Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness

“Of course. I was just discussing strategies with the Captain.”

We begin with Tosh and Jack outside a derelict building, with a poster just visible which bears the legend “Vote Saxon”. It probably doesn’t mean anything. Don’t know why I mentioned it.

Anyway, it’s another script by Catherine Tregenna again and Tosh and Jack have slipped back in time to 1941 while back in the present the pieces get moved for what it’s been fashionable to call the season finale. Thing is, though, Torchwood doesn’t really have that format (this isn’t the first episode of a two-parter), but perhaps it doesn’t need one; it has much more prominent character and plot arcs than Doctor Who, which work a hell of a lot better in hindsight than they did at the time.

A case in point is the friction between Ianto and Owen here, in which both dig up one another’s demons from the recent past. Oh, and there’s also the small detail of Ianto shooting Owen. The bigger significance of this, Owen opening the rift, is going to have big consequences, but those consequences were set in time a long time ago.

Tosh gets to be brave, resourceful and intelligent, setting up a cross-time treasure hunt and even writing with her own blood, and we get a bit of her discomfort at her wartime surroundings, being of Japanese extraction, but this is rightly not dwelt upon. There’s also the introduction of a rather cool villain, the Kenneth Williams-esque Bilis Manger. There’s some cool timey-wimey stuff too- I love the directorial trick of panning from Tosh and Jack to Gwen, 65 years later, in the same shot.

And while this episode is unusually Gwen-lite, kudos to her for knowing what all those squiggly mathematical symbols are. Because I certainly don’t.

But the episode is mainly about Jack. Both of them. And it’s going to be a bit of a pain discussing two characters with the same name. Anyway, face to face with the real Captain Jack Harkness, doomed to die the following day, our Jack (awkward, this) tells Tosh about his past as a conman, stealing the identity of the recently deceased Harkness. But it eventually becomes clear that the real Jack is in the closet (his girlfriend tells him she loves him, which is tragic for both of them), and finally gets to be himself at the end before his death tomorrow. Of course, there’s no way two men could have got away with publically kissing each other in 1941, but I think in this case it’s more than justified by poetic licence.

We also get another glimpse of Jack’s past that even we, the audience, were not aware of: he was involved in a war as a child. Interestingly, it’s the other Jack he imparts this to, and to hell with the fact it hardly fits with his cover story of being an American volunteer in the RAF.

A good episode, but somehow lacking in the specialness to put it above a 3/5.

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