Timestamp #TW12: Captain Jack Harkness

Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness
(1 episode, s01e12, 2007)

 

An eye-opening tale of star-crossed lovers.

Jack and Tosh arrive at a derelict dance hall called The Ritz to investigate 1940s music that has been drifting out of the premises at random. Pushing past the Vote Saxon posters, the duo dance in the dust before finding the music. They are transported back in time, presumably thanks to the Cardiff Rift. While Jack is happy to be there, they are trapped in 1941.

Back at the Hub, Owen wakes up to find Ianto monitoring Rift activity. Of course, Ianto can’t reach Tosh, so he calls Gwen. Owen analyzes the data, still maudlin about Diane’s disappearance, and Gwen investigates The Ritz. When Gwen calls for Jack, he can hear her voice but doesn’t get to her in time.

Tosh and Jack find themselves at a party on January 20, 1941, right in the midst of the London Blitz. Trying to blend in, they meet with an American captain who saves Jack and Tosh from a fistfight.

The American is Captain Jack Harkness.

Torchwood Jack is stunned but eventually comes up with an alias: Captain James Harper. He tells Tosh that he took the captain’s name as a disguise when the man died the next day in a training exercise. Torchwood Jack and Tosh start to work on the second half of an equation that will bridge the Rift and send them home. They transfer the equation from Tosh’s dying laptop to paper, but are interrupted by the manager, Bilish Manger. He has a Polaroid camera, which shouldn’t exist yet, and a file labeled Torchwood.

He’s also in the present and admits Gwen into the building to continue her investigation. She checks in with the Hub and learns that Manger exists in both time periods.

Tosh and Torchwood Jack return to the party. Tosh chats up another airman to get the local coordinates while Torchwood Jack gets to know the real Jack. Tosh also encounters a bit of racism – she’s Japanese, and the Japanese are one of the enemies in World War II – but Torchwood Jack is able to cover for her. Tosh sneaks back upstairs and uses the Polaroid to photograph the equation. She’s interrupted by Manger, so she only gets part of what she needs, so she finishes the equation with her own blood and seals it in a can to hide for the future.

Back in the present, Ianto and Owen spar over their lost loves and the equation. Owen is dead set on opening the Rift and bringing Diane back. He tries to use the rift manipulator but finds that a piece is missing. Owen leaves to search Manger’s office for clues as Gwen finds the can. Owen finds the missing piece and returns to the Hub.

Torchwood Jack is falling for Real Jack, only to be interrupted by Real Jack’s girlfriend Nancy. Torchwood Jack urges Real Jack to kiss her goodbye as she leaves the party, but the American captain only finds his situation worse when Nancy professes her love for him. Jack confronts Jack and exchange war stories to make their respective points. As the bombs begin to fall, everyone takes cover.

Real Jack confides in Torchwood Jack that he is scared. They sit down for a private talk as the bombings stop and the partygoers return to their revelry. Real Jack heeds Torchwood Jack’s advice to spend more time with Nancy, to treat that night as if it were his last, but later returns to spend those moments with Torchwood Jack. They hold hands before being interrupted by another couple looking for Lover’s Corner.

Owen continues his work and breaks into Jack’s safe to find the manipulator’s blueprints. Ianto takes the blueprints, but Owen overpowers him. Ianto returns with a gun, eventually shooting Owen in the shoulder to stop him. The bullet is too late. The manipulator activates as Owen slips into unconsciousness.

Torchwood Jack watches the party, telling Tosh about how the real captain will die the next day. He also explains how he was brought back from death and apologizes for dragging her into this. While Torchwood Jack mourns for the pending loss, Tosh looks on as Real Jack makes his decision. Jack takes Jack’s hand, leads him to the dance floor, and they share a dance before the Rift bursts through the door. They share a kiss as the partygoers watch in astonishment, then the wayward members of Torchwood Three return home.

They meet up with Gwen and return to the Hub. Owen performs surgery on himself to remove the bullet as Ianto searches for signs of Manger. Tosh joins Jack in his office and together they raise a glass to the memory of the real Captain Jack Harkness.

 

First things first, if we presume that this story and the Ninth Doctor tale that introduced us to Jack are happening at around the same time, then there are (at least) two versions of that character roaming about in that time.

The Jack story is quite touching, from Jack finding a moment of love with the man whom he replaced to Tosh getting to know her boss in a fantastic change of pace for the character. I mean, look, Tosh has a role in the plot! Yes! This also is a crazy story in terms of time travel for both Jack and Tosh. Tosh’s actions are quite straightforward, echoing other time travel adventures where the stuck-in-the-past hero has to send a message to his/her support team in the future in order to be rescued. Jack’s temporal threads are a bit more complex: Jack took the Captain Harkness identity as a matter of convenience, then travels back parallel to his own timeline and interacts with the man he replaced. The implications and possibilities could have spun wildly out of control.

There is the question of the dance and the kiss. From what I gather, homosexuality was still illegal in England and Wales until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed, and that did not apply to the armed forces. In reality, Captain Harkness would have likely been either imprisoned or rebuked for sharing the moment with Jack, and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to fly his mission the next day. Since the Torchwood Jack Harkness still exists, it’s reasonable to assume that either the event was washed away as a mass delusion – two people did disappear in a mysterious burst of light – or it was a moment of poetic license for the sake of drama.

Either way, I consider it a minor quibble. It was a beautiful moment for Jack, even if actor Matt Rippy didn’t seem to be totally into the role.

Owen’s story is one of obsession and subversion of power. He wants nothing more than to get love back in his life, and he’s willing to tear time and space apart to make it happen. Even a gunshot wound to his shoulder won’t slow him down. I’m interested in how it will play out with the season finale next.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of Days

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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