Friday, July 03, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 1x12: "Captain Jack Harkness"

Written by Catherine Tregenna
Directed by Ashley Way

Toshiko (re dance hall): “Has it been stolen?”
Captain Jack: “No we have.”

Or should that be James Harper? I always did wonder when watching our bisexual conman in his Doctor Who debut “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” whether Jack Harkness was his real name or not.

This episode may take us back to the Blitz but for those of you expecting a bit more elaboration on the events prior to Jack meeting The Doctor and Rose Tyler, well hate to be the bearer of bad news but you won’t get that. On the plus side you’re in for an exciting hour nonetheless anyway.

What we get instead is both Captain Jack and Toshiko exploring a dance hall that had been previously derelict and due to a temporal shift, our two heroes wind up being stuck in 1941 which happens as soon as the dance hall comes alive with people from that era, a mystery old guy appears and then disappears and Jack comes up with the conclusion that they’re no longer in 2007.

For a double bill season finale and in a week where we’ve had “The Runaway Bride”, a preview to Doctor Who’s third season and The Sarah Jane Adventures pilot episode “Invasion Of The Bane” the start of this seemed pretty routine but not enough to suggest this episode would lack excitement.

First of all there’s the dream team of Captain Jack and Toshiko who I haven’t been shy in expressing my delight and whose double act and friendship is developed a lot better than the stuff we’ve seen between them in episodes like “Greeks Bearing Gifts” and whose attempts of blending in are interesting to say the least.

Fitting in for Jack like breathing, given his attire and mannerism, even if the term antiquated isn’t what I would use to describe our guy but poor Toshiko seems to stand out like a sore thumb during to olden attitudes of the time period in regards to her race but the two of them do blow their cover in less than five minutes of something a bit more silly.

Then again, Toshiko shouldn’t worry too hard because even if there is some randomly stupid girl who makes idiotic cracks about Toshiko’s race, the guys seems to love her especially a soldier named George who also had no problem with punching Jack in the face in order to spend more with the lovely computer expert and the only reason Jack was interrupting was because he needed Toshiko’s help in finding their way back to the present day.

Of course before this fight escalated into pure violence, both Jack and Toshiko’s bacon are saved by another charismatic lead soldier named Captain Jack Harkness of all people. Toshiko’s subtle but obvious facial expression of confusion nicely conveys just about what every audience member probably feels and thinks. There’s not one but two Captain Jack Harkness’? So, who is the real one and who is the phoney?

Well it turns out Our Jack is the phoney as the Real Jack died in battle the night after this particular event is happening and Jack adopted his identity and falsified his records to adopt his persona but for Jack it was taking a name as opposed to completely stealing an entire person’s life and no, I’m seriously not making excuses for him either.

If we had gotten something like this on Lost with Sawyer (and we have) in more recent, I wouldn’t care but for some odd reason I do care about this particular turn of events and the acting between John Barrowman and Matt Rippey carries this a lot.

As for the real Mr Harkness, put it this way – would you kick Matt Rippey out of bed? I don’t think so but insane prettiness and charisma aside, what is it about the Real Jack that is so interesting? Do you have all day?

Well first of all, I liked the fact that the Real Jack is someone you can sympathise with and someone our Jack seems to admire quite a bit. He’s kind, charismatic, loyal and a little repressed as well as his relationships with a girl named Nancy (not from “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances”) and his soldiers emphasise.

Let’s deal with his soldiers first as his relationship with them shows a repression that even Jack unnerves as dangerous. Soldiers always go into war but never inform their fellow comrades about how scary and dangerous thing can get in there. Real Jack unfortunately is just like that and it’s an intense conversation between him and Our Jack that enlightens viewers on the duality of being brave and feeling scared at the same time. To be fair, Our Jack should also take heed of his own words and let his own crew in about the real dangers that surround them.

Then there’s the relationship between Real Jack and the rather clingy Nancy. Real Jack hardly wanted to interact with her and its Our Jack’s encouragement of the Real Jack finding out that Nancy loves him that he realises that he doesn’t love her after all, which doesn’t take a genius to see. Poor Nancy but it’s not so disadvantageous for someone else.

I have to admit I was such a ditz for not spotting the obvious onscreen sexual chemistry between both of the Jack’s in this episode. They had so many scenes together and such a great rapport that I wasn’t even think about any HoYay factor and to the delight of much viewers it turns out the Real Jack is a closeted gay man.

This helps explain why he doesn’t love Nancy and it even puts a lot of the earlier scenes with Our Jack in perspective. He may have stolen his identity but Our Jack deserves a medal for getting the Real Jack for being honest with himself and the mutual attraction between the two of them is first confirmed when they hold hands. It’s like Brokeback Mountain only better in a way!

But the real moment of joy is when both of the Jacks share one hell of a hot, passionate gay with the biggest dose of substance and tenderness in the series than we’ve with virtually any other pairing so far. Both John Barrowman and Matt Rippey didn’t hold back and it almost seemed unfair that Toshiko had to interrupt the kiss so her and Our Jack could return to the present day.

But what was actually happening with everyone else between the time Jack and Toshiko realised they were trapped and were able to return to 2007? Quite a bit actually and most of it revolving around that trouble stirring, time hopping old creep named Bilis Manger.

