|Doctor Who universe character|
|Captain Jack Harkness|
|Affiliated with||Time Agency
|Home era||51st century (original)
21st century (current)
|First appearance||"The Empty Child"|
|Portrayed by||John Barrowman|
Captain Jack Harkness is a fictional character played by John Barrowman in Doctor Who and its spin-off series, Torchwood. He first appears in the 2005 Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" and reappears in the remaining episodes of the 2005 series as a companion of the ninth incarnation of the series' protagonist the Doctor. Jack becomes the central character in the adult-themed Torchwood, and returns in the 2007 series of Doctor Who, reuniting with the tenth incarnation of the Doctor, and again for the 2008 series and a 2010 special.
In the programme's narrative, Jack is a time traveller and former con man from the 51st century. In contrast to the Doctor, Jack is a man of action, more willing to apply a hands-on solution to a problem. As a consequence of his death and resurrection in the 2005 series finale of Doctor Who, the character becomes immortal. Jack eventually becomes the leader of Torchwood, a British organisation dedicated to combating alien threats. An ambiguous backstory is gradually revealed in the course of both series, adding another layer of complexity to the character.
Jack is the first openly non-heterosexual character in the history of televised Doctor Who. The popularity of the character amongst multiple audiences directly influenced the development of the spin-off series Torchwood. The character became a figure of the British public consciousness, rapidly gaining fame for portrayer John Barrowman. As an ongoing depiction of bisexuality in mainstream British television, the character became a role model for young gay and bisexual people in the UK. Jack is featured in the pages of various Doctor Who and Torchwood books, as well as having action figures created in his likeness.
Jack Harkness first appeared in the 2005 Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" and its continuation "The Doctor Dances", when Rose (Billie Piper), a companion of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), meets him during the Blitz. Although posing as an American volunteering in the Royal Air Force, Jack is actually a former "Time Agent" from the 51st century who left the agency after inexplicably losing two years of his memory. Now working as a con man, Jack is responsible for unwittingly releasing a plague in 20th century London. After the Doctor cures the plague, Jack redeems himself by taking an unexploded bomb into his ship; the Doctor and Rose rescue him moments before it explodes. He subsequently travels with the Doctor and Rose in the Doctor's time travelling spacecraft, the TARDIS. During his time with the Doctor, Jack matures into a hero, and in his final 2005 appearance, he sacrifices himself fighting the evil alien Daleks; Rose brings him back to life while suffused with the power of the time vortex, but she and the Doctor leave him behind on Satellite 5.
Harkness returned in 2006 as the central character of the spin-off series Torchwood, in which he leads the Cardiff-based Torchwood Three in combating alien threats. Jack is re-introduced as a changed man, reluctantly immortal, having spent years on Earth waiting to reunite with the Doctor. Jack recruits policewoman Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) to his team of experts after she discovers them; there are hints of romantic feelings between the two, but Gwen has a boyfriend and Jack enters a sexual relationship with the team's general factotum Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). Despite having worked with him for some time, his present-day colleagues know very little about him; over the course of the series they discover that he cannot die, and that "Jack Harkness" is not in fact his true name, but an alias taken from a deceased Second World War airman. Jack was once a prisoner of war, and was an interrogator who used torture. In the Torchwood Series One finale "End of Days", Jack returns to the TARDIS. This continues to the 2007 Doctor Who episode "Utopia", where he meets up with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Martha (Freema Agyeman). Jack explains he returned from Satellite 5 to the present day by travelling to 1869 via vortex manipulator, and lived through the 20th century waiting for the Doctor. By the series finale, having spent a year in an alternate timeline enslaved by the Master (John Simm), Jack opts to return to his team in Cardiff. Before departing, Jack speculates about his immortality and reminiscences about his youth on the Boeshane Peninsula, suggesting that he may one day become the mysterious "Face of Boe" (a recurring character voiced by Struan Rodger).
In Torchwood's second series (2008), Jack returns with a lighter attitude, and finds his team have continued working in his absence. They are also more insistent to learn of his past, especially after meeting his former partner, the unscrupulous Captain John Hart (James Marsters). The episode "Adam" explores Jack's childhood in the Boeshane Peninsula, revealing through flashback sequences how his father Franklin (Demetri Goritsas) died and young Jack (Jack Montgomery) lost his younger brother Gray (Ethan Brooke) during an alien invasion. Flashbacks in the series' penultimate episode "Fragments" depict Jack's capture by Torchwood in the late 19th century. Initially their prisoner, Jack is coerced into becoming a freelance agent for the organisation, and eventually becomes leader of Torchwood Three at midnight on 1 January 2000. The series finale features the return of Captain John and Jack's brother Gray (Lachlan Nieboer), who, after a lifetime of torture by aliens, wants revenge on Jack. While Jack manages to repair his friendship with Captain John to some degree, he is forced to place his brother in cryogenic stasis after Gray kills his teammates Toshiko (Naoko Mori) and Owen (Burn Gorman). Jack subsequently appears alongside the casts of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in the two-part crossover finale of the 2008 Doctor Who series, "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". Jack is summoned along with other former companions of the Doctor to assist him in defeating the mad scientist Davros (Julian Bleach) and his creation, the Daleks. Jack parts company from the Doctor once again, having helped save the universe from destruction.
