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Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness

Jack: "It's not my name, it's his. I took his. But I didn't realize he was so hot."

Jack goes back into the past, and falls in love with himself. A new and interesting take on narcissism.

From the start, we could tell that this was a time period that meant a lot to Jack; there was such joy on his face, and familiarity as well. He told Tosh that his experiences in WWII were when he was a con man. Would that be before he met the Doctor and Rose, or after? What is Jack's real name? Tosh asked him, but he didn't tell her. Will we ever know?

Anyway. Since the real Jack Harkness (I'll call him Captain Harkness to differentiate him from our lead character) was involved with a woman and living in 1941, I'm guessing he was bi or closeted, and his strong attraction for our Jack brought him out, so to speak. That dance and that kiss had a powerful effect on Captain Harkness. He seemed to be experiencing a moment of genuine joy and self-acceptance ... the day before he died. Better than not at all, I suppose. Our Jack's philosophy is live for today, for tomorrow you may die. For Captain Harkness, that was literally true. Of course, our Jack can't die. Maybe he needs another philosophy.

That was some incredibly sexy kiss. John Barrowman can screen kiss like nobody's business. But wouldn't two men dancing together in front of a bunch of GIs raise some eyebrows in 1941? Yes, everyone on the dance floor was staring at them, but no one reacted. Maybe it was the "tomorrow we die" spirit and the shock of seeing the Rift open. But I kept thinking of that woman who called Tosh a racial slur; it just seems like someone would freak. The romantic in me is glad it didn't happen, though. Like I said, that was some kiss.

As Jack was falling in love with his doppelganger and bonding with Tosh, Owen and Ianto came to blows. Owen wanted to open the Rift to find Diane, his Lost Love. Ianto was all rational and trying to keep Owen from destroying the world, and let me point out that Ianto also lost his lover recently and had clearly learned from his earlier stupidity. Ianto showed true loyalty toward Jack, too. And shot Owen. Too late, but still.

What Owen did to the Rift brought Jack and Tosh back to the present. The wonderfully named time-traveler Bilis Manger was never explained, though, and whatever it was that he wanted from changing Tosh's equation, he got it. He was smiling. This can't be good.

Bits and pieces:

-- According to "Everything Changes," Captain Jack Harkness, American volunteer RAF, 133 Squadron, disappeared on January 21, 1941. Jack introduced himself as Captain James Harper. I wonder if JH are Jack's real initials?

-- Why didn't Jack know what his namesake looked like? He certainly knew a lot about the real Captain Harkness, since he was impersonating him for so long. Yes, this was way before photo IDs, but you'd think Jack would have seen at least one photograph.

-- Okay, one more. If Captain Harkness disappeared in 1941 and our Jack took his name and used it, then Captain Jack Harkness *didn't* disappear in 1941; there should have been reports *afterward.* Right?

-- Jack told Captain Harkness about talking his best friend into signing up when they were very young, and being caught over enemy lines, where his friend was tortured to death. Jack said the enemy were the worst possible creatures, but they let Jack go.

-- The half a formula here and half a formula there was too obvious a McGuffin, but okay.

-- Tosh was on her way to her grandfather's 88th birthday, so she was (conveniently) in a party dress. Her determination to fix the situation and get the formula to Torchwood was commendable; she even bled for it. She also showed a lot of friendship and compassion for Jack.

-- Tosh's laptop battery died awfully quickly. Even mine doesn't go that fast.

-- Bilis Manger had a Polaroid camera. When did they come out? Did Bilis bring it from another time?

-- Jack told Captain Harkness that he had no one right now. But isn't he canoodling with Ianto? Is that just a casual sort of thing for Jack, sleeping with one of his employees?

-- Nice crossover touch: there were "Vote Saxon" posters on the Ritz in the present day sequences. I wonder if I missed some earlier in the season?


Tosh: "Pearl Harbor, Jack."
Jack: "Doesn't happen 'til the end of the year."
Tosh: "Granddad stayed in London, but he was persecuted. If I stay stuck here, what will happen to me?"
Jack: "I'll take care of you."
He would, too.

Owen: "I'm tired of being in awe of the Rift. I'm tired of living with Jack's secrets. We don't even know who he is."

