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Published on October 14th, 2011 | by Scott Varnham

What is Wrong with Jack Harkness?

With his greatcoat that turns people gay for him (his gay-coat, if you will), futuristic wrist strap that can do anything and his general enigmatic manner, one could be forgiven that the character of (Group) Captain Jack Harkness is meant to be a cool character (indeed, there was a line in the most recent Doctor Who Magazine that called him a “Doctor tribute act”).

However, certain observations have led me to start to think that he’s either the most reckless time travelling adventurer this side of Captain Kirk or a rather ingenious reminder by Russell T. Davies that dying repeatedly does in fact damage your brain.

My first example comes from his first appearance in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, in which he is responsible for unleashing a wave of humanity corrupting nanogenes, which was only stopped with the help of the Doctor and Rose. Fair enough, by stopping the incoming bomb and his subsequent story arc up to The Parting Of The Ways, he sort of redeemed himself for that one.

You may remember during Utopia that there was a room that only Jack could enter to make sure the rocket to Utopia would fly, due to being coated in something called ‘Stet’ Radiation. It was established that the radiation only affected clothing, not flesh. Despite this, Jack insists on taking off his gay-coat, even though the Doctor questioned this decision. He promptly enters the room…and burns his hands on the wall. Idiot.

Captain Jack Harkness with the Doctor and Rose TylerIn End Of The Road, the eighth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, the good Captain comes across a ‘null field’, a device that allows anyone affected by it to die when all others cannot. Rather than confide in his team what exactly it is and why the CIA mustn’t be allowed to find it, he decides to appear mysterious and enigmatic, while at the same time asking them to trust him. Similar idiocy can be found way back in the first season of Torchwood, where partly through being enigmatic he gets his team to commit mutiny and ends up being shot in the face while his little prodigies unleash a great beast upon Cardiff.

For me, he reached the heights of stupidity during Journey’s End when they were taken aboard the Crucible, greets Rose Tyler with nothing more than a hug after not seeing her for two centuries, and proceeds to shoot the Supreme Dalek in its metallic face with his Webley. He deserved the extermination he got, really, and I’m still not sure how he managed to hide the fact that he was still alive from the Daleks – somehow a wink doesn’t explain it. In fact, the last time he saw Rose Tyler, he also tried to shoot a Dalek in the face and that got him nowhere. In fact, it had pretty much exactly the same outcome.

So that’s how I’ve come to the conclusion that Captain Jack is an idiot.

Of course, he does have his moments of awesomeness and attempted awesomeness (I maintain that his decision at the end of Children Of Earth was the best he could’ve made in the circumstances) but overall I have to say that my opinion of him is changing by the day as I think about this more, even if I still do like him as a character.

I would love to know your opinions on this – you know where to put them!

 

 

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About the Author

In his spare time, Scott writes for Kasterborous, his personal blog at WordPress and the revived Starburst Magazine. He’s also on Twitter (as @Scott_V_Writer) where he tries to be interesting and verbose in 140 characters.




8 Responses to What is Wrong with Jack Harkness?

  1. Bryan Simcott says:

    I think Cptn Jack is the Ultimate Broken Man.

    He was born before all what is / has happened to him began

    He has seen and loved people who have died

    He has Died More times than anyone else ever. (and knows theres nothing when you do die.

    He is A Broken Man. And after what he had been through if there was even the remote possibility that he Knew it was because of ROSE that he is now Imortal , then I would`nt be best pleased to see here either, never mind Jack.

    Is there anything more Soul Destrying than watching loved ones Die? And he was never the Good boy of the class anyways , as he started out a Con Man and still has the Darkest of motives sometimes. The Exchanges with Gwen in Miracle Day where they would both shoot the brains out of the other, might have come across as Honest , Trust worthy, and maybe a little playful. But I do think jack meant some if not all of them. Sometimes People tell you exactly what the mean, while dressing it up as a joke.

    Captain JAck is the most untrustworthy Companion the Doctor has ever had (even worse than Turlough)

  2. Alex says:

    The thing I like about Jack is he is extremely fallable. Many times in the series it has been strongly implied that Jack is flying by the seat of his pants, and not necessarily completely competent. He’s able to survive his mistakes because of the obvious – but it could be said his mistakes have also cost the lives of numerous Torchwood personnel. Consider that Jack was with Torchwood from the late 1800s, but never stepped up to become a leader until he was forced to at the end of 1999. He didn’t want to be a leader.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say Jack is untrustworthy. But he isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree in terms of being a leader. And that’s what I think makes Jack so interesting. He’s not an infallible hero like the Doctor is often made out to be (though RTD and Moffat have done their best to add vulnerabilities to the Doctor). And that’s what makes him interesting. Often, when Torchwood wins there is a palpable sense of relief that they dodged yet another bullet.

    • xenia says:

      jack is the best.
      i dont see what people hate about him you got to give it to him he is the strongest man ever,he see his loveones die,he gets repetively killed for his blood,
      he lives for ever,
      he only has one friend and the man he love he outlives!
      then he turned in to the fase of boe.
      and he isnt camp so i dont see you prob.

    • xenia says:

      jack is the best
      why dosnt people like him?
      he isnt camp,he is funny and he out lives you! so ha!

  3. Mab says:

    Oh he was a terribile character. His function was to be the gay character, mostly because DW hadnt had one before. A ‘for the sake of it’ character if you will.
    Lets hope they dont bring him back.
    Ever.

  4. Josh says:

    I really enjoyed Captain Jacks Character over both Doctor Who and Torchwood.

    There are MANY worse characters with many more potent flaws than Captain Jack.

    He was a fallible hero – the polar opposite to the Doctor while also being as close to an equal we have (A horseshoe effect if you will)

    To comment on but a couple of your points:
    In Journeys End, I think his extermination was deliberate. He knew that he was no use to the Doctor being trapped with him so he used Rose’s lack of knowledge (of his immortality) to make it appear like he was definitly dead and the Daleks would think of scanning him.

    Also, about him asking to trust him with no evidence, well thats RTD trying to make Captain Jack more like the Doctor is.

    Overall, one of my favourite characters to come from the Whoniverse

  5. drakaina says:

    Shooting the Supreme Dalek was a well planned action, a ruse – remember how Jack winks at the Doctor? He wanted to be taken away in order to plan some distraction, and the only way he could achieve it was by dying and later pretending he was still dead.

  6. bobbi says:

    Ok. He is definitely reckless in DW. He appears to be much more responsible in Torchwood, and it is partly due to his adoration, maybe emulation, of the Doctor. At one point in DW, with Martha Jones, it is even implied that he is hopelessly in love with the Doctor, as she is. I love Jack in DW, because he is just as reckless and all-knowing as the Doctor, only infinitely more fallible. In Torchwood, Jack comes into his own as the reckless but invincible leader and demi-God to his crew. Also, everyone needs to drop the “gay agenda” thing. I am a straight woman, and Jack’s ambiguous sexuality is very appealing, and adds to his appeal. And I love the jacket.

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