Torchwood's third series (2009) is a five-part serial entitled Children of Earth. Aliens known as the 456 announce they are coming to Earth. Civil servant John Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) orders the destruction of Torchwood to cover a conspiracy; in 1965, the British government had authorised Jack to sacrifice twelve children to the 456, which is shown in flashbacks. Jack is blown apart in an explosion, but painfully reconstitutes from an incomplete pile of body parts; Gwen and Ianto escape and later rescue Jack from a concrete grave. Jack's daughter Alice (Lucy Cohu) and grandson Steven (Bear McCausland) are taken into custody by the assassins. The 456 demand ten percent of the world's children. Although he handed over twelve children in 1965, Jack refuses to give up any this time around. The 456 release a fatal virus; Ianto dies in Jack's arms. To create the signal that will destroy the 456, Jack sacrifices Steven. Six months later, having lost his lover, his grandson and his daughter, he bids farewell to Gwen and is transported aboard an alien ship to leave Earth for parts unknown. In closing scenes of 2010 Doctor Who special The End of Time, the critically injured Doctor gives each companion a farewell before his impending regeneration. Finding Jack in an exotic alien bar, he buys him a drink and leaves him a note containing the name of Titanic crew member Alonso Frame (Russell Tovey), sat to Jack's side; the two proceed to flirt.
Jack does not feature on the cover of the Doctor Who books in which he appears, but is visible alongside the Torchwood cast on the cover of each Torchwood novel and audiobook. Jack features in the BBC Books "New Series Adventures" Doctor Who novels The Deviant Strain, The Stealers of Dreams, and Only Human. These novels take place between episodes of the 2005 series of Doctor Who. In The Stealers of Dreams, Jack refers to the Face of Boe as a famous figure in his home era; the producers of the series had not conceptualised the possibility of a Jack and Boe connection until mid-way into the production of the 2007 series.
The first wave of BBC Books Torchwood novels, Another Life, Border Princes, and Slow Decay (published January 2007), are set between episodes of the first series of Torchwood. The novels Trace Memory, The Twilight Streets, and Something in the Water (published March 2008), are set during the concurrently airing second series of Torchwood. The Twilight Streets suggests Jack was a freelance Torchwood agent in the 1940s, who disagreed with their methods but was persuaded by the love of an ex-boyfriend, Greg. The novel also explained that during the events of the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town" (which was set in Cardiff), Jack placed a lockdown on Torchwood activity so as not to create a paradox involving his past self. Trace Memory similarly depicts Jack as a freelance Torchwood agent, living and working in the late 1960s. Pack Animals, SkyPoint, and Almost Perfect (October 2008), are made up of more second series adventures, apart from Almost Perfect which is set after Series Two finale "Exit Wounds". Into the Silence, Bay of the Dead, and The House that Jack Built (May 2009), similarly are set between the second and third series of the show. The House that Jack Built focuses partly on Jack's life in 1906. Risk Assessment, The Undertaker's Gift, and Consequences (October 2009), are likewise set between "Exit Wounds" and Children of Earth.
First published in January 2008, the monthly Torchwood Magazine began occasionally including Torchwood comic strips, in which Jack also appears. One such comic, written in 2009 by John Barrowman and sister Carole E. Barrowman, "Captain Jack and the Selkie", expands on Captain Jack's characterisation. Barrowman comments that "We’d already agreed to tell a story that showed a side of Jack and a part of his history that hadn’t been explored too much in other media. I wanted to give fans something original about Jack." Torchwood Magazine also ran with the ten-part Rift War! storyline from April to December 2008. The first Torchwood comic "Jetsam" was later collected along with Rift War! in a graphic novel.
