to return everything to normal. This gave Jack a purpose and a renewed love and respect for his Torchwood team. Asked how long he would live, the Doctor didn’t know but he learned that a mysterious figure from his future, the Face of Boe, a giant head in a tank, may be a future version of Jack. This would explain why Boe knew the Doctor was not the only Time Lord left and why he called the Doctor old friend.

As poster boy for the Time Agency, Jack was called the Face of Boe so if he indeed is, then Jack will lived for 5 billion years. Jack had a past which kept coming back to bite his ass in the form of John, a former lover and fellow agent (played by James Marsters, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). It was revealed that Jack lived on the Boe Shing Peninsula as a child and during an alien attack lost his brother, Grey. But John had found him, shackled like an animal, tortured for years by the unnamed aliens. In a twist, Grey planted a bomb on John and forced him to help take revenge on Jack by destroying everything he held dear. As Cardiff was bombed and the alien Weevils filled the streets, Grey buried Jack 2,000 years in the past where Cardiff was built on top of him. However, in a stroke of luck, our Jack was found and rescued by Torchwood, the same people he had been recruited to work for. In order to save the timeline he persuaded them to freeze him in their vaults to be released in time to stop his brother. It all ended badly when Owen Harper and Toshiko were killed and murdered by Grey. Jack’s renewed vigour was dealt a painful blow, his pride and hubris at the great job he’d made of Torchwood began to fall apart as in Children of the Earth, it was revealed he had sacrificed 12 children to the 456, an alien species that used children as drugs. Now they were back demanding ten percent of the children of Earth or they would kill everyone. The base in Cardiff was blown up when a bomb was planted inside Jack and detonated and Torchwood found themselves on the run. A prisoner of the government, Jack literally grew back and was encased in concrete. We learned he had a daughter and a grandson whose identities were kept secret. All through the series we learned snippets of Jack’s life, good and bad and the bad was what returned to haunt him.

Saved by what was left of his team, Jack and the others were helpless as the governments of the world rounded up the children to give them to the aliens. In the process, Jack’s lover, Ianto, was killed and in a final blow, Jack was forced to sacrifice his own grandchild to save the world, an act that saw his daughter disown him completely.

Devastated, Jack fled the Earth with the blood of his friends on his hands. They say the road to hell is paved by good intentions and Torchwood was gone. However, The Doctor paid him one last visit in an alien bar where Jack finally received his seal of approval and gave him back a purpose once again. Gwen and her husband Rhys were forced to live isolated with their new daughter until events in Miracle Day forced them back together when everyone in the world stopped dying. Torchwood was back but being hunted down again by a set of mysterious families, the architects of the Miracle Day. We learned Jack’s blood was a component of the effect stopping death and he managed to sacrifice his life force to cancel the effect.

Jack evolved from a selfish conman to a man inspired by a lone Time Lord to change things for the better. If anything, we have learned that Jack is a man out of time with a lot more baggage than we know but still trying to do the right thing. His recent sudden cameo in Doctor Who suggests he may be back once again in the Doctor’s life but how will cope when he finds the Doctor is now a woman. Surprisingly and typically, Jack takes it in his stride as seen in Revolution of the Daleks. Nothing about the Doctor surprises him so even a gender change doesn’t stop Jack from rescuing his old friend. There was a wasted opportunity to team team Jack with Graham who he called Silver Fox. The comedic value alone would have been gold. Revolution still manages to show a new side to Jack as Yaz points out he is insecure and needs a slot of praise. We also see the impact of their journey with the Doctor does to those lucky enough to travel with him in a one to one with Yaz. At the end we learn Jack has reunited with Gwen who now has a son and punches Daleks with her son’s boxing gloves. It has also been announced Jack and the Torchwood team will be teaming up with the tenth Doctor in a new Big Finish audio adventures. Jack’s journey, like the Doctor’s, is far from over.

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