Owen: "You're just a tea boy."
Ianto: "I'm much more than that. Jack needs me."
Owen: "In your dreams, Ianto. In your sad, wet dreams where you're his part-time shag, maybe."
Notice how when Owen says something offensive to his workmates, he always implies that they're sexually unattractive to make them feel bad about themselves. He's done it to Tosh and Gwen, too. I don't think he's done it to Jack. But then again, it wouldn't work on Jack.

Tosh: "He would have been so proud that you took his name. Because here you are, saving the world."

Three out of four stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. When I first saw this episode, I was watching with friends who all asked "wouldn't there be a reaction to the Captains Jack kissing?" and my answer is I simply don't care.

    It was a wonderfully romantic kiss between two beautiful, heroic guys and they're still very rare on British TV. I was proud that it happened.

    Ianto and Tosh both had a good episode because their loyalty to Jack gave them bravery: Jack manages to inspire others to greatness and that's pretty cool. Owen was a jerk, but he did have a reason. It shows there's still hope for him and his bizarre fish-lips.

  2. Hehe, he has some weird lips, that Owen. :P

    He's supposed to be omnisexual, but has Jack ever had a relationship with a woman? Or alien species? (Or other Earth species? ;)

    Ah, Wikipedia does list a few known ex-girlfriends, one known ex-boyfriend, and even an ex-wife. No non-human creatures though. I guess he's still exploring human homosexuality, and not yet ready for Kirk-like adventures. :)

    I also wonder how Jack feels about intersex and transgender people. Wouldn't that be an interesting direction for Jack's character to take? As well as being groundbreaking television, obviously.

  3. Really romantic and moving episode. The kiss was so sweet and tragic. Perhaps the onlookers were too stunned to react, in the forties men having relations with other men were still seen to be committing a crime that carried a jail sentence. Poor Alan Turing who made many efforts against the Germans during the war was threatned with a jail sentence for being gay and committed suicide. The goverment should have given him a medal if all was right.

  4. "and not yet ready for Kirk-like adventures. :)"
    Umm... "Later, blue"?, anyone?
    "they're still very rare on British TV"
    They're still very rare on tv, period.

  5. Science fiction has trended sexless for so long, and has been the total opposite of gay friendly. I think the character of Jack Harkness is groundbreaking in the best possible way. He's an action hero, he's the lead character in a dramatic sci-fi series, and he kisses men on screen. I love it. It's refreshing, and it's been a long time coming.

    And yes, most of Jack's sexual relationships with women have been abbreviated, shipped, and/or implied -- like Rose, Gwen and so on. If that's as far as it ever goes, that's fine with me. Although I'll admit I'm as much into Jack/Gwen as I am into Jack/Ianto.

  6. One thing I hate about New Who and Torchwood and I've mentioned this before is their whinging about RTD's gay agenda. Just grow up already.

    I don't need sex in my sci-fi to care but I certainly don't object to it either.

    This for me was a wonderful episode, beautiful and emotive and excellent for John Barrowman and Matt Rippey.

    Bilis is an interesting villain, arguably the best one we've had so far on the series.

    Owen and Ianto had good moments, Gwen was underused, which was fine, because we got more Toshiko and that's good.

  7. I thought I'd add this: a clip from the extras of John Barrowman singing "Anything Goes" on what was obviously the set of this episode. I'd heard he was a professional singer and always wanted to hear what he sounded like. He sings as good as he looks.

  8. Thanks for posting this, Billie!

    They should do a Torchwood musical. :)

  9. Only if Joss Whedon writes it. Hey! James Marsters can sing, too.

  10. Possibly the best part of the movie. The remake just wasn't as good as the original with Gene Wilder.

  11. The romantic kiss notwithstanding, it is very clear why the original Captain Jack Harkness got killed the very next day. Effectively, Torchwood Captain Jack made sure the Original Captain Jack would die by snogging with him openly in front of his own men on a dance floor. Do you really think that in 1941 everyone would just go "AWWW!" and it would be business-as-usual the next day?

    Original Captain Jack is killed THE VERY NEXT DAY supposedly by the enemy.


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