The Torchwood Archives, published after the second series in 2008, is a companion book written by Gary Russell which gives an "insider's look" into the life of Jack and the Torchwood team. The book collects and re-publishes ancillary material which appeared on the Torchwood website in the first two seasons, and provides new material such as rough dates for things like Jack's marriage as relayed by the book's fictional narrator. The book is composed of fictitious archive notes, personnel forms, photographs, newspaper clippings and staff memos, and offers revelations about the character which would later be confirmed by the television series. For example, Archives first mention Jack's lover Lucia Moretti, who is alluded to in Children of Earth. In a similar vein to The Torchwood Archives but from a real-world perspective, Gary Russell's The Torchwood Encyclopedia (2009) will expand on "every fact and figure" for Jack and the Torchwood world.
During the first series of Torchwood, the Torchwood website, located at torchwood.org.uk, recounted some adventures by Captain Jack through an alternate reality game made up of electronic literature in the form of fictional incercepted blogs, newspaper cutouts and confidential letters and IM conversations between members of the Torchwood Three crew. Written by James Goss, the first series' website sheds some light on Jack's backstory in the years he worked for Torchwood. For the second series in 2008, a second interactive Torchwood online game was devised, scripted by series writer Phil Ford, and as with the 2006 website contained some information on Jack's unseen adventures. The BBC America Torchwood also has a 'Captain's Blog' section which relays Jack's accounts of the events of each episode.The Torchwood Archives by Gary Russell collects much of this online literature for the first two series in hardback form, including the Captain's Blog section of the BBC America website. During Series Four of Doctor Who, the BBC's website also included a section called "Captain Jack's Monster Files" featuring weekly webcast videos narrated by John Barrowman in character as Captain Jack giving "top secret" facts collected by Torchwood about Doctor Who monsters, such as the Slitheen. A Christmas special 2008 Monster File features Barrowman in new footage as Jack, as does the Cybermen edition added following the airing of "The Next Doctor" on Christmas Day. For Dr Fiona Hobden, the Monster Files' mock-documentary format give an "additional twist" to the interplay between history and fiction. Because Captain Jack narrates, "the story unfolds in the tradition of contemporary historical documentary, the docudrama"; in the Monster File for "The Fires of Pompeii", Harkness' commentary moves the 'reality' of the episode away from the explosion of Vesuvius and the human experience, and to the story itself.
In addition to the paperback novels, Jack also appears in Torchwood audio books, the first four being Hidden written by Steven Savile and narrated by Naoko Mori, Everyone Says Hello written by Dan Abnett and narrated by Burn Gorman, released February 2008,, In the Shadows by Joseph Lidster and narrated by Eve Myles, released September 2008, and The Sin Eaters written by Brian Minchin and narrated by Gareth David-Lloyd, released September 2008 . Joseph Lidster also wrote a BBC Radio 4 Torchwood drama, "Lost Souls" which aired in Summer 2008 as an Afternoon Play featuring the voices of John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd and Freema Agyeman. Set after the events of the 2008 series, Jack and his team make their first international adventure to CERN in Geneva, as part of Radio 4's special celebration of the Large Hadron Collider being switched on. The special radio episode's plot focuses on the Large Hadron Collider's activation and the doomsday scenario some predicted it might incite, as well as the team's mourning of Toshiko and Owen's recent deaths. Between 1 July and 3 July, Radio 4 aired three further audio dramas in The Afternoon Play slot, bridging the gap between Series 2 and 3. "Golden Age" introduced Jack' ex-lover Duchess Eleanor (Jasmine Hyde), the leader of Torchwood India, which Jack closed down in 1924. "The Dead Line" features another ex-girlfriend of Jack's, Stella Courtney (Doña Croll).
|“||"I wanted kids to like him, and I wanted women, men, I wanted everyone to like him. But first I wanted people to hate him. I wanted them to think he was arrogant and pushy and too sure of himself. And I wanted them to follow the arc of the change he went through in the final episodes of Doctor Who."||”|
In naming the character, executive producer and head writer Russell T Davies drew inspiration from the Marvel Comics character Agatha Harkness, a character whose surname Davies had previously used in naming lead characters in Century Falls and The Grand. Davies states that reusing names (such as Tyler, Smith, Harper, Harkness and Jones) allows him to get a grip of the character on the blank page. Jack's original appearances in Doctor Who were conceived with the intention of forming a character arc in which Jack is transformed from a coward to a hero, and John Barrowman consciously minded this in his portrayal of the character. Following on that arc, the character's debut episode would leave his morality as ambiguous, publicity materials asking, "Is he a force for good or ill?"
Actor John Barrowman himself was a key factor in the conception of Captain Jack. Barrowman says that at the time of his initial casting, Davies and co-executive producer, Julie Gardner had explained to him that they "basically wrote the character around [John]". Davies had singled out Barrowman for the part. On meeting him, Barrowman tried out the character using his native Scottish accent, his normal American accent, and an English accent; Davies decided it "made it bigger if it was an American accent" and the character became American. John recounts Davies as having been searching for an actor with a "matinée idol quality", telling him that "the only one in the whole of Britain who could do it was you". A number of television critics have compared Barrowman's performances as Captain Jack to those of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.
