Two years on from his first solo outing on audio, under his own name rather than as part of Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness is back for another trio of stories drawn from different points in his endless lifespan.
A time-traveller, conman, hero and sometime companion of the Doctor, the vibrant former Time Agent was joined by a couple of familiar names in his first volume of adventures and this set is no different: a glorious front cover image (courtesy of Lee Binding) heralds an encounter with that most loquacious and sartorially idiosyncratic of Doctors, the bombastic Sixth.
Piece Of Mind
As we know, Jack waited many years to catch up with the TARDIS. However, when he meets its most colourful occupant, he finds him incapacitated and promptly dons the Time Lord’s mantle (and jacket!).
Both Barrowman and Baker have indecent amounts of fun with a script which does not take itself too seriously and James Goss manages to entertain while giving both Jack and the Doctor an appreciation of the other’s methods. Among the guest cast, Class star Sophie Hopkins shines as the humble Hayat, while Hannah Arterton impresses as the robotic Callista whom Jack gets to romance.
In addition to this impossible clash of personalities and eras, there is a wonderfully meta-quality here too – Jack’s Doctor has a Scottish accent, making use of John Barrowman’s childhood accent, and of course we know that is where the Doctor is headed. Credit must also be given to the sound team who have who augmented Jack’s theme with some delightfully synthy elements to make it redolent of the Colin Baker era.
What Have I Done?
After the bombast of the first story, Guy Adams brings us a smaller scale drama, albeit set amid the mud and death filled trenches of Gallipoli as Jack saves a frightened and wounded Ottoman soldier.
Almost a two-hander for John Barrowman and Atilla Akinci, who beautifully embodies the dying Ata, the script powerfully considers the nature of fear. We learn that a monster stalks the trenches but is it real or simply a product of the wounded man’s imagination?
We found this an incredibly affecting and personal tale, supported by some highly evocative sound design, which went to a very dark place towards its conclusion – surprisingly far in fact, as it tackles the implications of Jack’s endless cycle of death and rebirth in a manner surely more tonally suited to Torchwood than Doctor Who. Regardless, this is doubtless some of John Barrowman’s best, most compelling work as Jack – showing his raw fear and desperation when some of that trademark Harkness swagger is stripped away.
Driving Miss Wells
Reliably delivering news of the latest global catastrophe or alien invasion, American newsreader Trinity Wells (Lachele Carl) was a stalwart background figure character throughout the RTD era, appearing on Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.
Taking centre stage here, in an entertaining conspiracy thriller from James Goss, we catch up with Trinity her some years later as she promotes her book; seemingly having performed a reverse David Icke, she is declaring that all the alien invasions were delusions and hoaxes. This has attracted some unwarranted attention, providing an opportunity for Jack to get close to her as her new driver and find out why.
In another fun story, there are plenty of references to past stories, but they are handled in a way which does not overwhelm. It also takes a swipe at fake news and the role of the media. For her part, Lachele Carl brings plenty of depth to Trinity, especially in the scenes with her formidable ailing mother (Judith Chander) which add another dimension to the character, and she has great chemistry with John Barrowman. On the strength of this performance, we hope to hear from her again and the story certainly places her in a position to do so.
Again, director Scott Handcock helms a diverse range of stories which showcases the ever-adaptable Jack in different shades; John Barrowman is at his exuberant best here, but is also pushed, especially in the Gallipoli story, to a darker place too. For fans of the irrepressible Captain, these tales are surely essential listening!