Torchwood 19 – The Death Of Captain Jack review

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After a six month break, which saw the launch of the Torchwood: Aliens Among Us series, a new run of monthly Torchwood releases from Big Finish began with the return of an old adversary.

Before Captain Jack Harkness became Torchwood’s brooding immortal hero, we saw him as Doctor Who’s reformed temporal con man. Earlier than that, we know he was a Time Agent gone rogue and that his sometime partner-in-crime, rival and lover was John Hart. A character designed to out-Jack Jack, ‘Captain’ John is a charismatic criminal and murderer, with no impulse control and a dangerously over active libido; he makes Jack Harkness seem positively prudish!

Last seen onscreen in the Series 2 finale, James Marsters (best known as Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Spike) reprises the role with relish. Marsters recreates all his puckish charm and intensity, and the early scenes between him and John Barrowman fizz with chemistry.

The term “romp” gets overused, but it is the perfect way to describe David Llewellyn’s audacious story, which makes good on the promise of Jack and John’s previous encounters. A bawdy and boisterous tale, it begins by showing the pair’s friendship, then slides from promiscuous antics into deadly game of one-upmanship, before finally morphing into something much darker as; without Jack to curb his worst excesses, we see a despotic John in charge of both Torchwood and the British Empire.

This is the show’s answer to Turn Left; John has free reign for a raucous swagger through the show’s history, firing irreverent shots at memorable moments from Children Of Earth and Miracle Day along the way and providing an indecent amount of fun in the process. We genuinely had no idea where it was headed and were indecently entertained all the way.

Director Scott Handcock has pulled out all the casting stops here, we imagine with some deft scheduling, to include appearances from regulars Eve Myles (Gwen), Kai Owen (Rhys), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto) and Tom Price (Sgt. Andy), as well as Samuel Barnett’s 1950s agent Norton Folgate and Rowena Cooper’s glorious Queen Victoria. The story includes a handful of great historical characters too, of which our favourite was Rick Yale as the ill-fated Christopher Marlowe.

The Death Of Captain Jack is a riot – a bold series opener, backed with imaginative sound design from Robert Harvey, and we hope it will not be the last we hear from Captain John.

Extras: James Masters has lost none of his enthusiasm for the character over the years and he talks warmly about his time on the show. As well as the interview, we are treated to a fist full of trailers for upcoming releases, including April’s special, Torchwood: Believe, which reunites the original cast for the first time, and all of the upcoming stories from this anthology range, with promise returns for all the principal cast, as well as both Billis Manger and Norton Folgate.