The character's introduction served to posit him as a secondary hero and a rival to the series protagonist, the Doctor,[85 ] simultaneously paralleling the Doctor's detached alien nature with Jack's humanity and "heart". John Barrowman describes the character in his initial appearance as "an intergalactic conman" and also a "rogue Time Agent" which he defines as "part of a kind of space CIA" and alludes to the moral ambiguity of having "done something in his past" and not knowing "whether it is good or bad because his memory has been erased".[85 ] Writer Stephen James Walker notes similarities have been found between Jack and Angel (David Boreanaz), the heroic vampire from America's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel; Alan Stanley Blair of SyFy Portal pointed out that "Back alley fights, knowledge of the paranormal and an unwanted task of defending the helpless are only a few of the correlations between the two characters." Jack has also been compared to the title character of America's Xena: Warrior Princess, which featured lesbian subtext between Xena (Lucy Lawless) and her close friend Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor). Polina Skibinskaya, writing for AfterElton.com, notes both are "complex characters" haunted by their past misdeeds. Furtheremore, like Xena, Jack is "a gay basher’s worst nightmare: a queer weapon-wielding, ass-kicking superhero gleefully chewing his way through awesome fight scenes". In another contrast, where the Doctor is a pacifist, Jack is more inclined to see violent means to reach similar ends. The BBC News website refers to Jack's role within Doctor Who as "[continuing] what began with Ian Chesterton and continued later with Harry Sullivan". Whereas in the classic series the female "companions" were sometimes exploited and sexualised for the entertainment of predominantly male audiences, the producers could reverse this dynamic with Jack, citing an equal need amongst modern audiences to "look at good looking men". John Barrowman linked the larger number of women watching the show as a key factor in this.
Jack is bisexual, and is also the first Doctor Who character to be openly anything other than heterosexual. In Jack's first appearance, the Doctor suggests that Jack's orientation is more common in the 51st century, when mankind will deal with multiple alien species and becomes more sexually flexible. Within Doctor Who's narrative, Jack's sexual orientation is not specifically labeled as that could "make it an issue". On creating Jack, Davies comments "I thought: 'It's time you introduce bisexuals properly into mainstream television,'" with a focus on making Jack fun and swashbuckling as opposed to negative and angsty. Davies also expresses that he didn't make the character bisexual "from any principle", but rather because "it would be interesting from a narrative point of view." The bisexuality-related labels "pansexual" and "omnisexual" are also frequently applied to the character. Writer Steven Moffat suggests that questions of sexual orientation do not even enter into Jack's mind; Moffat also comments "It felt right that the James Bond of the future would bed anyone." Within Torchwood, the character refers to sexual orientation classifications as "quaint". In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, John Barrowman explained that "[He]’s bisexual, but in the realm of the show, we call him omnisexual, because on the show, [the characters] also have sex with aliens who take human form, and sex with male-male, women-women, all sorts of combinations."
The character is described as both "lethally charming ... good looking and utterly captivating", as well as "flirtatious, cunning, clever and a bit of an action man". Within Doctor Who, Jack's personality is relatively light-hearted, although this changes in Torchwood's first series, where he becomes a darker character. For his charm, ageless appearance and humour, Examiner.com cites Jack as a modern trickster, in the same vein as the Norse deity Loki. In Torchwood's first series, Jack has been shaped by his ongoing search for the Doctor and also by his role as a leader, in which he is predominantly more aloof. In Torchwood, he would occasionally inquire or muse about the afterlife and religion, sympathising with a man's desire to die. Returning in Doctor Who Series Three, Jack indicates he now maintains a less suicidal outlook than before. In the second series of Torchwood, Jack became a much more light-hearted character once again, after appearances in Doctor Who where he was reunited with the Doctor. In the third series of Torchwood, the audience sees some of Jack's "darker side", as well as "the secrets that Jack has, the pressures, drama and the trauma he's carrying on his shoulders". The American political blog Daily Kos states Jack "can certainly be characterized as a Byronic hero, a tragic figure with a streak of melancholy, heroic yet misunderstood, bold yet rash. Most importantly, his sexuality is one single aspect of a much more complex, flawed character."