He’s the guy that went out of his way to sabotage Jack and Toshiko’s attempts to give clues to the present day to get home as Owen, Gwen and Ianto had their own difficulties and conflicts of interests.

You have to give Toshiko credit for the methods she uses in order give the gang clues whether it’s using Bilis’ camera to take pictures of co-ordinates or writing them down in her own blood and storing them in airtight containers, you have to admit it’s a lot more assertive than if it had been Gwen stuck in 1941 with Jack.

Not to have a totally hard time on Gwen this week (mainly due to no update on her and Rhys from last week) but aside from finding one of Toshiko’s clues, she was the least interesting member this week, even there was a few times when she encountered Bilis, it did look like he might do her in or when she could hear Jack and Toshiko in the dance hall even though she couldn’t reach them.

Still though what Gwen lacked in interest or annoyance this week was made up in both ways by both Owen and Ianto, who more than butted heads for once as their own ideas on how to deal with their friends missing and personal needs were brought to the fore all because of the idea of opening the Rift. Who would you think is even more keen to this idea to the test?

To be honest it’s one of those things that can go either way because right now while both men know that opening the Rift would mean disaster on a big scale, it’s not like either don’t have other motives to do so either.

First of all, it’s the only way they actually can get both Jack and Toshiko back and there’s also the possibility of Ianto getting Lisa back and Owen getting Diane back as well. Owen is more motivated by this while Ianto is vehemently against the entire idea.

To me, we’ve had the threat of The Rift a little too long so I actually wanted to see what would happen if it was opened. Owen’s reason may have been selfish mainly because not even he knows whether his lover fell back into The Rift and secondly because it seems like something the super creepy Bilis would want them to do anyway.

Owen also doesn’t help matters by overtly insisting on it and also by belittling Ianto’s relationship with Jack. It may be a nice confirmation that Ianto and Jack are fooling around on a sexual basis but Ianto’s claim of Jack needing him for more than just making coffee speaks bigger volumes than any bedroom action to me.

Also Owen made an ass out of himself by lying point blank to Gwen when he found something in regards to The Rift manipulator and then proceeded to use it after being given every reason not to. Even Ianto shooting him in the shoulder wasn’t enough to stop Owen and while it did bring Jack and Toshiko, you don’t need to be a genius to see that Owen’s opened up a bigger can of worms.

The end scene is wonderfully ambiguous though as even though we see a rather creepy Bilis looking more than pleased with himself, I liked the various exchanges between Owen and Ianto (at their snarky best) and Jack and Toshiko, the last one with some great depth as Toshiko proves to be a very sympathetic ear.

Also in “Captain Jack Harkness”

The Previously On bit contained images only from “Out Of Time” and “Combat” but they should’ve used clips from more episodes.

Real Captain Jack (to George): “I think it was your fist in his face he didn’t like, not your foxtrot.”

Our Captain Jack: “I know too much.”
Toshiko: “Then share.”
Our Captain Jack: “You wouldn’t want that.”

We learned this week that Toshiko’s grandfather was having a party for his 88th birthday and this was important to her. It’s nice that we learned something more about her.

Toshiko (re London): “I’m from there.”
Bilis: “I should go back there. They’re coming for us.”

Captain Jack (to Real Jack): “Let’s just say the enemies come in many guises.”

Did anyone notice that there was a flyer to vote for Mr Saxon, the big key word to look out for in Doctor Who’s third season? It’s already appeared in “Love And Monsters” and “The Runaway Bride”.

Owen (to Ianto): “Bomb are falling, they’re stuck in the middle of the Cardiff Blitz. It’s our duty to get them out.”

Ianto (re Diane): “You only knew her for a week.”
Owen: “And it wasn’t enough.”

The Ritz hall was opened from 1932-1989 but it wasn’t really explained why it became derelict or why Bilis used this location as part of his scheme.

Bilis (to everyone): “Let the dancing continue.”

Real Captain Jack (re Nancy): “What are you trying to say?”
Our Captain Jack: “Go to her, go to your woman and lose yourself in her.”

Jack told the Real Jack about his own war stories but it would’ve been cool if he had mentioned the debacle from “Small Worlds” as well.

Ianto (re Captain Jack): “He’s our leader.”
Owen: “Not anymore.”

Owen (to Ianto): “That rift took my Captain and my lover so if I die it will be in the line of duty.”

Was it me or did we get a pretty vague look of The Rift Machine? I saw blueprints; there was a mention of Rhea Silva and Owen messing with wires but not the machine itself.

Captain Jack: “Sorry for dragging you into this.”
Toshiko: “It’s my choice.”

Chronology: At least a week or two since “Combat” given that Ianto notes Owen’s reasonable absence from duty.

Owen: “Good thing that you’re a crap shot.”
Ianto: “I was aiming for your shoulder.”

Standout music: The entire 1940’s soundtrack in the dance hall.

Definitely a jarring experience from a reviewing perspective given the last two episodes back to back but “Captain Jack Harkness” is still quite a coup for the series. Although the stuff we uncovered about Jack you could predict, the sheer excitement doesn’t diminish the overall excellence and as a lead in for the finale, this rocks.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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