During Jack's initial appearances in Doctor Who, Russell T Davies held a "half-hearted" theory that Jack would dress specific to the time period he was in, to contrast the Doctor who dresses the same wherever and whenever he goes. He is introduced wearing a greatcoat in World War II-set episodes, but changes to modern day jeans in contemporary episode "Boom Town" and black leather in futuristic episodes. Davies admits that this was a "bit of a lame idea" and decided that Jack "never looked better than when he was in his World War II outfit".[104 ] From the pilot of Torchwood onwards, Harkness once again wears period military clothes from the second World War, including braces and an officer's wool greatcoat in every appearance. Costume designer Ray Holman commented in a Torchwood Magazine interview that "We always wanted to keep the World War Two hero look for him, so all his outfits have a 1940s flavor." Because the character was expected to "be running around a lot", Holman redesigned his RAF Group Captain's greatcoat from Doctor Who to make it more fluid and less "weighty". Jack's other costumes are "loosely wartime based", such as the trousers are "getting more and more styled to suit his figure". Holman explains that there are actually five Captain Jack coats used on the show. The "hero version" is used for most scenes, while there is also a wetcoat made with pre-shrunk fabric, running coat which is slightly shorter to prevent heels getting caught, and two "stunt coats" that had been "hero coats" in the first series." Davies feels the military uniform reinforces the idea that the character "likes his Captain Jack Harkness identity". Julie Gardner describes the coat as "epic and classic and dramatic", while director Brian Kelly believes it gives Jack "a sweep and a presence".[104 ]
In several instances in Torchwood, Jack displays no qualms about killing a person of any species, which within Doctor Who, allows Jack's character to act in ways the lead character cannot. Barrowman remarks, "He'll do things the Doctor won't do ... [such as] fight. Jack will kill. And the Doctor, in a way, knows that, so he lets Jack do it. I'd say Jack's the companion-hero." A flashback in the third series shows Captain Jack sacrificing twelve children to aliens in order to save millions of lives. Davies feels third series of Torchwood is a "tale of retribution and perhaps redemption" for Captain Jack, who experiences "maximum damage" when his lover Ianto is killed. Davies chose to have Ianto die so that Jack would be damaged enough to sacrifice his grandson in order to destroy the same aliens. Barrowman was concerned that the storyline could have made the character unpopular. He believes however that Jack was given the tough decision on how to save humanity; the actor says "when I read all of the stuff he had to do, I had to look at it from the point of view of 'I'm Jack Harkness and I'm right'."
When reuniting with the Doctor in the 2007 series, he is verbally warned "don't you dare" when pointing a gun, and scolded when contemplating snapping the Master's neck. Witnessing the murder of his colleague Owen, Jack shoots his killer in the forehead, killing him in an act of swift revenge. Whilst the Doctor scolds Jack for joining the Torchwood Institute (an organisation he perceives as xenophobic and aggressive), Jack maintains that he reformed the Institute in the Doctor's image; Jack himself had initially been critical of the moral failings of a 19th century Torchwood. Actor Gareth David-Lloyd describes the 19th century Torchwood as "quite ruthless and quite evil" and "on the other side" from Jack and the Doctor. Through Jack, whose perspective is widened by the his experiences in other planets and times, the organisation was able to grow less jingoistic.[112 ]
The character's unexpected popularity with a multitude of audiences, would later shape his appearances both as a traditional "action hero" and as a positive role model for younger viewers. Barrowman also remarks that "The beauty of Captain Jack, and one of the reasons why I think, as an actor, I've landed on my feet, is that he's popular with one audience in Torchwood and with another in Doctor Who." Expanding upon his action hero role, the character would develop some supernatural abilities in Torchwood, primary among them a seemingly absolute immortality (either through resurrection and invulnerability), the ability to heal others through kissing, and also a limited degree of telepathy. Jack also alludes in one episode to evolved "51st century pheromones", which make him more sexually attractive.
Russell T Davies referred to a scene in "Last of the Time Lords" as promoting a theory that Jack may one day become recurring character "the Face of Boe" (a large, mysterious disembodied head in a glass case) as a consequence of his immortality and slow aging. The Face first appeared in 2005 episode "The End of the World", appearing fully three times and maintaining a presence through to the end of the 2007 series. Barrowman described himself and David Tennant as being "so excited" to the extent where they "jumped up screaming" when they read Jack's line regarding the Face of Boe, remarking "It was probably the most excitable moment we had during the shooting of that series." The Face of Boe had originally been a throwaway line in a script for "The End of the World"; because creating the character seemed expensive, the Face of Boe was nearly discarded and replaced. However, special effects designer Neil Gorton loved the idea and pushed to make sure the character lived. Davies loved Gorton's design and to his surprise, the character was being written into future episodes and became pivotal in the second series. In a spin-off novel, The Stealer of Dreams (2005), Captain Jack makes a reference to the Face of Boe as a famous figure. Davies conceived the idea that the two characters might be connected midway through the production of the 2007 series.
Barrowman states that when fans ask him if Jack is really the Face of Boe, he tells them he believes he is and states that he and Davies hold it to be true "in [their] little world"; the link is "unconfirmed" within the text of the show. As to how Jack becomes the Face, Barrowman feels the answer doesn't matter as it is intentionally mysterious. Barrowman likes the characters being connected because it means in spite of how the Doctor initially treats Jack, "Boe becomes his confidante and the one the Doctor returns to for advice and information" which he feels is a "wonderful twist of events". However, Davies doesn't like making whether Jack really is the Face of Boe explicit, stating "the moment it became very true or very false, the joke dies". He has refused the publication of spin-off novels and comic books that have tried to definitively link the two.
In a Doctor Who Magazine interview, Barrowman described Jack's love for Ianto as "lustful", and explained if he ever were to settle down with him, he would "let Ianto know that he [Jack] has to play around on the side". The Torchwood Series Two premiere sees Jack ask Ianto out on a date in an attempt to formalise their relationship. John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd opined in an interview at Comic-Con to fan questions that Jack's relationship with Ianto has however brought out Jack's empathy, and helped to ground him. John Barrowman said in an interview that Ianto "brings out the "human" in [Jack]" and "brings out more ... empathy because he’s actually fallen for someone and he really cares about somebody ... [which] makes him warm to other people ... [and] makes him more approachable." In the same interview, Gareth David-Lloyd said of the relationship and his character that "I think Ianto’s always made him care and that is really the heart of the show." However, Stephen James Walker feels that Jack's relationship with Ianto is one-sided; Ianto seems to feel the relationship is "serious and committed", but while dancing with Gwen in "Something Borrowed", Walker believes that Jack appears to equate his relationship with Ianto to nothing more than a "recreational activity", and considers it "obvious Jack only has eyes and thoughts for Gwen".
Just as Jack and Ianto's relationship is developing, Ianto dies, in Children of Earth (2009). While some fans felt "cheated" at not seeing the relationship develop further, Davies explains his intention was to heighten the tragedy by it also being a loss of potential, stating "You grieve over everything they could have been. Everything you hoped for them." For dramatic purposes within the story, Davies explains that Ianto's death was necessary so that Jack would be damaged enough to sacrifice his own grandson. Gareth David-Lloyd feels that the lack of resolution for the love story is "part of the tragedy". Some fans were displeased by Ianto's death scene and the end of the relationship, and some even accused one the writers of "deliberately egging on the shippers'".[122 ]
In a 2007 interview, Eve Myles, who portrays Gwen, describes the relationship between Jack and Gwen as a "palpable love" and opines that "with Jack and Gwen, it’s the real thing and they’re going to make you wait for that." However, Barrowman feels that if Jack were to settle down with Gwen, "he'd have to commit completely" to her; this is why he does not act on his feelings for her, because even though she would let him flirt with other people, he could "never afford to do anything more". The Torchwood Series Two premiere sees Jack promise Gwen that she was the reason he returned to Cardiff, only to find out she had become engaged to Rhys (Kai Owen); later in the same episode, he asks Ianto out on a date. Gareth David-Lloyd feels that for Jack, "there’s two different sorts of love going on there", and that Jack feels for Gwen and Ianto in different ways.
|“||"He always loses them. He outlives them. They die. He watches them get old. That bothered him in Series One [of Torchwood], but now he's come to terms with that, I think ... so now he just sleeps around!"||”|
Discussing whether his character could ever find "The One", John Barrowman refutes that Jack "likes everybody, and his love for each person is different". Barrowman believes that Jack does harbour romantic feelings toward the Doctor, but "would never take that beyond infatuation" and "would never let the Doctor know". Barrowman claims that Jack also "fancies" fellow companion Martha Jones, admiring her "tenacity" and willingness to "spat with him", and describes Jack's love for Toshiko and Owen as "fatherly", stating "He was guiding them. That's why it was so devastating for him to lose them." The second series of Torchwood also introduced Jack's ex-lover, Captain John. Head writer Chris Chibnall introduced John to act as a "proper nemesis, somebody to really test [Jack], to push him, and to reveal something about Jack's character". In the use of Captain John as a literary foil, Chibnall comments "you see the way Jack could have gone, and probably did, for a little while" which underlines how "Jack, in his experiences with the Doctor and Torchwood, made a very conscious decision to move away from that behaviour."
In their academic publication, Queer TV, Glyn Davis and Gary Needham discuss Jack's role within Torchwood as a post-gay, romantic hero. Noting Torchwood's central gay themes, they comment that "it is through the character of Captain Jack that Torchwood is able to mine its queerness." Discussing Jack's brief romance with his namesake, the real Captain Jack (Matt Rippy), academic critics have noted that "The Captain Jacks both share the same name and are quite similar in physical appearance, thus literalizing the homo-ness of the situation. Through the time-travel device this points to a narcissistic self-fascination, the old cliché that homosexuality is the love for sameness." Other relationships which have been described or alluded to (both in the television series and other media) include ex-girlfriends Estelle Cole, Duchess Eleanor, Stella Courtney, Lucia Moretti, ex-boyfriend Greg Bishop, and an unnamed ex-wife.
Describing the patterns of his relationships throughout the series, Davis and Needham draw the conclusion that "while Captain Jack desires both men and women, his long-term love affairs and onscreen kisses are mostly with men in the past and present." Commenting on this postmodern attitude towards bisexuality, or in what Russell T Davies calls "omnisexuality", they continue to remark that "His character brushes against definitions of queer sexuality in that he resists any sort of classification based on sexual orientation." They also comment on the subtexts of particular episodes, such as gay time-travel romance episode "Captain Jack Harkness", and within that the relevance of time-travelling Jack Harkness to tackle the question of forbidden gay attraction in what is post-Brokeback television. In Understanding TV Texts by Phil Wickham, Wickham opines that Captain Jack explicitly "brings to the fore" with his "brazen bisexuality", "something we have to come to expect [from Russell T Davies] as viewers of his work".
Following the character's initial introduction in the revived Series One of Doctor Who, the character became incredibly popular with fans, to the extent that Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner created a spin-off series, Torchwood, primarily centred around the character. The Times described the undeniable success of the character as having propelled actor John Barrowman to "National Treasure status". For his role as Captain Jack, John Barrowman was nominated for Best Actor at the 2007 BAFTA Cymru Awards. Harkness was also listed number nine in TV Squad's "Ten Most mysterious characters on television",, behind the Tenth Doctor, who was listed number three. John Barrowman, who is himself openly gay, has ranked in the Independent on Sunday pink list, a list of the most influential gay people in Britain, in 2007 and 2008, with the Independent commenting that "Proof of his popularity came with the continued runaway success of his bisexual Captain Jack Harkness on Russell T Davies's Torchwood". Part of Jack's mystique was his sex appeal, swashbuckling heroism and sexual appetite. In anticipation of the character's return to Doctor Who in Series Three after a successful run in the first series of Torchwood, mainstream media hailed his return.
|“||I do watch a lot of television science fiction, and it is a particularly sexless world. With a lot of the material from America, I think gay, lesbian and bisexual characters are massively underrepresented, especially in science fiction, and I'm just not prepared to put up with that. It's a very macho, testosterone-driven genre on the whole, very much written by straight men. I think Torchwood possibly has television's first bisexual male hero, with a very fluid sexuality for the rest of the cast as well. We're a beacon in the darkness.||”|
—Russell T Davies
In the media, Jack is described as both the "first openly gay companion" and as a "hunky bisexual". Jack's notability is largely due to his mainstream representation of a bisexual man in science fiction television, for whom sexual identity is "matter-of-fact", and not an issue. The ordinariness with which Jack's orientation is regarded within Doctor Who embodies part of a political statement about changing societal views of homosexuality. The distinct flexibility of Jack's sexuality contributed directly towards the character's popularity and public interest. The overtness of Jack's sexuality broke new grounds, the labels "pansexual" and "omnisexual" being applied to the character on occasion. In "The Parting of the Ways", Jack kissed both Rose and the Doctor on the lips, the latter being the first same-sex kiss in the history of the programme. Despite the boldness of the first lesbian, gay or bisexual character in the series' run, there has been very little uproar about the character, although there was some controversy at the time of Jack's introduction. Speculating, Barrowman tries to link Jack's popularity with this portrayal, noting "I think audiences just get Jack because he's honest ... to finally see a character who doesn't care who he flirts with, I think is a bit refreshing."
The presence of the character in prime time television sparked discussion of the nature of bisexuality in a number of outlets where normally it is dismissed or overlooked. Channel4.com cites Jack as a positive role model for gay and bisexual teenagers, where little had been present for this audience in years gone by and subsequently leading to a greater culture of tolerance. Meg Barker writes for the Journal of Bisexuality that although "the b word does not actually get used during the show", Jack is one of the first positive and clearly bisexual characters on British television. She does point out however that Jack retains some elements of bisexual stereotyping, particularly in his "flamboyant" promiscuity.[141 ] Jack has also been cited in America to contrast the portrayals of non-heterosexual characters in mainstream television in the US and the UK. Gary Scott Thompson, producer of the 2008 revival of Knight Rider, said, "If I could use Jack in Torchwood as a role model—I would absolutely use him as a role model—I love his conflictedness about ... everybody".
Readers of AfterElton.com, an American gay mens' website, voted Jack the tenth best gay or bisexual television character of all time, the poll itself ultimately being won by Queer as Folk character Brian Kinney (also the product of Russell T Davies). The website praised Jack—one of only two bisexual characters on the list of 25—for being having both "tough" and "tender" sides to his personality, as seen in the Torchwood episode "Captain Jack Harkness". Amongst science fiction characters, Jack also topped another AfterElton rundown of top characters, beating Hellblazer's John Constantine for the top spot, commenting upon Jack's representation of a "'post-gay' approach to sexual themes" and awarding him a full 10/10 for cultural significance. For the AfterElton 2008 Visibility Awards, Jack won the award for Favourite TV Character. The website commented that "unlike virtually every other TV sci-fi character, lead or supporting, Captain Jack is also openly bisexual. Ironically, this "small" change served to help make the science fiction genre, long the ultimate bastion of straight men, accessible not just to GLBT people, but also straight women, who also enjoy the show’s alternate take on sexuality." The third award won for Torchwood, after Favourite TV Drama and Character, was won by Jack and Ianto for Best Couple, for which the editor commented "Torchwood is revolutionary not just because the producers dare to put openly bisexual (or in Jack’s case "omnisexual") characters in the formerly sacrosanct setting of sci-fi; it’s also that it presents these bisexual characters in such an amazingly matter-of-fact way. There’s no apologizing, no minimizing, and no moralizing—just good, old-fashioned romance and adventure."
Jack has gone on to become a recognisable figure in the British public consciousness, and therefore has attracted some parody. The character of Jack Harkness has been parodied several times on the satirical impressionist television show Dead Ringers. Played by Jon Culshaw, the show pokes fun at his bisexuality and apparent campness, as well his melodramatic personality in Torchwood. In one sketch, he walks bizarrely towards the camera, kissing a policeman as he passes him. In another sketch, he can be seen having a threesome with two Cybermen, a race of cyborgs from Doctor Who. Satirical technology columnist Verity Stob wrote a parody of Torchwood Season One in the style of Dylan Thomas's radio play Under Milk Wood, called Under Torch Wood. This parody described Captain Jack as "the insomniac bicon; snug as a hobbit, pretty as a choirboy, immortal as carbon dioxide, wooden as a horse." Barrowman's ubiquity, however, has even provoked criticism of the character. Jim Shelley of the Daily Mirror, in his review of Children of Earth, said "Unlike David Tennant's Doctor, Barrowman's endless appearances on friendly drivel like Tonight's the Night, The Kids Are Alright and Any Dream Will Do, is so over-exposed, 'Captain Jack' is about as intriguing or alien as a Weetabix and twice as irritating. Unlike Tennant, as an actor he is just not good enough." Television journalist Charlie Brooker, in his Screenwipe review of 2009 criticised Barrowman, with focus on his acting. "Harkness is of course a man of mystery. You can't tell what he's thinking just by looking at his face... no matter how hard Barrowman tries."
The character's recognisability extends outside the UK. In a Halloween episode of the 2008 series of American drama Knight Rider, character Billy Morgan (Paul Campbell) dresses up as Captain Jack, whom he refers to as "the time-travelling bisexual". In 2009, Barrowman's variety show Tonight's the Night broadast a specially written humorous Doctor Who scene scripted by Russell T Davies. In the scene, Barrowman appears initially as Captain Jack confronting an alien on board the TARDIS who claims to be the Doctor. However, David Tennant appears as himself and John Barrowman is revealed as playing Captain Jack in the TARDIS set. Action figures have also been created in the actor's likeness, which Barrowman says was a "longtime dream".
|Companions of the Ninth Doctor|
|Episodes||157||158||159||160A / B||161||162||163||164A / B||165||166A / B|
|Companions of the Tenth Doctor|
|Series||Specials||Series 2||Special||Series 3||Special|
|Episodes||CIN||167||168 – 169||170 – 172B||173 – 177B||178||179 – 186||187A – 187C||188|
|Episodes||189 – 191||192A – 193||194 – 196||197||198A||198B||199||200||201||202|
|(←) Sarah Jane|
[Just after the Earth had been moved]
[In Torchwood, Ianto is laughing at something Paul O'Grady said on his show about the planets in the sky]